- by Alyson Shane
Startup School is free is a free online course for founders actively pursuing their own startup from YCombinator.
In addition to making me realize that 10 weeks goes by really fast, Startup School was a great opportunity to learn from thought leaders in the industry, meet other founders, and put in some serious time into developing HeyAlfa.
Below are a few things I took away from my experience.
If you're a startup owner I hope you find these 4 things I learned in Startup School 2019 helpful:
As part of the program we were required to attend a group session once a week. These sessions were fun, informative, and overall a great way to get feedback on our business idea.
I really enjoyed meeting other founders, and was impressed by the unique and interesting challenges the other startups were solving. Some of my favorites included:
Something that became clear as we got farther into the program is that if you don't know your product market fit, you won't be able to give a succinct answer when someone asks what your startup does.
Here are a few of the questions that came up a lot in the group sessions about this topic:
The last one is the hardest to answer, and is the one where most people got stuck.
Unfortunately, it's also the most important one to answer, because there's almost always going to be competition in your space. It's just up to you to determine what makes your startup harder/better/faster/stronger than the rest.
There's a chaos to running a startup that I didn't anticipate.
I like to be the lady with a plan, and even though the Startup School lessons and resources, and books like Crossing the Chasm have informed my thinking a lot, knowing what to "do next" sometimes felt a bit overwhelming.
To manage this, I created two Trello boards:
Here's what my Startup School board looks like:
Here I can easily reference any of my notes from group sessions and lectures, re-watch the videos, and keep track of our progress in one place.
My HeyAlfa Marketing board gave me a place to "put down" all my ideas, plans, and to-dos, and gave structure to what sometimes felt like a confusing number of tasks.
Setting deadlines on the cards and automating email reminders for myself meant that I (rarely) missed something.
And, like the bullet journal technique, I found that the tasks that kept slipping were actually the least important things - they'd just felt that way when I'd created the card.
This also helped me prioritize things that mattered (talking to users) over things that just made me feel good (writing blog posts).
John and I both run our own companies, so until recently we were working on HeyAlfa exclusively during evenings and weekends.
Once Startup School began, I pivoted my focus a bit and started spending more like 70% of my workday on HeyAlfa, and 30% of my workday managing my business.
That may not sound like a lot, but putting in a few extra hours here and there in addition to the evenings and weekends I was already spending paid off in spades.
We've made so much progress in such a short amount of time, and being in the program was the thing that lit a fire under us and pushed us to get more done.
I've never had a cofounder before.
I'm the boss in my other business. I'm accountable to our clients, sure, but all the decisions about the business start and end with me. I've gotten used to it, and I like it that way.
In addition to being cofounders, John and I are also engaged. As a result, most of our work on HeyAlfa to date has been done sitting next to each other on the same big, red IKEA couch that I'm sitting on as I type this right now.
It also means that, until we began Startup School, most of our "planning" was done in notebooks, or in our heads. This is obviously no way to run a startup.
Taking the program, and our progress, seriously meant taking our communication more seriously.
Kevin Hale's lecture "How to Work Together" was illuminating, and I've modified the Decision Disagreement Framework template he suggested into one for us to use at HeyAlfa - check it out:
Luckily we haven't had to use anything this sophisticated to solve a disagreement yet, but I feel good knowing we have a way to document disagreements when they arise.
Personally, I've also had to learn to grow a thicker skin. Getting feedback from a cofounder who is also your romantic partner is HARD. Full stop.
But it's also teaching me a lot about how to handle constructive criticism, and I've grown throughout this process as a result. Resolving cofounder disagreements (in my limited experience, anyway) often comes down to not saying what you feel in the moment and coming back to it at a later date when cooler heads prevail.
Turns out having a cofounder is a lot like being in a relationship. Who knew!
If you were also in Startup School 2019, I'd love to hear about your experiences as well!
And don't forget - if you want to start saving time on your event's social media, sign up to join the HeyAlfa waitlist:
- by Alyson Shane
Events like conferences and training sessions are a great way to build awareness about your business, increase sales and profits, and create a sense of community between your company and your customers.
Of all the tools you can use to increase event attendance, social media is one of the best (and in many cases, cheapest) ways of doing it.
Whether your next event has 50 people, or 5000 people, keep these tips in mind to help you increase attendance at your event:
The trick to boosting event attendance using social media is to start building anticipation early.
Start promoting your event often, and early. Something as simple as “we’re planning something big for June 2020, can you guess what it is?” is enough to start generating conversation and interest.
Starting your event promotion early also helps attendees book off time to attend, which is important if your event is multi-day or out of town.
Starting early also means you have lots of time to build excitement about your event in advance, and to roll out important information as it becomes available.
Write down all your event's important dates, like when tickets go on sale or when the schedule is announced, chronologically. This will create a Event Timeline you can use to stay organized, and to make sure you always have something to build towards and promote on social media.
Once you’ve created your event’s website or landing page, it’s time to start actively promoting your event on social media.
When you post about your event, make sure to say more than just a call-to-action. Focus on creating quality content that gets people excited about attending.
Social media is a great way to give your audience a behind-the-scenes look at everything that goes into planning your event, which helps them feel connected and involved with you and your team.
If your event has a blog, social media is the best place to share your updates and drive traffic back to your website. Use your blog to publish guest posts by speakers and presenters, or share updates and information about venue details, sponsorship updates, schedule changes, and more.
Hashtags function like tags you can use to track and participate in ongoing conversations about the same topic across individual social platforms.
