Using Social Media to Market Your Auction

November 21, 2011

By Sherry Truhlar

Social Networking Graphic

As an event planner, your work is never done. And unfortunately, there isn’t always another department to tap into for help. Especially in small shops, planners can’t delegate event marketing to the marketing or communications department because they don’t exist. Every detail is left to you – the planner. If this sounds familiar, this article is for you!

What you’ll find in this article is some how-to advice on promoting your benefit auction in social media. Social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook can be useful tools in helping you spread the word. Not only are they free to use, they also allow you to relay short, constant reminders about your cause and fund raisers.

The following are 12 auction-related ideas you can post on social networking sites to promote your auction:

1. Donation announcement: When an auction donation arrives, announce the item, thank the donor and provide a link to the  donor’s Web site. Be sure to include a photo of the item if possible.

2. Donation to round out a package: For example, “We need a florist to donate a bouquet to complete our Mother’s Day package at our fabulous fund-raising auction for children.”

3. Testimonials: Auction fund raisers should be mission-focused. Keep your supporters updated with stories of success. For instance, “Peggy is off the streets, thanks to XYZ non-profit,” or “Jeremy credits the St. Stephens art teacher for giving him the confidence to pursue art in college.”

4. Event preparations: Share a photo of the drawing backdrops for the auction, or at the gala chairperson’s meeting. This shows that others are involved in organizing the auction and are planning to attend the event.

5. Special announcements: Share news such as, “In just three weeks, we’ve surpassed 50 raffle ticket sales!”  Or, “Only 200 seats left before our school auction sells out!”

6. Gentle pressure on past auction donors: A post such as, “We sold a lovely two-night stay at the Fairmont last year, and are hoping they’ll donate again,” might work. Include a link to the hotel, and then contact hotel representatives so they see you are treating them kindly – even before they donate.

7. Questions answered: If you need to, make up the questions. For example, “A new family at our school asked what was appropriate to wear to the benefit auction. Here’s our answer, and we included three photos of past guests.”

8. List Creation: You can create a list on almost anything. Try, “Top 5 Reasons to Attend Our Auction Fund Raiser,” or, “Three Ways You Can Volunteer That Will Take Less Than Two Hours Per Week.”

9. Specific volunteers: Try, “Any math lovers out there? We need an auction clerk, and your primary job is recording numbers during the live auction. Any takers?”

10. Links to relevant Web sites: “In 55 days, our charity auction will be raising money for cancer research. Here’s a link to a fascinating article written by XYZ about the need for a cure.”

11.   Support of supporters: When you notice that one of your supporters (e.g. a school parent, a board member, an auction donor) is mentioned in the paper, link to it and promote it. “Redding Elementary parent Joe Smith was just promoted and here’s the link. Way to go, Joe! We look forward to congratulating you in person at the gala next Saturday.”

12.   Call to action: Get your audience to act or think about acting.  Say something along the lines of, “Early bird pricing on gala tickets ends tomorrow,” or “Get your gala dress at Lord & Taylor this weekend. The store has special occasion dresses on sale.”

Among the social media tools mentioned, Facebook is the most popular for group interaction.  Once you have started posting content and users begin to “like” your page, the next challenge will be getting new fans to engage with you instead of just reading what you write.  Asking questions is the easiest way to generate involvement, so here are five types of questions you can ask to encourage participation on your auction’s Facebook page.

Ask what people will be wearing.  Black-tie galas can ask a straight yes-or-no question. “Has anyone bought a new dress to wear to the gala this year?”  In contrast, groups expecting guests to arrive in costume can ask what they’ll be donning.  A sports-themed gala organizer once posed the question, “What uniform will you be wearing to March Madness?”

Ask true or false questions.  This lends itself to organizations celebrating a big anniversary. They can quiz fans on the organization’s history. For instance, “True or false? The first principal of our school went on to become governor of the state in 1965.”

Ask “fill in the blank” questions. Start with, “Fill in the blank,” and then ask your question.  For instance, “Fill in the blank! What are you hoping will be sold in the auction again this year?”

Ask questions about a photo.  Post a photo from the previous year, and then ask your fans to comment. “Here’s the silent auction layout from last year.  We’re wondering if you had enough space to move around and see everything?”

Ask past attendees to weigh in with a memory.  Was it the band they most enjoyed?  Was it the Las Vegas trip they bought in the live auction?  This question requires a fan to put forth more effort when they post, but the resulting stories may inspire others to at-tend. Of course, when fans post, don’t forget to comment.  Check back at least once a day to comment on new posts.  MM&E


Sherry Truhlar, CMP, BAS, CAI, is the founder of Red Apple Auctions, a benefit auction firm in the Washington, D.C., area.  Her insights have been published in Town & Country, Washington Post Magazine, AUCTIONEER and other publications, and her unusual career choice has landed her on TLC and E! Style television programs. A prolific blogger and Vlogger, Sherry offers practical benefit auction advice – and a free procurement gift for visitors – at

About the author

The MEET® Family of Publications

The MEET® Family of Publications produces regional and national publications that keep corporate, association, medical, education, independent, and religious meeting and event planners informed about relevant industry suppliers, news, tech innovations, and resources that impact and influence how and where they plan their upcoming company function(s).