by Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM | January 01, 2011

Digital ads can greatly enhance your efforts to gain maximum attendance at events. However, navigating the many options available on the Internet can be daunting. Can you get and quantify results from free listings? Should you go straight to the premium level to add videos and/or multiple photos or snag priority positions in display calendars and search functions? Is your goal to convert attendee leads to ticket sales or merely get the word out about the event?

The following is a digital-ad primer for event planners.

Best in Class
LinkedIn has professional cache and is particularly appropriate for smaller, corporate, c-level/high-profile programs. Most importantly, LinkedIn provides access to targeted professional groups and esoteric/defined markets. With LinkedIn ads you can target your audience in up to four different categories, including geography, industry and job function. Special features include the ability to create as many as 15 ad variations to test their effectiveness.

On the surface, Google and Facebook ads have a lot of similarities in how they function and perform. Google has neutral cache and can be used as an all-purpose option with any industry, age group or type of event. Facebook ads, by comparison, are best leveraged and very successful with audiences under 35.

For all three of the above platforms, the amount you pay is determined first by a market "bid" (where you name a price you'd like to pay and the web service can accept or decline) followed by a cost per click or impression. You then set a daily budget and determine how long you want the ad to run. Costs typically will range from a mere $20 to as high as thousands of dollars, depending on the length and size of your ad campaign.

Budget Options Free or low-cost services such as Zvents will push your event out to search engines, online calendars, websites and blogs. For just under $20, you can upgrade to get a priority search position and have a prominent placement in  Zvents' calendar listings. Similarly, Yelp offers free event postings that push your information out to their customers as well as to search engines.

Many industries have their own targeted calendars, blogs and websites that you can leverage. For example; Local Wine Events is targeted for food and wine events. The site offers free postings, twice-weekly e-newsletters, upgraded featured postings and ads starting at $60.

Turbo Booster Eventbrite is a web-based, multitasking online ticketing and registration service that can do many marvelous things for your event, including (but not limited to) cranking up the volume on your digital ads.

If you leverage Eventbrite's registration and ticketing system (professional, easy, and free or low-cost), your event will get posted in their calendar and search mechanism, which is remarkably efficient at matching specific interests and events to targeted audiences. Plus, the service can cross-reference and measure the effectiveness of the various ad campaigns you place anywhere on the net.