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Next Steps – Even More Targeted, Relevant Social Media Research – Care to offer some advice?

Year-round, I send out a monthly newsletter to our regular exhibitors. Articles typically cover upcoming deadlines, important dates, registration statistics, advertising opportunities, sponsorship opportunities, etc. Now that my organization has made the decision to move forward with social media initiatives for our 2010 annual meeting, I’ve realized that the exhibitor newsletter opens up a perfect opportunity to explore *exactly* what our exhibitors are doing, or not doing, or are interested in doing, with regards to social media – and their perspective on social media initiatives led by show management.

We are approaching social media with a carefully considered and thoughtful short-term strategy, which will provide us with the metrics to then determine our long-term strategy. One important consideration as we move forward is finding new and creative ways to leverage social media to increase the value of exhibiting and sponsorship in and around our annual meeting. This could range from new sponsor benefits to new metrics to provide in return for sponsorship and/or increased exhibit hall traffic.

The natural first step seems to be surveying our exhibitors to see where they are currently with social media and how they would like to see both their organization and show management using social media.

Please keep in mind that this is concerning a medical meeting, and thus subject to regulatory and compliance considerations, i.e., activities should not be too “carnivally” or “fun” in nature and should reflect a professional tone.

The goals of the survey would include:

Would the exhibitors benefit and appreciate social media initiatives led by show management geared at:

  • Attendees in an attempt to boost exhibit hall traffic; and if so, we would encourage them to provide suggestions to optimize this use of social media
  • Exhibitors to open up the collaborative “town hall” discussion year-round, and to exhibitors of all sizes and types

Obvious survey items would include requesting exhibitors to share their organization’s current social media involvement, the level of involvement for their personal use of social media, their opinion of various prospective social media initiatives (e.g. exhibit hall ‘scavenger hunt’, announcing product theater presentations, exhibit hall hours reminders, etc.) to increase exhibit hall traffic, positive/negative social media experiences at similar meetings, etc.

My question for you all –

Based on the goals of the survey – what unique and helpful questions would you include in the survey (taking into consideration the current regulatory landscape)?

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My Social Media Proposal in Five Simple Words (and they rhyme!)

  1. Fascination.
  2. Presentation.
  3. Conversation.
  4. Implementation.
  5. Celebration!

A strong FASCINATION in social media

led to the PRESENTATION of a social media proposal

and the CONVERSATION that followed

and the now fast-approaching IMPLEMENTATION of a social media strategy

and finally, a CELEBRATION!

OK. That was really cheesy. Sorry. 🙂

I spent weeks preparing for yesterday. I scoured social media to pull research and analytics pertaining to the activity (or non-activity) of medical societies in social networks. I Googled for hours to pull examples of existing social media conversations about topics related to our industry. I interviewed the people managing social media for similar organizations. I’ve spent at least an hour a day sorting through my Google Reader to find relevant and valuable blog posts with the latest news, tips and observations about social media, marketing and nonprofits.

I did all of this happily. I love social media and technology – and it was more fun than I ever imagined to be tasked with truly applying my current knowledge of social media to my organization. It was even more fun to tackle the challenging questions that came out thinking from a business perspective of social media.

Because most of the conversations I have about social media are with . . . well, you – I would have moments of insecurity that some elements of the proposal would appear to be common knowledge or a no-brainer. My biggest fear was that after absolutely giving my best effort and all of the background research that my proposal would be just . . . “meh”.

Don’t get me wrong, as many moments of insecurity as there were, there were an equal number of moments where I was excited and confident. I told myself that everyone has that battle when they are working on something that is really important to them. I don’t know if that is true – but I have a feeling it is.

Moving on.

Yesterday at 10 AM, I presented my social media proposal. I was nervous, but not as nervous as I was afraid I would be. Despite my best efforts, my voice was tellingly wobbly for the first few moments – which is always very annoying. However, my nerves calmed as the presentation and meeting evolved into a collaborative discussion and finally a blueprint of the organization’s immediate plans for social media and potential next steps.

In the end, the meeting was extremely successful in my eyes. Decisions were made and we have officially started down the path to strategize and implement a presence in social media – and I have gladly accepted the opportunity to continue to be a part of these efforts.

