Using SMS To Promote Event Attendance

I recently attended a digital retail conference and was reminded of something I just love about industry events: networking! Conferences are a great way to connect with industry experts and get plugged into what businesses are doing to support their marketing regime.

A vendor invited me to attend his company’s evening cocktail event, encouraging event registration via SMS.  I thought, why not?  All it involved was texting my email address to an SMS short code.

This is not yet a commonly used tactic, but it could be a useful one. Here are some tips for promoting  event attendance with SMS:

Ensure the registration confirmation contains helpful information in a text-friendly format. After texting my email address to the SMS short code, I immediately received a text back with a few key pieces of information: the event description, location, an add-to-calendar link and a (URL-shortened) link to the event landing page. These all should be a “must have” when using SMS to promote your events.  You can even consider a link to a maps function so registrants can get driving directions, but remember that context is important.  In my case, registrants were coming from a conference and thus were likely to take cabs.  Therefore, since we’re working with a limited amount of text space, it’s okay to save the maps link for the landing page.



Mobile-optimize the registration Web page. If you’re going to allow individuals to register via SMS, you had better make sure that any landing page is optimized for the mobile consumer. This is where my experience started to fall short.  The registration page had lots of good information, but the copy was too small to read.  Additionally, I could see that there were form fields requesting some type of information, but the wording was so small that I couldn’t decipher what they were requesting me to input. It turns out they were asking for basic details like name, title, company and contact information – the most important info for follow-up. Lesson learned: Be sure to look at the entire user experience (across email, social, SMS and Web) and make sure it enables users to take the actions you’re asking for in the easiest manner possible.

Have a plan to notify registrants in case of event changes. Unfortunately, in my case, it turned out that the texted registration confirmation contained incorrect information right from the get-go.  The event time was off by an hour, and believe it or not, the physical address of the event was incorrect as well!

These are mistakes that can be easily caught with a little campaign quality assurance before it goes live. However, this example brings up another common scenario in which the time, location or some other crucial piece of information about your event will change.  What’s your plan for informing your event registrants?  You’d better have one, or your attendees will be left feeling jilted.

When the event details change may play a part in how you respond. If the event is not for another few days, there are several options.  But let’s pretend the event is this evening and there’s a change in plans – what now?  Your text messages are being sent through an automated system.  Will you be able to have someone log into your SMS technology provider and make updates? This will resolve the situation for those who have not yet registered, but what about those who already have?  You still need a way to contact them with the updated event details.  Sending a text, email or link to the updated landing page are all possibilities.  Your options may be more limited if you are on the go or if it’s after business hours and your company’s office is closed.  Therefore, make sure to hash out the plan before you are in crisis mode to determine your course of action if event details change.

Remember to follow through. We’ve jumped over some hurdles, alerted our attendees to the updated event details, and we’re now sitting back sipping cocktails at the networking event.  What now?  After all the rush, don’t forget to find out who actually attended your event.  You will want to follow up with those who made it (and those who didn’t) when the event is over.  Contact them afterward with a review of the event highlights and additional information about your company.

Particularly for organizations exhibiting at a conference, using SMS registration can be very effective in situations when potential attendees are on the go and spontaneously deciding how to spend their evening. Just make sure your SMS programs are well-thought-out and tested, so you’re not alone at the event sipping cocktails by yourself.

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