Once you have setup your social media sites, layout a rough game plan of how you want to run your sites. This might include some target weeks where you post each day leading up to a big event, like the opening of registration. Then there might be weeks where you post very little.
TIP: Base your post frequency on the platform you are using. For example, you may post a few times spread through the day on Twitter, but post consistently more than once a day on FB and you will start losing followers.
Keep your posts focused on content that is relevant to your audience. High quality, original photos and video will outperform simple text posts nearly every time. Be open and honest with your audience but always keep the tone positive. Be responsive to your audiences' feedback. There is nothing that turns a runner off more than asking a question on social media and not having it answered in a timely manner. Keep posts professional- don't curse or point out the shortcomings of other races specifically. If you want to highlight a competitor race that made a big mistake, find an article about it in a reputable location and link to it. Then tell your runners how your race is planned to avoid this pitfall. Keep in mind your social media posts will last a lifetime, even if you 'delete' them. Don't have a few glasses of wine and then decide it's a good time to post in your race social media (might be a good idea to avoid this for your personal too).
There is a variety of sites that allow you to schedule social media posts in advance. But these services cost a month my fee, so you might be better off using the feature in Facebook that schedules your posts in for future times. Another time saver is the Instagram feature where you can instantly share your post on a variety of other social media sites. You will get a lot of emails promising to manage your social media and/or websites. Unless you have an unlimited budget (call me if you do!) this probably isn't a wise investment for your race.
Another way to advertise online is through Google. This targets people using the search engine. Therefore, you target you audience based on what they are searching for. Although I find the ad interface to not be as intuitive as Facebook, it certainly is an effective option for some events. Advertising on Twitter is also becoming more popular. As you can see, there are a lot of options for advertising on social media. You need to identify what social media platform your target demographic is using most often and use that information to give your ad dollars the biggest impact.
Billboard and print advertising
Print advertising: Print advertising can be very expensive but it also has the potential to be very effective. Just like online, you need to choose a publication that most closely targets your target audience so that you are not wasting money on people who have no chance of registering. If you have a road race that will attract a national audience, maybe it is worth spending a few thousand dollars on an ad in Runners World. Likewise if you have a trail race or ultra run, maybe Trail Runner or UltraRunning Magazines can help narrow that audience even further and save you some money in the process.
What really works?
Similarly, you can print posters for event and hang them in the windows of local businesses. The best businesses are those that are already your sponsors. They want your race to be a success! Other small businesses are likely to let you post in their windows, but large chains often have policies against that. Just like when you are reaching out for sponsorship, ask to speak with the owner or general manager. Those are the folks who have the authority to allow you to put up your poster. Don't forget your tape, so that you can put that poster up the moment they say yes. Keep in mind they don't want it in their windows forever, so only put them up at max, two months prior to your event. I aim for 3-4 weeks prior for 10K-5K runs.
press releases and media relations
I hope these tips might help you get started marketing your event. It is going to be challenging, but your event won't be a success unless people know about it and show up!