Note: This is a re-tooled version of an article I originally published on the Experient e4 blog in July 2010.
Are you struggling with how to best utilize social technology to launch your event? Not sure which social applications are the best fit for your business scenario? Well you are not alone! Over the past couple of years many organizations have begun to introduce some aspect of social technology into their conferences. The problem is many are doing so without an implementation plan.
In the absence of a strategy there are no advance expectations, therefore no context for measuring results. Sadly, Executives, previously enthusiastic about using social technology, quickly abandon the idea claiming it is a waste of time (and therefore money) for their organizations.
A Trip To Nowhere!
Have you ever jumped in your car, with your suitcase, and a friend, and headed off on a vacation to some undetermined destination? While that idea might sound fun, or exciting, it’s not very practical. How do you know when you have arrived? Realistically how do you pack for that kind of trip?
You don’t have any advance notion of what attire will be appropriate, nor the climate you will encounter, or which activities you will do. Sounds silly and pointless doesn’t it? Well, think of this hypothetical vacation as an analogy that can be applied to utilizing technology for events, without an implementation plan.
Social Technology, like a vacation, is a great idea, but without a defined destination, (strategy) the results are blurry, risky, and often disappointing. There are no templates, or universal best practices for incorporating Social tools into a business setting. A “one size fits all” approach certainly does not work. Each organization must engineer a social technology event strategy centered around their desired business outcomes.
Crafting a Winning Social Technology Strategy
While many businesses may be seeking similar business results what makes each situation unique are the influences and personality of the people involved in the process. As customers impact most business outcomes it is critically important for businesses to understand their needs and preferred communication styles. When developing a technology strategy for launching your event you should consider the following questions:
Question One: How do my customers prefer to receive their information?
Do they prefer printed or electronic documentation? If your customers don’t read email or consume online content, then sending them information through those channels will be ineffective. As scary as it sounds there are some people that still opt to receive their information in printed format through the postal service. (AKA snail mail)
If online delivery of information is preferred, should it be automatic or on-demand? Do your customers prefer to receive conference updates automatically by Email, or would they rather control when and where they view their information? Posting information to a blog, or social network and then offering an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed subscription to readers is a common approach.
What type of device do they view online content with? Do they use a workstation or laptop, or do they use a mobile device most often, such as a smart phone or an Ipad? Delivering communications in a format that is user friendly is paramount to successfully making your point. What may look good on a laptop, or a workstation, might not be decipherable on a mobile device. Be careful with design!
Question Two: Which Social Networks, if any, do my Customers use? You should have a conference presence in places where your customers socialize online. Investing time to understand their cyber habits will help you to tailor your social technology strategy appropriately.
Do attendees hang out on Facebook? If the answer is yes, creating a conference fan page might be an effective strategy. You can also create a “Facebook Event” announcement that customers can add to their online calendar. Facebook is a wonderful place for people to interact with one another, post pictures, links, videos, and audio files.
Are attendees active Twitter Users? You can create an “official conference Hashtag” for the event. The hashtag serves as a center for attendees to interact and share information with one another. You (or they) can also schedule chat sessions to discuss hot topics of interest. As a customer service hub for posting event information tweets and receiving/responding to questions you should setup an official Event Twitter account.
Are attendees active LinkedIn users? Initiate an Event group page there, where conference news, and collaborative discussions can take place. Session speakers/instructors can initiate pre-event dialogues with attendees to build excitement and anticipation for the event.
Using Social Technology, with a focused strategy, will assist your organization in effectively engaging its conference attendees well in advance of the event. The time invested, by your organization, in learning about its customers online habits, is the “payoff pitch” to a winning event experience, and greater customer loyalty.
Question: What Techniques do you use, with your organization, to heighten awareness during the pre-event phase of your meeting(s)? What components of your implementation strategy would you consider unique, or highly effective? Please share them with us!