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November 16, 2009

Mike Fletcher:Why event managers should be using social media

Former editor of Event magazine turned social media guru to the events industry, Mike Fletcher kicks off our analysis of the power of digital content for meetings and events with a look at why we should all be jumping aboard the Twitter bandwagon.

The media landscape has changed forever. The way information and news is disseminated has changed forever. And the fact that consumers have embraced this change, choosing to receive their daily intake of news, recommendations and trends from varying online sources, means that social media’s role in the way we communicate is not a short-term fad.

Social media is a fundamental shift in the zeitgeist of the opening decade of the 21st century. It’s a communication, marketing and, ultimately, sales discipline that will only continue to evolve.

In the not too distant future, we will no longer search for products and services. They will find us via social media. Anyone working in the field of event marketing or event management has known for some time that the power of face-to-face outweighs a broadcasted message or a piece of direct mail. The one downside to experiential engagement strategies, however, has been that they could never reach the same scale of audience as other forms of marketing. With social media, that has now changed.

Facilitating conversation

Face-to-face marketing has always facilitated conversations and brand engagement. The social media revolution facilitates shared experiences and creates brand advocates, on a much larger scale.

In the UK alone, there are currently 41.3 million people online. This will rise to 48.7 million by 2013 – 81% of the population. There are more than 35 million users on Twitter around the world, with an average age of between 35 and 49 years old.

Twitterers are different to the communities of school children that flood Facebook to scrawl on walls, poke each other and tag photos. Twitterers are influencers. They are willing brand ambassadors, ready to micro-blog about their experiences.

With 80% of daily Twitter usage taking place on mobile devices, they update anywhere and anytime. Imagine what impact this already has and will continue to have on good and bad customer experiences.

Amplifying word of mouth

Social media is word of mouth on steroids. It is the amplifier that event managers and face-to-face marketers have long been waiting for. By integrating social media into event strategies, brands and organisers are allowing their audiences to decide on event content, pre-promote the event to their friends, share the event experience via images and words, evaluate the event in real-time and maintain the longevity of the post-event experience.

The life-cycle of an event and its potential reach has just increased beyond measure. As event managers, all you need to do is embrace the future and make online work for the off-line world.

To conclude, I’m going to provide you with a couple of Twitter nuggets that will further help understand how social media can enhance event marketing.

Twitter allows and encourages conversations about your event or brand. So you need to know what people are saying in real-time so that you can actively respond or amplify the messages that are being posted. The key word search function of Twitter is therefore important.

Search and ye shall find

What many people don’t realise is that Twitter has an advanced search function as well. The link  http://search.twitter.com/advanced will take you to a search engine that allows you to search in very specific ways. This also provides a glimpse into the future of how social media will develop. For example, take a look at the feature that allows you to search for tweets with specific ‘attitudes’.

You can also search for messages being posted from certain locations and set a range of how many miles to include in your search radius. Currently, this is using the location specified by each user in their profile. So for example, if you want to build your London followers, all you have to do is search and follow.

Finally, for those that have already embraced social media in their pre and post event strategies, have you considered integrating Twitter into the actual event itself?

To broadcast live tweets that will help facilitate a Q&A session, provide real-time feed-back or encourage conversation during an event, check out http://twitter.com/goodies/widget_search.

Mike Fletcher is a consultant to the UK events industry, Visit London Contributing Editor, ISES UK Vice-President Communication and co-founder of Social Media Active, a speaker service on the benefits of social media. On Twitter, he is @MikeyFletch and blogs at www.journalistfiles.blogspot.com

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