Creative campaigns

Marketing an Online Event: the Europe Housing Forum

Europe Housing Forum
Europe Housing Forum
Canva, Photoshop, Premiere Pro, Mailchimp, Facebook Ads
Project tools
Canva, Photoshop, Premiere Pro, Mailchimp, Facebook Ads
Creative Director
Creative Director
new page section

In July 2021, we were asked to provide marketing support for an online event, the Europe Housing Forum, scheduled to take place in November 2021. Some of the duties included social media management, content creation, email marketing, and paid advertising on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Starting from scratch

In July 2021, we were asked to provide marketing support for an online event, the Europe Housing Forum, scheduled to take place in November 2021. Some of the duties included social media management, content creation, email marketing, and social media advertising on Facebook & Instagram.

It was a tricky event to organise.

For starters, the previous event was held in 2015. No one within the team at Habitat for Humanity EMEA (the organisers) was around for the last Europe Housing Forum. There wasn’t anyone with historical knowledge or experience in promoting this event.

We were starting from scratch. We had to devise a digital marketing strategy within a couple of weeks and execute it right away: email marketing, social media (paid and organic) as well as audience research and content marketing played a huge role.

Email marketing: a pillar of our strategy for this online event

The regional office for Habitat for Humanity Europe and the Middle East had a small online following. There were approximately two thousand subscribers and followers on social media. They also weren’t particularly engaged.

We started with email campaigns. Our team created GIF headers from stock footage of urban environments primarily in Eastern Europe. Each issue of our newsletter had a theme complimented by blog articles on topics such as affordable housing and climate change.

We opted for a content-driven strategy instead of going for the hard sell. As we got closer to the date of the Europe Housing Forum, we began pushing a little harder to encourage registrations to the event and nominations for the Innovation Awards.

We sent over 15 newsletters and added more than 400 subscribers to the mailing list, which was initially 1,600 subscribers. Not only that, these people were actually engaging with the content. The open rate lifted to 35% against the industry average of 20%. The clickthrough rate also rose to 7% against an industry average of one to two per cent.

As for the Europe Housing Forum, the target was 1,000 registrations. Over 1,200 people signed up. As many countries were in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the event was conducted virtually.

There were some in-person elements which were primarily related to the Innovation Awards. The awards, run by Habitat for Humanity, recognise those that have demonstrated innovation in housing, public policies, best practices in relation to partnerships between the public and private sector, as well as crediting entrepreneurs and innovators in the industry.

online seminar email marketing techniques
online event email marketing header series
online conference digital marketing email techniques

Audience research: the cornerstone of our content marketing approach

The entire campaign for the Europe Housing Foruum was split between promoting the Innovation Awards and registrations for the event.

For the Innovation Awards, the key was finding suitable applicants. They were tough to locate. Restless Stories did a lot of research to discover the online communities they would hang out in. We also took the time to learn where they gathered their information and who they listened to, such as key leaders and influencers.

Mapping out the audience and where to find them was worth the effort. We made connections on Twitter and various websites that featured listings for events in the housing industry. The Europe Housing Forum received seven mentions on renowned websites and more than 30 retweets from large Twitter accounts with over 20,000 followers.

online conference audience research marketing strategy

Our team also provided content to partner websites that had previously worked with Habitat for Humanity. We designed a digital toolkit featuring messages and graphics that were ready to post on social media for the entire Habitat for Humanity network.

All the national offices in the region used the toolkit to spread the word. As we had a limited audience, we relied on the followings of other branches to boost the forum's visibility.

The digital toolkit was also provided to media partners and sponsors such as the Hilti Foundation and European Commission. These organisations have thousands of employees and large followings online. The toolkit was invaluable, and we continued to invest in it by adding fresh content regularly.

Paid promotion on social media

With only two and a half months to promote the Europe Housing Forum, we had to be smart and have a focused effort on where we would have the most impact.

The first month we focussed on advertising the Innovation Awards before turning our attention to registrations for the event, which opened at the end of September. Using our tried and tested approach for Facebook & Instagram ad campaigns which steers clear of vanity metrics, we used the platform to produce +150 ad variations. This allowed the algorithm to test and find the best combinations of text and imagery for the right audiences.

The in-house team also ran a LinkedIn ad campaign, which had some success, although predictably at a fairly high cost. For reference, the CPA (cost per acquisition) was 1.34 euros on Facebook and 14 euros on LinkedIn. Now, whether the LinkedIn campaign brought in more quality leads, we don't know yet. It'll be interesting to see if people in more senior positions or better future partners came through it.

All we know is that, for the purposes of meeting our targets and bringing actual event attendees Meta (Facebook & Instagram) did the job.

Investing in content: the gift that keeps on giving

We posted content on social media three times a week from the beginning of September before increasing it to six times a week from October onwards. In the last week, we sent four to five emails reminding attendees what to do, where to get information, and how to download the app. They continued to receive a high open rate.

This approach required having enough content that was interesting and engaging. We focused on awareness pieces and softer marketing posts. We didn’t want a hard sell that would turn people off.

We also produced eight videos to promote the awards and registrations. They were 30 to 60 seconds long and highlighted various aspects of the Europe Housing Forum. Our team also posted SEO-friendly content on the website that ranked on page one of Google. Two of the articles continue to drive traffic every month due to the use of SEO principles. It’s fantastic free traffic that keeps paying dividends.

We also provided social media support on the day of the Europe Housing Forum. All hands were on deck. Our team identified the places we need to be to have the most significant impact.

online event marketing housing conference
We spent a fair amount of time researching and curating images for the entire event's marketing activities: social media, newsletters, online ads, etc.

Reporting and making the most of the online event

measuring reporting online marketing event conference on housing

It's no secret that we were pretty worried from the start about the viability of the event, but... it turned out to be a success.

There were close to 100 speakers and tons of sessions on interesting topics ranging from

  • Tackling the homelessness situation
  • Recovering after the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Climate change
  • Housing and health
  • Energy efficiency
  • And how to fund affordable housing

We helped produce the final report for stakeholders and the public. The internal document ran 50 pages long and featured tons of stats. We contributed to the digital numbers focussed on the website, social media, and email campaigns. Our team also assisted in editing the report, proofing text, and producing the 30-page document for the general public.

Finally, we continued to provide value to the website in preparation for the next event. Our team wrote summaries of video recordings from key sessions that were on topics in demand and featured popular keywords.

With the Europe Housing Forum featuring so many sessions that were recorded, there is enough content for the entire year. It is vital to make the most of every second of the event and squeeze it for every drop.

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