by David Hewson

Promotions brainstorming. Like Leonardo da Vinci's scribblings, except for social media.

First off – anyone catch what I did there?

If you're on Twitter, you'll recognize the hash tag (#) I used in this post's title (actually, you'll probably recognize it even if you're not on Twitter, since the hash tag's gone pretty mainstream eg. Jack Layton using “#FAIL” in the leader's debate during the last federal election.)

Briefly, hash tags / #'s are a way to group together tweets on the same theme, so that everyone can see the latest and greatest of what's happening. In this case, we've created the #cssdp12 hash tag to give you a way to keep up on what's happening with the conference, and because I put it in this post's title, now you know about it…#sneaky, no?

Sneakiness aside, this post is about letting you guys know how we've been promoting the conference so far, and hearing any ideas you might have on the subject.

But first: promotion. When I say that, I mean two things:
1. Letting people know about CSSDP and the conference when they otherwise wouldn't know about them.
2. Finding ways to engage with the people who are already planning on going.

Thing 1 is what normally comes to mind when we think about promotions, but Thing 2 is important too. And since investing in Thing 2 makes the event that much more awesome, it actually makes Thing 1 a whole lot easier.

My point: when you leave us your suggestions (like in the comments below, *hint *hint) remember to think of Thing 2 promotion as well as Thing 1. 

Now that that's out of the way, here's what we've been doing so far:

Personal networks
Nothing beats word of mouth, so we've been making sure that any friends or acquaintances in Calgary or nearby know about the conference, and the latest news. (Nearness is always a relative term in Canada – in this case I think of “nearby” as pretty much all of Western Canada.) Facebook makes this easy, all you have to do is look up “Current City” and see who's where. 

Q – Any other ways to reach out?

We've got a gorgeous poster for the event (see below), and our CSSDP chapter members and volunteers at UCalgary have been making sure it gets seen, by posting it on-campus and off, at cafés and businesses that like us.

Q – Any other places we should put them up?

Everyone and their mom seems to be on Facebook now, so we'd be foolish not to take advantage of 2012's big IPO.

Apart from encouraging people to share news about the conference on their walls, we've been staying active on our CSSDP page and the Facebook event page for the conference, and encouraging speakers and participants to post any questions and news they have. 

Q – Any other ways we should be using Facebook?

Survey / Attendee profiles
While Facebook has helped get some interaction going, we wanted to do more. The answer was a quick survey for those attending the conference, with a few key questions that only take 5-10 minutes to fill out. (If you haven't already taken the survey,  you can do so here.)

See?! Filling out a survey ain't so scary.

What do we do with the surveys? Apart from reading them ourselves, we post these attendee profiles on our blog for everyone to see! (You can see the first bunch of attendee profiles here.)

What this does:

– gets you thinking about what you want to accomplish at the conference.
– starts getting everyone familiar with each other, so that when conference time rolls around we can hit the ground running.
– gives us (the conference planners) ideas and feedback on what you're expecting, so we can make this the best conference we can.

A few other great things, from a promotions standpoint:
– we get fresh material for our blog (more on this later), but we don't have to create it.
you are more likely to spread material that you created further and wider among your social networks than the most compelling material we could ever write. Awesome.

Q – Have you filled out the survey? How were the questions – too many, too few?
Any ideas for how we could use surveys in the future?

The CSSDP Blog
As I mentioned above, our attendee profiles give us fresh content for our blog. But why does fresh content matter – or why even blog in the first place?

Because blogging is fantastic. For many reasons:

1. Writing forces us to sort out our thoughts, so that you, the reader, can see them and respond. This doesn't mean we have to have everything figured out. In fact, displaying a work-in-progress encourages collaboration, because the reader knows it's not too late for feedback (like in the comments below – *hint *hint).
2. Blogging warms you up to some of the ideas and initiatives we're working on. For example, this conference, we want to:
a) promote Twitter and other Internet tools, and 
b) create some really good video content. 

See? Now you know this. More info coming soon – stay tuned to this blog.

3. Our blog gives us material to put in our email newsletters, post on Facebook, and tweet about – don't want that #cssdp12 hash tag going stale!

4. Blogging shows you what we're excited about, and why you should be excited about it too. And in your excitement, you can reply with your thoughts and opinions (like in the comments below – *hint *hint). In other words, our blog helps create and strengthen the ties that bind us as an organization.

And keep in mind – we're not just blogging about the conference. We still have quality posts on drug-related issues, like Alex's reflections from her trip to the Netherlands and Alyssa's critique of Bill C-10, with more posts like them in the works.

Q – Any other ways we should be using our blog? What do you like about what we're doing? How could we improve?

And if it wasn't obvious enough: in the comments section, please let us know any questions, ideas or suggestions you have, or get in touch via Facebook or Twitter (or my CSSDP Twitter account).