Post authored by Jeremy T. Janszen, SSGB- Experient’s SocialMpact Service Designer.
It’s overwhelming how much our industry likes to talk about social media. For the time and white space it commands in the conversations we have, in our general sessions and breakouts, and scribbled across thousands of pages of our industry’s print and online articles, you’d think we’d be better at it. Heck, you’d think we were all experts! But, as with many things, the breakdown is in the know-how of connecting tools to goals. This takes thought, analysis, testing, and much, much more than knowing (or reading) that you can use social media to accomplish a “Top 10” list of things. Of course you can. But the tricky thing is how? The articles always seem to leave that part out.
Over the past year, I’ve jumped into numerous meetings and onto dozens of phone calls with customers and industry peers discussing social media and how the event industry has been – and is planning to – embrace these tools to help execute first-rate meetings, events, and tradeshows. The results of these discussions, and additional research efforts, have revealed some very reliable proofs:
Proof 1: Event organizers understand that their audience (defined commonly as: members, attendees, exhibitors, and prospects) is online, participating in social media and present on various platforms, and that they need to engage with them in these locations. This is basic Marketing 101: Go to where your people are.
Proof 2: Event organizers, in large part, have tested the waters of social media by setting up Facebook and Twitter accounts for their organization or events, pushed out a variety of messages through those platforms, and have generated a small (and oftentimes described as “inactive”) online community connected to them. These initial, water-testing efforts are almost universally conducted prior to the development of any formal social media strategy or plan as a way for the organization to, at minimum, just “get in the game.” And, except for a minority, results have been generally disappointing or non-existent.
Proof 3: Event organizers do, typically, have an idea of what they hope to achieve for their organizations by participating in social media. Whether documented as part of a plan or not, common goals include:
• Recruiting new event attendees (by far the #1 goal) and extending event marketing;
• Creating additional networking opportunities for members and event attendees (Who hasn’t heard the statement, “We want to extend our week-long event into a year-round experience…”?);
• Increasing the organization’s online visibility and position as a subject matter authority
Proof 4: Equipped with (essentially) free access to all of the necessary social media tools and armed with an idea of what they hope to accomplish with them, event organizers have an incredibly difficult time connecting the two sides. This typically leads to a stalled-out effort or, at minimum, putting the effort “on the back burner” because the individual or organization can’t justify allocating resources to a task that isn’t showing any promising results.
Does this describe your organization?
Fear not. You are not alone.
Building the bridge between accessible social media tools and the goals you hope to achieve with them doesn’t take an advanced engineering degree. It takes time, attention, and commitment. It also takes an understanding of your audience and their needs. Why would they want to connect to you online? What can you offer them that they can’t get anywhere else? What are you doing to make them a raving (online) fan of your organization and brand? Starting with their needs and working backward is how you’re going to build this bridge. Sure, it would be easier to identify what your organization hopes to get out of the online connection and push, push, push (see your 100th Twitter post that reads: “Click here to register for the conference.”) but that’s not working. It takes a little more value creation before you can ask for the sale – or ask for anything, for that matter.
Successful bridge building also requires an understanding about your own organization’s environment. How do you communicate and about what? What knowledge and information assets do you have at your disposal – both as documented content and in the form of people? How can you enlist them? What do you have to give? That’s right. Social media is a “give before you get” game.
Knowing your audience and knowing yourself are integral parts of the bridge-building blueprint. Armed with this knowledge, you can begin to unleash the power of the social media tools you possess and adapt them to your social infrastructure. The pieces start to easily fall into place because you empathize with your audience and their needs while at the same time can plot the course between what you offer them and what they bring back to you. You might need someone to help you figure this out, or plan the course, or to bring new ideas to the table and help accelerate them, but little success will come unless you’re prepared to understand your audience and yourself first. Then, all of a sudden, that “Top 10” blog post starts to make a lot more sense.
To discover how to build that bridge between social media tools and your event goals of driving attendance and mobilizing community participation, click to download Experient’s Social Media Playbook.