Kiki L’Italien (@kikilitalien) of DelCor Technology Solutions asked participants to list discussion points about social media, then order them by rank. Participants expressed particular interest in monetizing event planning and maximizing return on investment (ROI), as well as gaming or game-layering. Other popular topics included tools for tracking, streamlining social media, videos, and QR codes—matrix barcodes that can be read by smartphones.
The group discussed Foursquare, a gaming website that allows users to collect points, prize badges, and coupons. L’Italien asked how attendees not registered on Foursquare could be engaged without accessing the game. A participant responded that late adopters or non-adopters could be a topic for another session.
During discussion of the contents of a comprehensive social media tool, participants suggested a dashboard for tracking all events, as well as spreadsheets to enable event planners to track and integrate social media tools into a conference. Tools could include websites and email before, during, or after an event.
During the discussion about QR codes, a participant outlined how he uses them in advertising and speaker programs; another noted that QR codes could only be used with audiences that own smartphones. L’Italien pointed out that online and traditional marketing will need to be combined, since some “rebels” do not wish to be found online, and therefore refuse to use certain technologies.
L’Italien described “P.O.S.T.” methodology:
• People—the audience the event planner is trying to reach
• Objectives—what the planner is trying to achieve
• Technology (or Tools)
“Once the primary people and objectives are determined, then the most important question is why, and that’s strategy,” L’Italien said. Technology is often addressed first, since it is the easiest part; L’Italien called this “the shiny object syndrome.” However, she cautioned that “technology should only take about 10% of an event planner’s time.”
Some clients want to restrict their company’s social media presence; this can create challenges for event planners. One participant described a client who wanted to hold back on what was tweeted about his company. Another participant asked whether that client’s reticence stemmed from promotional or confidentiality concerns; this sparked a lively group discussion.
“Was the client worried about proprietary information being leaked to the public?” a participant asked. The first participant confirmed that her client was concerned about confidentiality.
L’Italien suggested that all event attendees receive a written list specifying what they can and cannot distribute during an event. In response to a participant who said no one ever reads the conference material, L’Italien suggested that presenters announce information about any proprietary information contained in the presentation.
“Presenters need to take responsibility about what material can be shared publicly,” L’Italien said; for example, some presenters tell their audiences, “This is tweetable.”
Another participant said a written confidentiality statement could be equated to a college’s code of ethics. L’Italien said there is a social ethics guide for event planning; she outlined three items every company should have: a social media policy, a social media plan, and a monitoring process. The social media policy should include a statement about what it’s acceptable to publicize. L’Italien pointed out a free online tool that she has found valuable for creating social policies, available at http://www.socialpolicy.net.
A social media plan addresses how social media is—or is not—used. “What if there is a crisis, such as a story exploding onto Nightline?” L’Italien asked. The social media plan would address how an event planner should handle such an issue. To monitor what is shown about an event in the social media, L’Italien suggested using Google alerts, Radian 6, and Lithium Social Media Monitoring.
The conversation turned to monetizing event planning, and realizing ROI. A participant asked whether anyone has been successful in using social media to generate revenue. Using social media to attract attendees to an event generates more attendance and creates what he termed “business acquisition.” He noted that he has hired a community manager, who led an event discussion on Twitter that attracted 60,000 followers and drew more attendance to the event. The community managers charged $1,000 per day plus expenses.
Video might be used in events, one participant said, but video use in event planning is on the decline. “You don’t want to cannibalize event attendance to a live event by using video to host a virtual event,” another participant noted. L’Italien suggested that video could be used to record testimonials and reactions, which could be shown at future live events. For example, she once asked registrants to post a daily video about an upcoming event. This helped engage the audience before the conference; attendees were still posting videos a month later.
A participant asked how gaming could be integrated into Facebook and Twitter. Some participants said they found Foursquare difficult to use to create a venue or a badge, while others said they liked using the application for creating scavenger hunts. A participant observed that gaming through Foursquare helps event planners to engage audiences and increase attendance, which in turn helps Foursquare recruit more users.
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