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April 26, 2009
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SOCIAL CLUB 2.0:What technologies are producing the best results?




Having worked out that meetings and events are really being affected by web 2.0 and social media, Pete Roythorne set out to find out which technologies are having the most impact and how they are doing this.

Last week’s feature showed that the meetings and events industry really does believe that social media and web 2.0 are having a genuine effect on how we work. So, what are the most influential technologies, and why?

“Anything that has speeded up the rate of communication and the ability to add depth to a message has been of benefit as it makes experiences less transient and more of a relationship,” says Rupert Cheswright, head of experiential, Line Up. “Webinars and teleconferencing seem to be experiencing an increase in enquiries at the moment as they are both effective ways of reducing the need to travel long distances for meetings and get around the travel bans that are being imposed to reduce overheads.”

However, Cheswright believes that developments in these areas still have their own restrictions, mainly relating to the audience size you can speak to and the level of interaction with that audience. “Basic set ups for both webinars and teleconferencing can do one of these well in each case but not the other,” he says.

 


Having your say: User gerenated content sites like trip
advisor are having an enormous effect on
meetings and events planning

 

Extending your reach
Carina Bauer, marketing and operations director for IMEX, feels that meetings and events professionals are really starting to benefit from social media. “Technologies such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are currently the most popular, both by the general public and event planners,” she says. “All of these technologies also have applications, which are specific to meeting and event planning. Such applications allow planners to communicate easily, quickly and cost-effectively with potentially enormous audiences and interact with them in a way that traditional marketing does not allow.”

Bauer points out that IMEX has recently started using Twitter. “We have set up two accounts on Twitter – one providing general updates about the exhibition (http://twitter.com/IMEXfrankfurt) and the other which is specific to our own website (http://twitter.com/IMEXwebsite). Using such a service allows us, and our exhibitors and visitors, to communicate directly, sharing queries, problems, solutions and opinions publicly,” she explains. “We hope that it will also generate new ideas to improve our service to our exhibitors and buyers in the future.”

Ian McGonnigal, executive director, program strategy worldwide for George P Johnson, agrees that Twitter is having a huge impact: “Of all the technologies out there, I think blogging and Twitter are having the strongest impact on meetings and events. Both of these technologies allow attendees and outside communities to interact with and become a part of the experience,” he says.

McGonnigal adds that this allows meetings and events to be extended both rationally and emotionally beyond the boundaries of time and proximity. “Social networks like Facebook, MySpace and Linkedin all have a role. Sites like YouTube and Flickr have been used quite effectively in sharing content beyond an event - after all, a picture paints a thousand words and a video even more.”

However, he warns that there is also a strong regional component to consider. “For example,” he says, “V Kontakte or hi5 might be the stronger influencers in geographies where they are more popular.”

User generated content

For Kelly Vickers, manager of Conference Cambridge, the life-extension offered by these new technologies is crucial. “It's definitely had an impact on the 'shelf-life' of events, from promotion via viral marketing ('tell a friend' referrals and other folksonomy-type tagging - 'if you like this, you'll like this'), through registration to post event discussion/comment forums, blogging and other sites developed with user generated content,” she says.

Vickers also states that, increasingly online features such as Survey Monkey are used to provide quick feedback on ideas; which might drive the direction of events.

But social media continues to shine through. “As an organisation, Conference Cambridge has a Facebook page, where we post relevant news; we've even used it for marketing venues to local event organizers,” says Vickers. “We also have promotional videos on YouTube; I know that other people use Bibo, MySpace, Flickr.”

Corbin Ball, of Corbin Ball Associates, concurs that YouTube offers a great resource for meetings and event professionals. “Planners can use this free video distribution channel to promote meetings events,” he says. “Consider having your speakers create brief videos before the event discussing their topics, or interview satisfied attendees at your event. This can promote the event in exciting and engaging ways at a fraction of the cost of traditional media.”

Podcasts, too, can have a similar impact. “Again, interviewing upcoming speakers about their subject matter to create podcasts can promote meeting attendance,” Ball adds. “They are cheap to make and can be distributed essentially free via iTunes, other podcast distributer and/or via your website.”

Getting mobile
Ball also adds that mobile applications can have a huge influence on interactivity at meetings and events. “Mobile application companies such as Poll Everywhere (www.polleverywhere.com), VisionTree (www.visiontree.com), Zuku (www.zukuweb.com), QuickMobile (www.quickmobile.com) and Snipp (www.snipp.com) provide a range of onsite mobile phone networking, audience polling and information applications for meetings, tradeshows and events,” he says.

However, he believes that user-generated review sites may ultimately have one of the greatest impacts on meetings and events and society. “An excellent example of this is Trip Advisor (www.tripadvisor.com) one of the most widely used sites for researching hotels,” he explains. “These reviews usually give a much better picture of the hotel than you can get directly from the hotel website.”

Several user-review sites have recently emerged designed specifically with the meeting planner in mind: MeetingUniverse (www.meetinguniverse.com); Meetings Intelligence Exchange (www.meetingsintel.com); MeetingsCollaborative (http://meetingscollaborative.com); and Elite Meetings (www.elitemeetings.com).

Armed with these new technologies, planners can increase the life of their event, cheaply and effectively increase their marketing spread, talk to their delegates and even get new ideas for free. That would seem like pretty compelling reasons for anyone to get involved with social media and web 2.0; and certainly nothing to be scared of.


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