Digital Marketing

Increasing International Attendance through Digital Marketing

by Irina Anthony, digital specialist

Over the past several years U.S. market conditions including consolidation, a changing regulatory environment and other economic factors have impacted attendance at many trade shows and conferences. As a result, some organizers have begun investing more in international marketing as a way to achieve sustained growth for their domestic events. mdg’s International Digital Marketing Specialist Irina Anthony shares how she uses digital tools and techniques to reach attendee prospects from foreign countries.

First, tell us a little bit about your background and how you became an expert in international digital.
I was born and raised in Russia, speak three languages and have traveled extensively around the world. I studied computer programming at Samara State Aerospace University in Russia and have digital marketing certifications from General Assembly and Georgetown University.

The world is a big place. How does one even begin planning a global online campaign?
Thankfully, I’m collaborating with strategic minds that have already researched, ranked and prioritized the countries with the most potential to impact attendance. Once those priorities and the unique value proposition (UVP) of an event are established, I start by researching the local competition, learning more about their events, how they are marketed and how we can competitively position our events against them. From there, I research the channels, including search engines and social media platforms, that are most popular in the selected countries and how to best use them.

irina anthony

mdg‘s Irina Anthony (right) as a budding digital marketing specialist in Samara, Russia.

Finally, I live by two important rules: Use a good translation service (not an online translator) and ensure the event website is appropriate for international visitors. Digital campaigns will be more succcesfull with landing pages that are in the native user’s tongue and focused on the most compelling features and benefits.

What other advice do you have for organizers in relation to creating internationally friendly websites?
Avoid tight layouts and take into consideration the average length of words and sentences in a given language. Be aware of any cultural considerations from color choice to imagery. Also, remember that many countries are ahead of the United States in mobile usage and prospects might be using mobile devices exclusively for web viewing.

When it comes to international search engine optimization (SEO), I try and optimize outside of Google. As examples, in China, the most popular search engine is Baidu. Naver in South Korea. And Yandex in Russia. Each have their own optimization criteria. I use the relevant keyword planners to broaden keyword lists and see which terms get searched in relation to an industry. Link building is another great way to strengthen domain authority.

What is link building?
Link building is when a website links out to other relevant websites or, even better, those websites link back to yours. For international optimization purposes, we find websites related to the relevant industry in our target countries and simply ask them to link back to our site. A strong link-building strategy takes time, in-depth research and personalized outreach to partner sites, however it can be one of the most effective ways to improve SEO internationally.

Have you been successful reaching international audiences on social media?
In a word, yes. Social media is a great place for international marketing, but it is important to understand the country’s cultural and political issues so that you can write customized messaging that feels country and industry appropriate. Like with search engines, some countries have their own social media platforms so limiting a campaign to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube may limit reach in certain countries.

Since you brought it up, what advice do you have for organizers wanting to increase attendance from China?
China has very strict policies when it comes to what is available on the internet, e.g. Google and Facebook are not. China has its own version of most of our popular platforms. For example, Weibo is its version of Twitter; Renren = Facebook; Tudou = YouTube and WeChat is its version of WhatsApp, but so much more. In China, WeChat is used for virtually everything, from restaurant reviews to financial trasactions, so having a presence on the platform is essential. WeChat can only be accessed through China, so I work with a partner there to execute our clients’ WeChat campaigns.

Any other international social platforms we should know about?
Some other big ones are VKontakte and Odnoklassniki, which are similar to Facebook and LinkedIn in Russia, and in Germany Xing is a popular tool similar to LinkedIn.

Any final advice for show organizers thinking about exploring a digital marketing campaign for an international audience?
International campaigns take time and budget, but more importantly, an understanding of regional cultures, laws and online behaviors. Do your research, work with experienced partners and know that while executing a successful digital campaign abroad can be time-consuming, the rewards can be significant.

A version of this content originally appeared in PCMA Convene June 2018