If you’re going to bring war photographer Ashley Gilbertson to Williamsburg to discuss his new book, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, you want people to show up. Dumbo startup Togather, which handles event promotion, did just that in its partnership last night with Vice Magazine and The Brooklyn Brewery.
Facilitating turnout for events like this by making them more social proved the concept of Togather, the new startup that grew out of Huge Labs in Dumbo. When new authors or brands want to go out on tour and promote their product, they are subject to a lot of guesswork. Should you work hard to get an appearance at a bookstore in Columbia, Missouri or Rochester, New York?
Togather has created a new model, hopes founder Andrew Kessler. The Togather platform gives event planners a way to crowdsource a crowd. Let a city show it wants you before you buy your plane ticket. The site does it by enlisting its users to generate interest for a specific kind of event.
So, for example, if you like the idea of a true story about medical providers and murder, you could go to Charles Graeber‘s page and indicate interest in holding an event with the author. Once that’s done, you’ll hear back with some sort of conditions that would have to be met to make the event happen, such as a number of RSVPs. If you meet it, the author will be on his way, knowing that he’ll have an adequate audience once he gets there.
The company recently launched its revenue making model too, by successfully generating turnout for 25 events at college bookstores run by Barnes & Noble across the country.
Here’s how it worked:
- The Togather staff came up with 37 concepts to test at the seventy schools with the company’s bookstores. These were evaluated using email segments based on the company’s existing list, small Facebook advertising buys and Togather’s proprietary system.
- They looked both at the responses on their platform and what Facebook showed them about respondents interests on the backend.
- They used that information to boil the 37 ideas down to nine concepts which they put out to the specific schools as opportunities for the college students to pick “their dream class” in topics like “profitable passion projects” and “surviving your 20s.”
- The campaign was gamified by telling the students at the 70 schools that the 25 that showed the strongest engagement would get the dream class program that the most students indicated support for.
- Once the sites were chosen, each event was shown with a cost of $5 that dropped to zero if the students shared the event with friends. Kessler said, “We want you to have a really strong sense of the value proposition of an event.” Students had to either buy a ticket or invest in it with social capital, effectively becoming a co-host. Some students (though Kessler told us it wasn’t many) actually did opt to pay $5 for events rather than share them.
- Barnes and Noble was able to use the events to learn more about their customers. Namely, what kind of programming would get students back into their store when there wasn’t textbooks to buy, and which of them would actually show up.
By working with Togather, companies also find out which of their customers have the clout in their community to serve as effective brand ambassadors. The whole model is to drive demand driven events, Kessler explained. He said, “We are really focused now on using digital tools to drive effective offline engagement.”
Togather currently has eight employees working from a shared office in Dumbo. Kessler had the idea for the product after completing his own book tour for Martian Summer: Robot Arms, Cowboy Spacemen, and My 90 Days with the Phoenix Mars Mission. He lives in Downtown Brooklyn.
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