So basically, remember when I was initially asked to write the proposal and it took just about everything I had to not jump out of my chair and run in circles? Multiply that feeling by 140.

A brief (but promising) chat about medical societies and social media.

Earlier this week I had the great opportunity to attend a large medical conference with an ‘exhibits only’ pass. The goal in attending the meeting was to look for innovative tactics utilized to enhance the exhibits experience for meeting attendees and exhibitors and meet with our counterparts at the association who were putting on the meeting to discuss strategy.

It was an awesome opportunity and I had been very excited ever since I found out I was able to go. What I hoped for was to encourage the flow of creative energy, and while that goal was achieved, I also happened to unexpectedly meet a couple of my exhibitor contacts face-to-face for the first time. There is just something about putting a face to the name that takes the relationship to a whole new level. (unrelated to the post, but still a cool and unexpected perk of this opportunity. . . I digress)

Back to the point. I’ll go ahead and admit that I had (unsurprisingly) sought out and followed the association’s social media efforts in the weeks prior to the meeting, mainly by monitoring their various Twitter accounts (and some of the more vocal attendees’ accounts) on a regular basis. I was pleasantly surprised to see a medical society utilizing social media, and on a seemingly regular basis as well as in conjunction with their annual meeting.

While I was in the association’s booth on the exhibit hall floor discussing the evolution of their presence in the exhibit hall, I mentioned that I was interested in meeting whoever was handling their social media initiatives.

A couple of minutes later, I did just that. After introducing myself and admitting my recent stint of stalking her social media efforts, I learned that she had been an employee of the association for some time now, in the advocacy department, and one of her responsibilities was maintaining a blog. The leadership recognized the value and need for a social media presence, as well as her natural talent for communicating via social networks, and eventually transitioned her into a newly created position in the communications and marketing department, handling organization-wide social media initiatives.

As someone who has a pretty strong grasp of social media and a particular interest in how medical societies are (or are not) using it, I’ve been pretty impressed with her efforts. Their membership consists of doctors, which usually tend to not be as active on social media or at least open to it off the bat. (I realize there are significant exceptions, there is no need to point this out to me. In this particular situation though, it applies). 🙂

However, over the past seven days, and as of this post’s publication, there have been 1,142 tweets, from 201 contributors, and an average of 163 tweets per day associated with the official conference hashtag. These are not mind blowing statistics. However, based on unique circumstances and in comparison to similar meetings, these statistics are worth mentioning. Based on the association’s seemingly well thought out strategy and implementation, I won’t be surprised to see them grow in the future.

However insignificant the numbers may seem in comparison to more mainstream meetings – being in a similar environment, I was impressed. I was impressed more than anything by the association’s willingness to experiment with what many associations seem to be intimidated by or completely ignore.

She explained to me that they have a few main accounts representing the organization that she and a couple other designated staff work together to maintain, as well as some sub-accounts (like their 2010 annual meeting and their 2010 expo account) that come into play as needed. Because the association offers so many different areas of interest to their members, one account wouldn’t be sufficient to get the right message to the right folks. Simply put, this works for them.

Unfortunately, since she and the rest of her co-workers were mid-annual meeting and likely pulling 14-hour days, we didn’t have long to talk. But, I was motivated by her story and impressed with both her individual efforts and those of the association, and felt the need to share.

Things I wish I had the opportunity to ask her during our brief chat:

  • Were there struggles along the way to your transition to convince key staff of social media’s potential value and importance?
  • What social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) have you been the most succcessful in engaging members and attendees?
  • How do you plan to keep the conversation/buzz going year-round, as opposed to just annual meeting-centric?
  • What social networks did you put the most effort into and what was the result? Success? Failures? Things to tweak?
  • If she was aware of or had she considered using online event communities, like the Social Collective? Pro’s/con’s/potential challenges?

Either way, it was definitely a pleasure meeting her. I got her card and plan to reach out to her in the future with these type of questions and more . . . while continuing to (stalk) watch her social media efforts. 🙂

We are all in this together, right?

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