Eventbrite • ToneDen

The Ultimate Event Advertising Plan for Busy Event Creators

The average person spends nearly 35 minutes a day on Facebook. Your goal is to get those people off their phones and immersed in an eye-opening, educational, or just plain-old fun experience — your event.

But when the average Facebook user clicks on only eight ads a month, creating ads that get them to your event isn’t easy. Especially for event creators who manage multiple events a year — sometimes at one time — designing effective ad campaigns can become a mind-boggling feat.

After all, you need an event advertising plan that speaks deeply to the desires of potential event-goers. Each ad they see should intensify the story of your event in their minds, reminding them at every touchpoint that this is an event they don’t want to miss.

To find out how a busy event creator can sell more tickets on social media with less work, we turned to the experts at ToneDen. They spend all day helping venues and event promoters rapidly drive ticket sales with their automated social advertising platform. And in the process, they’ve learned exclusive insights about how the event sales lifecycle works on social media — and how you can craft the right ads to take advantage.

Read on for your complete event advertising plan to drive more ticket sales.

This guide is for…

Event creators who need to sell more tickets to all their events, but don’t have the time to do in-depth research and customise social media campaigns for every event.

What you’ll learn:

  • The best ad creative and campaign types to use to drive ticket sales on Facebook and Instagram
  • The most common mistakes event promoters make with their social ads — and how to avoid them
  • What the event ticketing lifecycle looks like for different types of events and how to adjust your ad strategy to match

Meet the expert

Ali Shakeri CRO & Co-founder at ToneDen

How to distribute your ad spend across the event sales cycle

The most important factor in your event advertising plan is the typical event sales cycle.

Every event has an arc: The sales curve that tracks when people buy tickets. For most events, sales spike when tickets first go on sale, because you built up anticipation when you first announced your event. Tickets don’t spike again until the last few days before the event. In between those two periods is a relatively stagnant “maintenance” stage when sales slump.

Understanding these stages is critical to mastering any type of event promotion, especially paid social ads. Your audience has different motivations at each stage of your ticketing lifecycle. It’s your job to nurture their ticket-buying intentions along until they’re ready to buy. If you spend all your ad budget in the maintenance period, for example, you won’t see the sales you need.

“One of the biggest mistakes we see event promoters make is to announce an event way in advance and spend a lot of money on the initial ad stage,” says Ali Shakeri, CRO and Co-founder at ToneDen. “But they neglect to harness the interest of initial viewers.” In other words, you got people to find out about your event — but then didn’t have any spend left to remind them to actually buy tickets once they were ready.

Instead of an “upfront ad blitz” approach, Shakeri recommends tuning in to the nuances of each stage of the ticketing lifecycle. Your strategy should nurture potential ticket buyers to the point of “conversion” — the moment they actually buy tickets.

For a typical event, Shakeri recommends breaking down your ad spend like this.

Sample ad spend breakdown for the typical event

Sample ad spend breakdown for the typical event

40% Combined on-sale and announce stages
20% Maintenance campaigns
40% Closeout

Adjust your ad spend based on your event’s fans

This generic breakdown isn’t a fit for every type of event. Your ad spend should also keep in mind the demographics of your audience.

Here are a few examples of events where you’d approach spend differently.

Tiered ticket events and festivals

Events with more complex ticketing schemes — like festivals with tiered releases of ticket types — might require a more complicated ad strategy.

ToneDen data: For festivals, 15% of tickets sell during the first week, and 24% during the last week. That leaves 61% of tickets selling during tiered ticket-release stages in between.

To capture all types of ticket buyers at such events, you’ll want to spread awareness and inspire conversion at each stage of ticketing.

Sample ad spend breakdown for tiered ticket events and festivals

Sample ad spend breakdown for tiered ticket events and festivals

10% Announce
30% 1st tier ticket on-sale
10% 2nd tier ticket on-sale
10% 3rd tier ticket on-sale

Family-friendly events

Family friendly events often see earlier ticket sales. Older and higher-income audiences tend to plan ahead, so your advertising will lean heavily into early efforts.

