Soup’s On – A Growing Naperville, IL Tradition

Imagine a fundraiser that goes from 0 to 2,000 attendees and over $100,000 in net proceeds in just 3 years.

That's the Soup's On event for The Rotary Club of Naperville.

This is something I've heard bits and pieces about for the last few weeks. Yesterday I had a chance to speak with Bill Garlough, the founder of Soup's On, and get some behind-the-scenes information. In fact, I got so wrapped up in what Bill showed me that I completely forgot to write anything yesterday. So let's make up for that today.

What caught my attention is how they're using social media. They're covering a lot of channels and techniques.

Start with the website for Soup's On (www.soupsonrotary.com).

It's s short home page (very good) with a prominent link for purchasing tickets, a rotating photo album and a video, and a scrolling list of Gold Sponsors. And the sponsor logos are clickable links. It's a good home page.

Scroll your mouse over the menu items at the top to see how it highlights, and the drop down menus. It works well, although I have to admit to missing the menu my first time on the page. I took it for being a line of text in the header rather than a menu.  A slight change in the background colour of the menu tabs can keep that from happening.

One thing I strongly recommend changing is in the scrolling display of the Gold Sponsors. Right now, clicking on some of the logos makes the company's site open in the same window. They should all be set to open in a new window so visitors can always quickly return to the Soup's On site. This would definitely move the home page from good to great.

Are you wondering what sponsor logos have to do with social media?

Social media is all about relationship marketing. And you've heard/read my position that social media is about far more than just the Golden Trio (Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter). Soup's On is building strong relationships by giving everyone as much exposure as they can.

For example, look at the pages for Menu & Restaurants and Sponsors. The sponsors all get a listing with the highest level sponsors having clickable links. That's fairly standard practice.

The restaurants get their own page -and that's good. They also get linked to their restaurant website. Giving them their own page is part of treating the restaurants as partners in the event. In addition to their own page, Soup's On also puts together a cookbook for the event.

The cookbook has a full page ad for each restaurant that's paired with a recipe for the soup that restaurant serves at the event. And we all know cookbooks are something that rarely get thrown away.

The pages, links and cookbooks are all ways of extending and carrying on the conversation after the event. Maybe you remember having a great Pumpkin Soup or Bison Chili, but you forget which restaurant served it.

The cookbook is given away as a keepsake, so you always have that to glance through. And you know you can look up the dishes served on the website. When you find the dish, just click on the link to see the restaurant's site.

Okay, that's the site. Now let's look at how they're using social media sites.

Just before I get started, let's keep in mind that this is just their 3rd year and they haven't had anyone coaching them. The reason for saying this is that I'm going to point out some areas to improve in as we go.

You've already noticed there are no links to social media sites from the website. That kind of jumps out at you because we're getting used to spotting the icons. They're in the process of changing that.

The only site they're using is Facebook. Click this link to see the page.

The difficulty they're having with Facebook is actually too much excitement from within their planning committee. Everyone is so excited about Soup's On that they've ended up with 3 Facebook Business Pages for the event. Oops.

So what we're going to do is channel that excitement into making one great Facebook Business Page for Soup's On. Then we get all the sponsor, restaurants and supported charities to Like the page. Naturally, they all also link to the website because that's where you want all the traffic going.

That said, you want to pay attention to how you send traffic to the site.

For example, when someone reads a post on the Wall, clicking a link should send them to the most relevant page on the site. When they're looking at Photos, clicking a link should at least take them to the Home Page.

That's because the Home Page has a rotating photo album. Ideally, we'll put together a photo album on the site and have traffic go there from Photos. You're getting them to the site and allowing them to see more of what they're already interested in. And in a photo album on your own site, you can add links to the ticket order page, sponsor page, or any other page that's relevant.

And, of course, the FBML (Facebook Markup Language) tab should have a sign-up box for updates and a link to the Eventbrite page for purchasing tickets. This is one of those things you have to maintain because tickets are not always on sale. For example, Soup's On just happened in October so tickets won't be on sale again until 2011.

So you only connect to the Eventbrite page when tickets are on sale. The rest of the time you put up a message that says "Sign up for updates so we can let you know when tickets are available."

The folks who organise Soup's On have correctly focused on getting the event right. It runs like clockwork, and the restaurants are super happy with the support they receive for bringing in their food and serving it. That's the right approach because all the great advertising in the world is wasted if people show up to a badly hosted event.

Now that they have the event running well. (And who can argue with 2,000 attendees at an indoor event, and over $100,000 in net proceeds!) They can invest time and effort into refining their advertising. That's really what it will be - refining - because they're obviously doing well now.

One refinement is to add other social media channels.

They going to look at Twitter to see:

  1. Is there Twitter traffic that's relevant to the event and supported charities?
  2. What kind of information are people sharing and talking about?
  3. Will Twitter be useful pre-event and/or during the event to increase attention?

Another site to look at is LinkedIn because of the large number of businesses already involved with Soup's On. Forming a group on LinkedIn gives people an opportunity to add that group to their profile, and share their experience within the group. It's also a place for people to mention upcoming activities with the supported charities. LinkedIn is one step in segmenting your audience and tailoring the marketing message to a niche element.

Another element they'll be making use of is Video.

They already have lots of content because there is great media coverage of Soup's On, and they have several volunteers at the event with cameras, too. Now, the inclination is to think of YouTube whenever video gets mentioned. As great as YouTube is, it's also just one site.

Visit TubeMogul (a video aggregator) and look at all the sites it allows you to distribute video content to. One of them is the Food Network - and that's an ideal fit for Soup's On.

Then there are some specifically charity-oriented social sites to check out.

Kiva is particularly interesting because they have a partnership with Twitter. This is a new partnership announced in October 2010 (just a few days ago as of this writing).

And there's the social media monitoring element to be developed, too.

We'll get Soup's On using a service such as: netvives.com, soocial oomph, and/or Google Alerts to keep track of what people are saying about the event.

Imagine getting a Google Alert 2 or 3 days after the event that contains a wonderfully complimentary blog post by someone who attended. That's a good thing to link to.

In the other direction, monitoring Twitter during the event is wise in case there is a public complaint. The Florida Aquarium does this during their Tweetups. During their very first Tweetup, someone complained on Twitter about having lost the tour group. Because they were watching, this person was found, brought back to the tour, and ended up having a terrific time; which they also tweeted about.

And monitoring what is said after the event may give you ideas for ways to improve your event.

Okay. I'm way over my 700 word limit. Let's wrap this up, and I'll be back later today with a second post. That's my way of making up for yesterday. And the post later today is about something different from Soup's On.

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