How I got ~400 attendees to a first-time event with $0 in ads

Disclaimer: $0 exchanged hands but is a very time-intensive process not recommended for the faint of heart. 

It was worth every hour, every connection, and each bite of fantastic food truck food.

If you want the short answer, I focused on three major strategies:

  1. Kept my community engaged and involved

  2. Utilized free resources available as a non-profit

  3. Leveraged my personal connections

How did I keep the community engaged? I strategically posted every single day.

  1. I thought about my audience whenever I created each post. I kept my language appropriate to gender, age group, and timely according to their assumed work schedules.

  2. I posted a poll about what vendors they wanted. Each vote increased the likelihood of being seen by a third party. It also allowed them to show that they had a voice and accountability.

  3. I tagged the vendors and essential partners. The event included every vendor and each time a new vendor signed on; we celebrated them in a post.

How did I utilize free resources? Local companies love a local non-profit.

  1. I shared the event on Milwaukee-based magazines’ websites. As long as it’s well in advance, you’re likely to get in.

  2. I got on some mailing lists. I went through my organization and our partner organizations’ email lists.

  3. We borrowed some lawn games for families to play with their kids. It made it more manageable for almost anyone to attend even if you didn’t have a bike.

What did I do to leverage personal connections? I was open about what I was doing.

  1. Good old fashioned word of mouth helped. People ask what you’ve been up to lately. Fortunately, I was involved in the local bike scene. It became a hot topic to chat about and made it more exciting.

  2. Friends love it when you’re transparent with them. Sometimes they show up to the event. If not, they RSVP as “pending,” and it shows up on other people’s feeds.

All of this was very intentional and required much strategy. Theoretically, anyone can do this, but not everyone has patience, expertise, and focus like a social media manager.

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