Sample ad spend breakdown for family-friendly events

Sample ad spend breakdown for family-friendly events

40% Combined on-sale and announce stages
30% Maintenance campaigns
30% Closeout

Nightlife or weekend events with last-minute fans

It’s not uncommon for people to make their plans the week of your event. An Eventbrite survey in the US  found that 43% of people plan a night out only 1-3 days in advance, while most people (19%) only make their weekend plans on Thursday.

Comedy shows are a good example of an event that tends to attract last-minute ticket buyers.

ToneDen data: Comedy shows, on average, sell only  6% of tickets in the first week. 75% sell during the last week — and 31% during the last day.

For these shows, you might spend more money up front to encourage people to buy tickets earlier. At the same time, you want to be fresh in the awareness of last-minute buyers. So a more appropriate ad spend for such events might look this this.

Sample ad spend breakdown for nightlife and weekend events

50% Combined on-sale and announce stages
10% Maintenance campaigns
40% Closeout

These are just rough estimates of how your event’s typical sales cycle might influence the cadence of your ad spend. There are other factors at play as well. For instance, events located in large cities like Melbourne and Sydney have a different sales cycle than those in cities like Adelaide or Newcastle, where there is less competition and people tend to commit to events further in advance.

Recognising where your event fits within the above models will help as you create ad strategy for the different stages of your event lifecycle. Take the budget breakdown that makes most sense for your event and apply it as you implement the ideas below.

Stage 1:

Event announcement — Drive awareness to target later

In the beginning, your goal is simply to let people know about your event. It’s all about spreading the word that your event is happening and getting people hyped to save the date.

Ad strategy for this stage

While spreading awareness of your event is a noble cause, ultimately, you don’t just want people to know about it. You want them to buy tickets to it. People may see your ad now and think “That looks fun!” but forget to circle back when tickets go on sale. During the awareness stage of your ad arc, your goal is to link interested viewers to eventual ticket sales.

There are several ways to do this:

  • Direct your early ads to a page with a Facebook pixel embedded so you’re set up to retarget initial viewers with follow-up ads when tickets go on sale. You can then cultivate their interest to the point of conversion. See how here.
  • Load your event to Facebook through Eventbrite’s Add to Facebook integration then run an Event RSVP campaign. The bonus here is that any time a fan RSVPs “yes” to your Facebook Event, that RSVP is shared with their friends, widening your reach.
  • Invite ad viewers to opt in to receive announcements when tickets go on sale. While you can do this by collecting email addresses for your newsletter, a more effective way to do this is via Facebook Messenger. Shakeri says this is “a potent way to advertise to interested fans. While the standard open rate for regular email is a low 20%, with Facebook Messenger, it’s more like 80%. And more people click through from Messenger than from email, too.”

Content ideas for this stage

The strategies above only work if your ads grab attention in the first place. At this early stage, before you have a lot of details to offer, your ads will be pretty general. But be transparent about the information you do have: the name and date of the event, when tickets will go on sale, and how much they’ll cost.

Now is the time to test out different creative ideas as you go. Use A/B testing to run two different versions of an ad to see which performs better. Adopt this practice early on to hone your ads quickly, or even automate the process using ToneDen. By the time tickets go on sale, you’ll have a good idea which variations inspire the most views and clicks.

Pro tip

Don’t make this mistake

You’ve put a lot of resources into your event flyer, so you figure you’ll use it as often as possible — including as artwork for your ads. Shakeri says do not do this: “Event flyers tend to be busy and unreadable when shrunk way down. That’s not usually the best choice for a small ad that people will likely be viewing on a mobile device.” Instead, look for a unique, eye-catching image that speaks directly to your event experience.

Stage 2:

Ticket on-sale — Sell to loyal fans so they bring their friends later

If you’ve done a good job with your early stage event promotion, you’ll see a surge in sales when tickets become available. But this is no time to relax — convince people to buy tickets today so you can stress less later.

There’s a strong social networking factor at play during the ticket on-sale stage. Every ticket you sell at this point carries the potential of bonus marketing. If you get one person to buy tickets now, they’ll likely convince more friends to come later.

Ad strategy for this stage

This is a good time to frontload your ad budget. Take full advantage of people’s zeal to snap up tickets the moment they go on sale.

