Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Community Building Case Study: Tips from DallasFestEvil.com

Introduction

I began development on the DallasFestEvil.com website around July of 2004. I was working in conjunction with a promoter (now retired). Up-to and during the event, we worked to build an online following. Our budget was very limited and we were working with a previously unsuccessful festival. Somehow, we managed to pull it off. Here are a few of the techniques we deployed.

Techniques

Dynamic High-Content Website - The site itself provided detailed information about the event, including ample visual imagery. Dynamic pages were scripted to auto-update. Some pages were entirely new each day of the event. Even without attention, the site felt alive during the event. The current state of the site represents less than a third of the content available before and during the event.

Efficient Communications - We used a webform to make e-mailing the organizers easy. Every e-mail was processed quickly. This solid feedback loop encouraged many new relationships that proved valuable to the success of the event. If you provide users with a way to contact you - always be responsive!

Quality Mailing List Community - We focused our mailing list efforts towards quality over quantity. We organized contests - such as online scavenger hunts - and awarded prizes provided by our sponsors (remember those positive relationships?). We provided exclusive high-value content to our list members (such as ways to get discounts at the event) and branded the list as an exclusive club ("R.I.P. All Access" as we called it).

Dallas FestEvil
Cross Promotions - We made sure to mention every act, every sponsor, and every vendor on our website (linking when and where we could). In exchange, we asked each of these acts, sponsors, and vendors to do the same for us on their websites. We even provided sample banners and linking code. Then we asked google to re-index each site that linked us. As a result, we were able to significantly raise our page rank and indexing in google. We also tracked referrals and could see which sites were sending us the most traffic.

Photo Albums - During the event, we roamed around taking digital pictures of attendees. We often asked them to pose with actors in costumes and in various scenes. We posted a total of 14 different photo albums (with captions). As we took pictures, we told attendees where they could find photos of themselves online. We also posted informational fliers all over the event grounds. These photo albums generated a large bulk of website traffic during and well after the event.

Fire Spinningrarhello ladies!good peepsso scaredscrewed!pretty lady

Street Teams - Together with volunteers from our mailing list, we posted about the event both online and off. On the Internet, We spread the word to a variety of online communities we both happened to be active in. We posted on a variety of forums and message boards, always being careful to pick relevant sites and post politely. We also monitored and responded to these posts in case anyone had questions or comments. In the real world, we spread fliers and printed up coupons. We made these available in store fronts and other public location.

Conclusion

While most of those techniques may seem obvious, they are often overlooked or at least under-worked. Combined with the production of a quality event, our inexpensive techniques proved a successful and effective way to brand and promote the festival.

A public posting area - providing a way for the community to interact - would have been a good addition. However, we felt we could not afford the personnel bandwidth to properly monitor and care for a forum type solution. Without proper care, a forum could have done more harm than good. Unattended forums are often hit by spamming and trouble makers, making them unpleasant for the community to use. If you're going to do it, you gotta do it right.

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