A “branded hashtag” is a hashtag dedicated to a specific theme, event, or business. It allows fans, attendees, and other people interested in the topic to talk to one another, and is an excellent way for you to drive conversation and excitement around your event.
Branded hashtags also work as free advertising, connecting users with conversations and content focused exclusively on your event.
Encourage your followers on social media to use the hashtag in their conversations. The more popular a hashtag is, the more hype it generates as people discover and tune into it - resulting in an increase in event attendance.
Make sure to use hashtags based on interests and reach that appeal to your ideal attendees, as well. For example, if you’re promoting is a networking conference for women in STEM careers, use #womeninSTEM in your posts to help women in that field discover your event.
Facebook Events are one of the best tools at your disposal to promote your event.
Facebook Events earn higher organic reach on the platform, which means more people will see your event without the additional investment of social media advertising.
Creating Event Page gives you a place where you can collect and keep all the relevant information about your events in a single location on the platform.
Event pages also offer a place for attendees to ask you questions, and for you to have a public place to answer them. Users can also click on your venue’s address, which links to a map where you can include links and CTAs encouraging them to register or purchase a ticket.
When an attendee registers, Facebook will promote your event to their friends and encourage them to invite their friends as well, which can be an easy way to boost event attendance.
If you’ve never set up a Facebook Event page before, keep these basic steps in mind:
Event planning is chaotic and stressful, and the first thing to slip when there’s lots of fires to put out tends to be an event’s social media promotion.
Neglecting your event’s social media has a direct negative impact on attendance and social proof, neither of which you want.
Instead, use a social media scheduling tool like Buffer. Buffer is a social media scheduling tool that allows you to write and schedule posts for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and more. You can include hashtags, images, videos, and links in your posts, and even integrate it into HeyAlfa to automate the boring parts of your event marketing.
If you want as many eyeballs on your event’s registration or Facebook Event page, you can always run some paid social ads directed at people who may be interested in attending your event.
Facebook Ads and Instagram Ads are two of the most powerful options available today, but Twitter Ads offer a lot of flexibility, and LinkedIn Ads is a great option for events targeting a professional community.
If you’re advertising on Facebook, you can choose the “Engagement” objective, and optimize it by choosing “Event Responses.”
This shows your ad to users who are most likely to interact with your event. Interactions are important for your event because when users interact with your ad their followers see that interaction, which helps increase awareness and excitement.
You can also Boost your event directly from the page, which is similar to a Sponsored Post on LinkedIn. Here, you can target by demographic, interest, location, custom audience, and more, but don’t have all the targeting and bidding options available through the full ad manager.
If you’re advertising on Twitter or LinkedIn, choose the “Websites Visit” objective to drive people to your event’s website or landing page.
Contests are a great way to gain new social media followers, increase engagement, and increase event attendance.
Keep things simple by hosting the contest on one social media platform, but promote it on all your other platforms, using your email list, and advertising when appropriate.
Choose contest prizes that are relevant to your event and generate conversation to get your followers excited about entering, and use an entry metric that helps boost your contests’ visibility, such as commenting with an @ mention, retweet, or re-post.
Whether you offer free tickets, backstage passes, free meals, or just a free t-shirt and some buttons from your event, everyone loves the adrenaline rush they get from the chance at winning something for free.
Promoting your event on social media is one of the best ways to help people learn about your event and show them why they don’t want to miss out.
By starting early, regularly publishing creative updates, using scheduling tools to help you manage your workload, and using contests and ads to drive extra engagement, you can use social media to boost event attendance and increase awareness and excitement about your event, no matter what kind of event it is.
Do you have any favorite tricks to increase event attendance? Tell us on Twitter!
- by Alyson Shane
We’re Alyson and John, and we’re the co-founders behind HeyAlfa.
It’s Alyson writing here, and I wanted to say “hello!” to you as we introduce ourselves to the world.
HeyAlfa helps event marketers and promoters save time by automating their event promotion. Using your event’s unique information and a little bit of code, we create social media content tailored to your event, leaving you with more time to focus on the details that matter.
We created HeyAlfa to save time.
I know firsthand that writing and scheduling social media content takes a lot of time and mental energy to do right. Marketers hate writing the same thing again and again, especially when there are a million other things to do.
As a volunteer on the TEDxWinnipeg Communications Team, I was in charge of writing and scheduling four months of promotional content. My first year on the team I spent almost 24 hours on this one task.
I figured there must be an easier way, but couldn’t find a tool specifically created to help event marketers automate their social media promotion. One morning while I was griping about this to John (we’ve been together for five years and are engaged) he looked at me and said:
“Why don’t we just build the tool you need?”
The perks of being engaged to a software developer with 20+ years’ experience, I suppose.
John ran a software development company throughout his twenties, and runs a little VR studio now. His first experience with events was as a teenager, organizing shows for bands. I’m a writer, I own a digital marketing agency, and I’ve been publishing content online for 17 years. I read a lot, and just finished Haruki Mrakami’s Wind/Pinball.
We live together in Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canada) in a house with a big garden and two cats, and we watch scary movies together to unwind. We believe in building tools and doing work that helps other people, and we’re excited because HeyAlfa does just that.
We created HeyAlfa to help event marketers save time, and I’m confident that if you promote an event on social media HeyAlfa will help you save time, too.
Our first beta test helped us save 50% of our time writing and scheduling content compared to the previous year.
Right now we’re in closed beta while we hone HeyAlfa and make sure she’s ready to work seamlessly to save you time with your event promotion. If you’re interested in signing up for our closed beta, just fill out the box below:
Alyson & John