Only spend on conversion campaigns

As for how to spend those ad dollars, “the most important thing to do during the ticket on-sale period is run conversion campaigns,” Shakeri says. These are campaigns that Facebook will automatically optimise based on conversions, or ticket purchases.

“The biggest mistake event promoters make at this stage is to focus on ad campaigns that simply boost posts,” says Shakeri. Boosted posts aren’t optimised for sales. They’re optimised for engagement, and they don’t necessarily attract the people most likely to buy tickets. “They tend to attract the ‘clicky users,’” says Shakeri, “people who ‘like’ everything.”

“That’s why we recommend conversion-based ads instead,” Shakeri says. Conversion tracking lets you know who’s actually buying tickets, so you can target more of those types of people.

Target ads across your event’s partners

In the ticket on-sale stage, it’s also key to enlist other event stakeholders to round out  your ad efforts. For instance, for a food festival, ad strategy at this stage might include:

  • Facebook and Instagram ads from your event brand announcing tickets on sale
  • Instagram Stories ads from prominent chefs and restaurants featured in your lineup
  • Instagram and Facebook posts from your brand ambassadors and paid influencers

Essentially, your goal at this stage is to let as many people as possible know that tickets are on sale, then track those sales via conversion tracking.

The content of your ads

Once you get to the ticket-selling stage, you may need more explicit information about your event in your ads to entice people to buy. There are two main categories of events, and figuring out which you belong to will help you design effective ads.

Talent-driven events

Musical events, festivals, comedy shows, and some conventions and conferences are talent-driven. People sign up for them specifically because of the entertainment or education they’ll get from names they recognise.

Since your talent already has an established brand, you don’t have to work as hard to position yours. “With these types of events,” says Shakeri, “the market demand is already there, so it’s all about the targeting.”

Build your ads with existing imagery your guest performers and speakers supply. Then make sure your ads are being shown to the right target audiences.

Talent-driven events

Musical events, festivals, comedy shows, and some conventions and conferences are talent-driven. People sign up for them specifically because of the entertainment or education they’ll get from names they recognise.

Since your talent already has an established brand, you don’t have to work as hard to position yours. “With these types of events,” says Shakeri, “the market demand is already there, so it’s all about the targeting.”

Build your ads with existing imagery your guest performers and speakers supply. Then make sure your ads are being shown to the right target audiences.

Pro Tip

How Facebook tracks conversion

You’re spending money on ads. And you’re seeing results: more ticket sales. But how do you know that your ads are responsible for those sales? And more importantly, which ads?

Using Facebook’s conversion tracking” feature, you can track how many actual purchases came from which ad. It’s relatively easy to track when a person clicks on an ad and immediately buys a ticket. But this doesn’t tell you everything you need to know.

What about the Facebook user who saw your ad, then noticed a friend talking about your event in the feed… then decided to go straight to your event page to buy tickets?

Facebook tracks conversion from both views and clicks using a last-touch attribution model, which gives full credit for a ticket sale to the last ad the buyer clicked or interacted with.

This is just the tip of the iceberg about Facebook’s sophisticated ad tracking. For detailed information, read the ToneDen article “Best Practices for Custom Conversion Events.”

Stage 3:

Maintenance period — Build momentum across a broad base

Once the initial push of ticket sales dies down, you’ll enter the awkward maintenance period, a stage ToneDen insiders bluntly refer to as “event promoter hell.” Sales slump and you start to stress out. Is the speaker I hired a dud? Are my ads missing the mark?

It’s all  normal — both the anxiety and the sales slump. Remember: the majority of people (56%) make event-related decisions at the last minute. Even people planning on attending your event don’t have an incentive to buy now — unless you give them a compelling reason to do so.

Ad strategy for this stage

Create an instant incentive to buy, like a short-lived promo code or a social contest offering discounted tickets, VIP upgrades, free parking passes, and other perks. Contests that require a user to tag a friend or submit an email address are also a smart way to build broader audiences to later retarget.

