This infographic popped into my inbox from Digishare360 this morning and it was too good not to share.
This month the Who’s who in events community has been running its annual survey and there has been a great response from every aspect of our vibrant industry.
One of the primary purposes of the survey was to discover more about our members to ensure that decisions taken about group management and other such matters are based on consensus.
Crucial to this latter point is understanding what event professionals use LinkedIn for in the first place. Consequently a question was included in the study. Respondents were asked to rank six activities in terms of their primary reason for using Who’s who in events on LinkedIn.
In first and second place were ‘Seeking information about the industry’ and ‘Networking’, illustrating the importance members place on being able to identify and connect with like-minded professionals. In third and fourth place were ‘News’ and ‘Asking for advice/assistance’, though statistically these were not too far behind in terms of popularity. In fifth and sixth places were ‘Looking for suppliers’ and ‘Job-hunting’.
You can draw a number of conclusions from these results, but primarily it illustrates the vital importance that is still placed on making individual connections upon which a relationship can be built. It also shows that if you are active in your social networks you will attract fellow professionals and create links that could, in the long-term, be both beneficial and lucrative.
A couple of years ago the following question was posted on the Who’s Who in Events LinkedIn group.
Is Social Media just used to kill time and find out what old colleagues are up to or does anyone, other than social media consultants, get business out of it?
While social media, and technology in general are now fully embedded in the event marketing mix, it is worth remembering that there are still a significant number of people who view it with a degree of scepticism. Following numerous stories (given much larger audiences thanks to online and social media) of data leakages and inappropriate sharing, many are much more cautious about what they put into the public domain.
Social media is a great enabler of the creation of a continuous dialogue between like-minded people which can be capitalised on to create really great live events that the attendees truly value. When many people think of social media they are just considering Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, but these are really just the juggernauts that are educating the masses in the capabilities of what social media can do.
Technology now exists that enables you to take the capabilities and structure of social media and use it to create your own network, drawing in your current attendees, other interested individuals and partner organisations. By providing them with an open and collaborative environment you can understand what it is that motivates and concerns them, and then you can deliver business services and events that match these needs.
The organisations that are currently doing this successfully are incredibly diverse: from Cancer Centers who want to know how their patients select care at their center and what they want to receive in return; to AFOLs (adult followers of Lego); and then on to large technology organisations who were creating an event for their users based on what they thought were the issues but when they stopped and listened they discovered that there were other more pressing topics that needed to be addressed.
Social media is no longer just a useful part of an event or business marketing campaign, it is the linchpin of an event or business marketing campaign. Organisers and organisations that stop shouting and interrupting (outbound marketing) and start listening and responding (inbound marketing) will be the winners in a world that has been transformed.
The answer, therefore, to our original sceptics question is:
If you are just an observer within Social Media then all you will ever be able to do is kill time and find out what old colleagues are up. But if you use it effectively and professionally you will definitely get business out of it.
Back in 2008, when the Internet was finally throwing off its stabilisers thanks to better connectivity (who misses the modem dial-up tone?!) I decided to set up a group for the members of my event community on LinkedIn.
Admittedly I was a little behind the curve, but I didn’t see why I couldn’t join the party. So I set up Who’s Who in Events primarily because at the time there didn’t appear to be another group for event professionals in the UK and I thought I would give it a try.
Nearly six years later, and the group I founded by inviting my 65 contacts now has 80,000 members (and I have a few more connections). It is the third largest event industry group and the 270th largest group on LinkedIn – which out of 2.1 million isn’t bad! I’ve stuck to my guns in terms of keeping it a curated group (despite the temptation to just open up the floodgates and let everyone get on with it themselves) and believe this is what has kept it both industry focussed, geographically diverse and unique.
When working with clients on their event marketing strategies they often begin from the standpoint of “we need to set up a group on LinkedIn”. By the time I have finished telling them about my experiences it isn’t top of their priorities. Quite simply, running a successful group is practically a full-time job.
For instance, it doesn’t matter how often you tell your members the rules, some of them just don’t follow them. No promotional posts in the Discussions tab – doesn’t apply to me surely? And one person’s interesting blog post is another’s spam. Doesn’t everyone want to know about how to write a CV? Why can’t I answer a question with a blatant promotional post?
Some people get very cross. Most of the time I am polite, occasionally I am sarcastic (bad habit I know – but I’ve had it for a long time and I’m not changing now), I try to be helpful where I can. I’ve made changes where I think they are beneficial and kept the wagon on the road. Sometimes I get hauled up by someone who tells me it is the membership’s group and I have ‘no right’ but I’ve tried making the membership take control and it hasn’t worked (doesn’t mean I won’t try again sometime). With 2,099,999 other groups to compete with I’ve got to keep the majority happy. I made lots of sub-groups, but that just made 10 times more work, so now there are just three (they are self-managed and somehow have never quite got going).
LinkedIn doesn’t make it easy for me: a slightly more sophisticated membership filter would automate some of the entry procedure – so that I wouldn’t be greeted with hundreds of poor people awaiting approval (which is the reason so many groups have become open to all); an incremental advertising revenue model similar to YouTube would allow me to massively increase the activity and information available to members, making them come back to the site more often because I wouldn’t have to keep stopping to make a living elsewhere; a nice HTML newsletter for members on a proper weekly basis rather than the current automated timing which means at some point you have to miss out a day.
