It’s true. Social media is mesmerizing. Who hasn’t stayed up until 3 a.m. reading funny posts and writing on their Facebook wall? Jason Baer refers to social media as a “shiny object” in his MarketingProfs webinar. In other words, it’s so exciting to some people (like me) that it’s easy to get caught up in what the tools can do and overlook the long-term objectives.
Event organizers and their advertising agencies are beginning the arduous task of mapping out strategies for social media that complement the traditional media they are accustomed to, while overcoming their fears about misdirected tweets and customers bad mouthing brands for the entire world to read.
Here are three perspectives from technology and social media strategists that can help with the strategic mindset that event organizers (trade, corporate and public events) need before diving into the pool or deciding which floatation devices to use.
It would be logical to assume that events that focus on digital media, social media, blogging, etc. would have strategies for using the tools on which the conferences are focused. That is precisely the case with the DigitalNow Conference produced by Fusion Productions in partnership with the Disney Institute. In the case study posted on the Fusion Web site, producers outline the strategy (great tips at the end of the case study) as well as the progression of tactics they employed over the years.
The Takeaway: DigtalNow organizers were smart not to bite off too much in the beginning. As the conference matured and the platforms became available, Fusion added tools that suited their needs. They also developed the DigitalNow Offsite Participation Guide for remote participants who lack the visual cues and human helpers that face-to-face attendees can avail themselves of on site. Finally, they dealt with the dreaded negative comments posted on their LinkedIn group and everyone came away with happy thoughts.
In his July 30 webinar presented by MarketingProfs, Jason Baer of Convince and Convert outlined a seven step framework for developing a social media strategy for B2C marketers but it is equally effective for B2B audiences in an exhibition or conference context as well. After all, event attendees are social media consumers too.
Quoting K.D. Payne, the “queen of social media measurement and metrics,” a successful social media program uses humanization and approachability to influence how customers perceive the company, says Baer. Think of companies as events and customers as attendees and consider the following:
1. Determine your “pitch” in 120 characters. In the abbreviated world of social media, “You have to be able to communicate what your company is about in a succinct way,” Baer says.
2. Answer the question, “What’s the point?” In other words, says Baer, determine why you are engaged in social media to begin with and how it fits into your marketing and communications approach. The ultimate objective needs to be awareness, sales or loyalty. “You need to choose among these objectives before deciding on a strategy and a micro-decision process,” Baer explains.
3. Decide what type of relationship you have with your audience as each relationship type dictates a different strategy. Baer advises choosing the categories in answer to the question, “What does your audience know about you?”
- Nothing—Have never heard of your brand
- Awareness, no action—Have heard of your brand, but never purchased a product
- Single action—Used a product once
- Repeat action—Enthusiastic about the brand, repeat user
- Advocates—Recommending your brand to others
Baer suggests that social media strategists choose only one or two of the groups so that the execution doesn’t introduce mixed messages.
4. Determine how your audience uses social media in order to connect with them in the most appropriate ways. Baer suggests using the Forrester Social Technographics Ladder® to map audience demographics to social media usage in the following groups:
- Creators—Write blogs, upload their own videos, upload their own music
- Critics—Post ratings and reviews, comment on other blogs, contribute to Wikis
- Collectors—Use RSS feeds, add “tags” to Web pages or photos, vote for Web sites
- Joiners—Maintain profiles on social networking sites, visit social networking sites
- Spectators—Read blogs, watch video from others, listen to podcasts, read forums
- Inactives—None of the above
Baer advises to reach out to no more than three groups at a time with a chosen strategy.
5. Declare your company’s “one thing.” Baer advises that marketers determine the one characteristic, trait or passion that makes the company unique. “Find out what conveys passion about your brand. “Ask an agency, your customers or maybe just listen and don’t think,” says Baer.
Baer offered “one thing” examples for different brands. Volvo is associated with safety. Apple stands for innovation. Nordstrom identifies with customer service and Disney with magic.
6. Determine how you will be human. Making a human connection with customers is the hallmark of social media. “People are always more compelling than logos,” says Baer. He offers suggestions including photos and blogs of employees posted on the Web site. “Find employees within your company and make them the star of the show,” says Baer.
7. Determine what success will look like ahead of time. Choose three metrics, based on the objectives of awareness, sales or loyalty, to measure whether the social media strategy has achieved the desired outcome. Baer recommends the following:
- If the objective is awareness, then measure web traffic, web referrals, search volume trends, followers/friends/fans, social mentions, share of voice, etc.
- If the objective is sales, then measure web traffic, time spent on the company Web site, bounce rate, repeat visits, content acceptance rate, followers/fans/friends, social mentions, share of voice, social connectivity within sales funnel, etc.
- If the objective is loyalty, then measure the time visitors spend on the company Web site, repeat visits, content acceptance rate, followers/fans/friends, repeat social mentions, share of voice, recommendations and reviews, social connectivity among purchasers, customer service metrics, net promoter score, etc.
The Takeaway: Being “the” place to network, learn about new products and gain important insights, as was the claim of exhibitions and conferences over the years, is no longer the most valid value proposition in a world where social media platforms offer similar benefits for participants. Event producers have to develop strategies that provide for the existence of social media tools and, more importantly, for the ways that customers choose to consume information, engage each other and contribute content that shapes the way events are structured.
A final perspective, offered by 360i, is outlined in the Social Marketing Playbook. It helps marketers use “key insights and clear objectives to use as a prism for assessing which platforms have the necessary scale and engagement opportunities for [their] brand.”
In chapter two of the playbook titled, “Developing a Game-Winning Strategy,” the firm provides a four-step approach for developing a brand strategy using social media including:
- Establish a “strategic lens” by defining objectives and evaluating opportunities.
- Create a social media architecture including conversations taking place between the brand and consumers, chatter between consumers facilitated by the brand and organic dialogue among consumers.
- Develop a unifying theme that resonates with customers and inspires them to take action.
- Find an authentic voice in social media spaces by researching the customs of the social channel and conveying the company message within the “lay of that land.”
The Takeaway: Event organizers need to look upon social media platforms not as competition with but as enhancements to the face-to-face experience. The best way to do that is to identify the opportunities that present the best chance to extend live meetings and work within the structure of those opportunities.