This is the time to advertise for the long game. Use this stage to nurture potential attendees you can convert in the final stage. You can combine these two tactics, such as running a contest and later retargeting people who entered but didn’t win in your close out stage.

You may not sell a lot of tickets during this stage, but the money you spend will accrue interest when you get to the closeout period.

Don’t make this mistake with contests

Facebook and Instagram contests have very specific rules, so if you decide to go that route, make sure you read the fine print. Here are the regulations you need to follow for both Facebook contests and Instagram promotion guidelines.

The content of your ads

Consumers have become experts at ignoring ads, a phenomenon known as “banner blindness.” Using the same ol’ images and calls to action over and over leads to a decline in clicks over time.

To counteract the malaise, event promoters have to be creative with their imagery and messaging. Mixing up your images and the words you use helps counteract banner blindness and keeps eyes fresh on your event ads.

Utilising the perfect imagery, headline and supporting text, your ad creative needs to grab attention on an emotional level. A viewer should get a glimpse into the vibe of your event and why it stands out in comparison to your competitors. Learn more in The Anatomy of an Ideal Event Ad.

Stand out by using video, rather than just still images, in your ads. Leveraging or re-purposing video content to create a montage of your event increases your click through rate and conversions. In fact, Facebook released a statistic that video ads perform 79% better than still image ads.

Stage 4:

Closeout — Cash in on your efforts

As your event nears, you enter the fourth and final stage of event ad strategy: the closeout period. Ticket sales ramp back up at this point, for a very good reason: there’s a hard deadline.

Unlike with retail sales, consumers know they can’t just wait to make a decision. This is a huge benefit, Shakeri says: it’s a natural driver of urgency. Once the event happens or tickets sell out, the chance to attend disappears — forever. That’s why the closeout stage is when you’ll finally land all those last-minute sales by spontaneous attendees.

Ad strategy for this stage

Double down on your conversion campaigns, specifically retargeting people who have already expressed interest in earlier ads. All the work you’ve done to drum up interest in your event comes into play here. You can also use the people who’ve already bought tickets to your event to create a lookalike audience of people similar to them and reach new potential event-goers.

The content of your ads

By now, your ads have helped establish a healthy brand narrative, telling a rich story about what your event holds for lucky attendees. Content is simple at this point. A little bit of fear-of-missing-out marketing tactics go a long way.

Close the deal by emphasising the urgency:

“Event is a week away! Do you have your tickets yet?”
“Only 100 tickets left for…”
“Hurry hurry, only 3 more days to buy!”

Based on your event type, you can also target these messages based on your audience. For example, an intimate date night at your painting studio could use a message like:

Trust us, we’re a better date idea than “Netflix and chill.” Get your tickets now.

Whereas a weekend wine festival might use copy like this:

Your options for this weekend: 1) Grab one of the last tickets to our event, or 2) Sit at home with FOMO. The choice is yours 🤷‍♀️

Get all the ad copy ideas you need in 51 Social Media Ad Copy Templates to Sell Out Your Event.

Pro Tip

Convert interest to purchase with Instagram Stories

Ticket sales still not where you want them? Break out of the feed by using Instagram Stories ads.

“Instagram Stories is completely killing it,” says Shakeri.  “It’s an entirely new way to reach your audience, one that’s multimedia and ephemeral—in other words, perfect for events.The key is to build out creative that’s right for that format.”

A lot of event brands use Instagram Stories in an organic way, posting regular video clips and snapshots to help build an event narrative over time. But upgrading your stories to paid ads during the closeout stage helps convert those who’ve been on the fence. Story viewers can “Swipe up” to go straight to your ticketing page and check out right from their phone. It’s a seamless, easy experience.

In fact, one ToneDen customer spent $550 on Instagram Stories ads and netted over $10K as a result of this campaign.

Sell more tickets without the stress

Now you know everything you need to run successful social media ads for your event. But it can be even easier: If you use Eventbrite, you can take advantage of our integrations with Facebook and Instagram that allow people to buy tickets straight from their mobile apps. Eliminating this step in the checkout process is proven to make a big impact on conversation rates.

In fact, events that sell tickets directly on Facebook drive 2X more sales and free registrations on average than events that redirect to a ticketing page.

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