I’ve taken a decision to remove the promotions tab at the end of this month – too much good stuff gets dumped in this graveyard. But some of the content can’t go in the discussion forums because it will just get clogged up – so I am trying something new and curating a Who’s who in events company page where the best will be posted. I’m not sure if it will be popular – but I am going to give it a try.
I’m proud of what I have achieved, with a little bit of help here and there, and one day soon I hope I’ll be announcing that we have hit 100,000 members.
Michael tweets, blogs and posts about all sorts of stuff, including marketing, events, social media and technology and I like what he has to say. (Sometimes he even likes what I have to say which is great!)
Today I found his blog post about social media and events. It’s a topic very close to me since I spend most of my time trying to pursuade clients to focus in on their content and then work out what media they are going to use to tell their audience about it, rather than creating a social media presence and working out what they are going to put on it.
I would reproduce what Michael has said here, but I think you should go and read it for yourself. It makes a lot of sense.
While at the big industry events like EIBTM or IMEX, social networks and the impact they have on event marketing are widely discussed, I sense that a lot of event organizers and associations are still not sure about how to deal with the topic or how much resources to invest.
The previous post You’ve got to deliver what the audience really wants has provoked discussion in a number of forums and the responses have made for interesting reading, not least because of the seeming inability to move on from old arguments.
So let’s look at the topic from a different angle, by considering two industries closely related to producing live events; so closely related in fact that you would consider them siblings; i.e. publishing and broadcasting.
In both of these industries, the key players are referred to as Media Owners. Because they own the medium through which the content is broadcast. And for years this is exactly what they have done; decided when, where and what information and entertainment their audiences or readerships were going to consume. They have made and broken many a star, politician or company profit, simply through the editorial decisions they have taken which have influenced the masses.
Conference and exhibition organisers, be they commercial operations, industry bodies or associations, continue to believe that they must operate in a similar way. Developing programmes of content that they perceive the audience wants, choosing speakers and selecting participating exhibitors (via an economic filter it is true) and presenting a finished product to the visitors at a time, date and venue over which the latter has no control.
Then along came the Internet and social media and the shift in power from owner to audience was seismic.
Because the concept of expertise ownership by a few large corporations doesn’t fit any more. You can’t tell me what I should be watching, what information I need, or who I should be networking with. You can’t stop me finding organisations who can’t afford to exhibit at your event or who haven’t got a charismatic speaker, because if their Search and SM strategies are good I can do this on my own. And, you can’t stop me telling people, a lot of people, about the experience your organisation offers me, within minutes if I so choose.
So let’s bin the argument about virtual not replacing face-to-face; because we all know it won’t. Let’s stop finding fault with virtual technologies, because frankly some of them are pretty amazing. And let’s stop pretending that we still own audiences and industries because of the events we produce because we don’t. Let’s embrace the new to enhance the old rather than dismissing it as a fad that has nothing to do with us.
What we need to be doing, with or without the help of virtual technologies, is to work out how we build and maintain relationships with our communities; how we facilitate communication and collaboration between individuals both through a single live day and an online presence; and how we use the unfettered enthusiasm of our audiences to create a profitable business model for the future.
According to Christophe Asselin, Head of UK at DMG :: events, what event companies (and by association their marketing teams) really need to do to attract visitors is to “feel the love”.
Christophe espoused this philosophy extensively at the Conference for Conference Professionals back in April. What he was explaining, sprinkled heavily with his own particular brand of Gallic charm, was that if event organisers want to attract visitors, and keep them coming back then they have to be prepared to get up close and personal.
This approach won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has read Inbound Marketing by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah of Hubspot fame. There are many organisations that, having set about making sure people could find them on Google, social media and blogs, also ensured that any incoming enquiries, orders or complaints could be handled swiftly and effectively by anyone in the business. Other books such as Groundswell and Socialnomics are littered with examples of companies getting it right, and in many cases wrong.
So why are so many event companies finding it hard to adopt this strategy themselves?
Economics has a lot to do with it and in particular the huge gamble that has to be taken at the start of the event planning process in terms of specifying and committing to a venue. To minimise the risk the temptation is to run the team very lean in the beginning, keeping staff numbers and overhead as low as possible. While this keeps the financial exposure down it invariably means that it also reduces the capacity to bring the event to the market.
It’s hard to be heard if you are a single lone voice and it takes time to gather enough others around you to start creating a really audible noise.
And, if we go back to Christophe’s original point, if the team is small and hard pressed, they don’t have the time, energy or inclination to listen and react to what potential visitors have to say, even though it could be the vital piece of information that could change an event from job done to runaway success.
Which could possibly explain why so many event companies want to embrace social media to deliver their louder voice but they can’t quite work out how, or if they have already dipped their toes into the water they are decidedly underwhelmed by the results. It isn’t that social media isn’t or can’t work for events, but this is one medium where effort most definitely equals reward. Rather than taking the usual“let’s add it to the bottom of the marketing department’s list of things to do” attitude, working out a cohesive social media strategy, of whatever size or complexity, in the launch proposal and budgetting adequately to deliver it on a long-term basis, will deliver much more satisfactory results.
For after all, it is only when you truly know your audience that you can really learn to love them.