Published

Authentic Event Marketing
Be a human, not a robot.

I see a lot of early-stage meetups doing awesome authentic marketing -- but eventually when those organizers get tired, it slips into lifeless automations instead. That's a trap! Instead, try asking other group members for help spreading the word.

This post is for you if:


Ugh, repetitive tasks.

Advertising events is not my favorite part of community organizing. Every time there is an event, I try to share the event to 10 places, and thats monotonous! And if we dont advertise it, we dont get as many people attending.

Its no wonder so many community organizers reach for automations but it can be a trap!

But before you automate a process like spreading the word about your event, consider the tradeoffs especially when you are sharing things to more intimate community spaces, like Slack or Discord.

Two Extreme Examples

Imagine how different these two situations feel:

  1. Slack Community A (robots): You join this servers #events channel. You notice 9 of the past 10 posts were automated by a bot that reads rss feeds. On the one human-posted event, someone asked a question but nobody answered them. There are no emoji responses to any posts. You check out an intereresting event, only to see that nobody has RSVPd other than the organizer. You check out the past few events for that group, and see that this is a trend. This events channel feels dead. You cant help but feel like this is an ancient civilization, lost to time. What were they like? What was their downfall??
  2. Slack Community B (humans): You join this servers #events channel. You notice the past 10 posts were made by actual humans. When people ask questions here, they get answers. Most posts have emoji responses. When you see an event that looks interesting, you see 30 people RSVPd on Meetup.com. This place is really alive, and youre feeling excited to meet everyone!

People dont join your Slack/Discord to talk to bots, they join to talk to humans.

People want to join a group that is alive, thriving and ready for new members. That human element is critical.

Human-Style Writing

How do you share an event in a way thats effective, compelling, authentic, and human?

My favorite trick for writing like a human is to write TO a human. Think of a specific friend who might be interested, then draft a text or Slack message or toot to them. If you find yourself accidentally writing marketing zing, ask yourself: would I really send this to them?

That sounds nice and all, but Im too busy!

If youre thinking that authentic marketing is more work youre right! While it can get easier with practice, it does take more time and energy than a set-and-forget automation.

And yet, its valuable! Here are some reasons why you should prioritize authentic marketing:

  • It signals to people that the group is real, alive, caring, ready for new members.
  • It signals that this is more likely a community and less likely a marketing event or company-led event.
  • It shows that the group cares about the wider community where its being shared (not just using as a marketing platform)

Dont Do It Alone

Why Include More Humans?

You get a ton of benefits when you include more humans in the process of spreading the word:

  • Getting members more involved in small ways like this helps them get involved more and in bigger ways - critical to the sustainability of your group.
  • Since theyre fresher, they can often more easily tailor messages (especially if they follow a checklist like above).
  • New folks will bring their own personal connections.
  • Varying the voice of who is sharing it looks very good! It signals that the group is a community, and not just run by one person.

Getting Members To Spread The Word

So HOW do you get your members to do this?

When TO Automate?

Some Semi-Automation is Harmless

Some automation is harmless! These can save you time without losing that human element.

  • The details like date and title and link etc is TOTALLY automatable. If you can get it by copy-pasting thats great! Typing these out manually doesnt add much value. (exception: this Saturday etc is very human!)
  • A checklist of where to share doesnt take away from your ability to tailor the message to each audience.

Bots in Bot Channels

In Baltimore Tech Slack were trying out a bot-specific events channel #meetups-and-events-rss to post RSS feed entries from Meetup.com. This will not replace our current human-curated #meetups-and-events channel.

I was originally against having bots anywhere at all - but some poeple said they would find it valuable! Collectively, we decided to create a separate channel for the bots. Well get to maintain our human-curated channel that most people prefer, and also have a bots channel for people who want that.

Why was I hesitant? Because bots kill channels! The signal-to-noise ratio goes haywire. As poeple start ignoring it, the human-generated content dwindles until its a bots-only echo chamber. It becomes lifeless, like Slack Community A above.

If you do add bots to your Slack, keep them in their own room.

Anti-automation Sentiment is Widespread

This anti-automation sentiment Im describing here is pretty strong lately, especially with the advent of ChatGPT and large language models.

Heres what some of my friends have to say about automations:

Any communication you can automate, your audience can automatically ignore.

@JMMaok@mastodon.online, toot

Dont automate yourself.

Joe LeBlanc, article

Nobody joins a server to talk to bots.

My partner Brian

Automated stuff tends to get neglected and break, but not until the damage has been done and all the humans have abandoned the area.

Melissa, toot

I hope your community-centered group thrives good luck with authentic event marketing!

stay human,
Casey Watts!
Liked this?
I also write about:

psychology

programming

workplace culture

community building
Casey's headshot

Hi, I'm Casey!

I'm all about helping people be
happy and effective.