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Can you hear me now?

One of my favorite light bulb moments from EventCamp 2011 came from Liz Strauss.  In her general session she described the difference between monitoring and listening in social media:

“Monitoring is like the camera on the traffic light that captures people running the light. Listening . . . is knowing which car was having an emergency and on the way to the emergency room.”

Such a simple statement. Such a true statement.

So I found it timely that on the heels of EventCamp I came across this blog post from one of the pharmaceutical bloggers I follow. If you read the post, you see that MaverickNY is simply letting her readers know that she is heading to a medical meeting, and that she would be sharing her experience via Twitter. However, she notes that due to the length of the ‘official’ hashtag—a whopping 12 characters including the hash mark!—she, along with many others, would be using an unofficial and shorter hashtag.

This post is not about the importance of keeping the character count of your official conference hashtag low to allow attendees to easily tweet without struggling to stay under 140 characters. This post is about monitoring and listening.

Are you listening to your attendees? What about the non-attendees that are trying to follow your event via Twitter?

It is important to monitor (year-round, not just around your event) for mentions of your association, meeting name (and variations), and keywords related to your industry/event using tools like Google Alerts, Twitter Search, Addictomatic, and the list goes on. Subscribe to your attendees’ blogs and tweets—and read them. It may seem time-consuming, but it is not difficult to find the people you need to listen to if you consistently monitor social media.

Imagine if the social media staff at the association putting on the medical meeting that Sally is heading to are not aware that a considerably large—and definitely socially savvy—set of attendees are planning to cover the meeting via Twitter, but not from the official conference hashtag they plan to monitor.

I hope that association is listening.

[Image via Purple Unicorn]

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What are you searching for (on Twitter)?

In a follow-up session to the EventCamp 2011 opening general session Chris Brogan shared some helpful information to get the most out of search.twitter.com. I’ve summed up my notes below.

Search terms rather than people to get to the useful information (and the people sharing and/or seeking it).

Search for terms that would lead you to people complaining about a product or service – then offer your solution.

Example:

Screenshot from search results for “speaker cancelled”:

Your response: “Hey! I’m a speaker. Maybe I can help? Let me know.”

Optimizing search terms takes tweaking to yield the results you desire. Think how people actually speak (rather than a person familiar with terms more specific to your industry).

Example:

A tweet from someone who is frustrated that their web host is down would probably not look like the following:

Golly. My host is down again…

A tweet from someone who is frustrated that their web host is down would probably look like this:

#&%$!! My web host sucks! Down again. Big surprise!!!

I hope you find Chris’s tips helpful. As always, please feel free to add your tips, questions and/or general musings in the comments below!

p.s. Look for more posts over the next couple of weeks highlighting my takeaways from EventCamp!

While you were busy spamming the official conference hashtag . . .

Twitter yet again serves as handy tool – this time to tradeshow management.

If an exhibitor breaks the rules and gives away illegal items without the approval of show management – just check out your official conference hashtag Twitter feed. You’re likely to find innocent attendees tweeting about what they just won.

Whoops! Didn’t see that one coming, eh?

Caught. Red-handed. tsk tsk . . .

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)?

SoCon10 – here I come!

I had every intention to write a pre-SoCon10 post but was completely inundated at work this week and it just didn’t happen. Since I am heading to my hometown of Kennesaw, GA tomorrow for the event, I will just get straight to the (brief) point.

  • SoCon came to be in 2007
  • I heard about it last summer from Sherry Heyl at the International Association of Events and Exhibitions Southeastern Chapter Classic (and I am looking forward to seeing her speak again)
  • Any relevant tweets/key takeaways will be tagged with #SoCon10
  • Oh, and did I mention it’s tomorrow?? . . .  So, good night!!

(forcing myself to close laptop)

spotlights

best reads this week

blogging | motivational

Starting a Blog — What Benefits Are There?

twitter | events

I’m all for tweckling but can we stop the bitching?

viral | funny

No Pants Party On The Metro Scheduled For Sunday

tech

God Mode Easter Egg

professional development

Maybe You’re the Reason Your Job is Boring

and now . . . irrelevant but worthwhile:

To the guy who mugged me and my girlfriend on Monday night

youtube spotlight

2009 in social media

Social Media and Expo! Expo! – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly . . . and The Weird

There is a growing trend of social media being integrated with events and expositions to promote networking, grow community, deliver updates and promote different aspects of the event. This is a great thing for everyone. I experienced this use of social media recently at the International Association of Events and Exhibitions (IAEE) annual meeting, Expo! Expo! Many of the sessions were about social media or ended up going in that direction at some point. The association experimented with many (some would say too many) different types of social media. I didn’t utilize all of them, but there two forms of social media at Expo! Expo! that impressed me as valuable tools to show organizers/event planners and attendees.

Taptopia

I love my iPhone and I especially love new apps that serve as productivity or reference tools. Taptopia created an iPhone application that gave attendees updates to the itinerary, a detailed schedule of events (the user can star to save the sessions they plan to attend), a very detailed exhibitor listing and map, and some other neat features including media and messages from IAEE. The app had the option to tweet from it, but I found it cumbersome and preferred to use Tweetdeck for iPhone.

As someone in exhibit hall management, I found the exhibit hall map and the exhibitor listing most impressive. The map allowed you to zoom in to see the booth numbers and locations, and you could follow a prompt if you wanted more information about a specific booth. The interface was pretty sleek.

For event planners, Taptopia offers a good return on investment for a sponsor. The logo of the sponsor is prominent and IAEE allowed the sponsor to have messages pop up reminding attendees to visit their booth and other promotional messages. The pop ups were noticeable, but not to the point where they would be annoying.

The only major criticism that I have for Taptopia is that it is currently only available for the iPhone – no other smart phones. This is bad news for attendees who have a Blackberry or any other device, and also probably makes Taptopia a tough sell to prospective sponsors. I don’t know what percentage of Expo! Expo! attendees had iPhones versus other devices, but there were definitely quite a bit of people with devices other than the iPhone and they unfortunately missed out on this cool and useful tool. I stopped by Taptopia’s booth in the exhibit hall and asked them if they had plans to create a platform that would work with multiple devices. Their response? “It’s difficult, but we’re working on it.” I look forward to seeing what they come up with.

MyExpoExpo

MyExpoExpo, developed by The Social Collective, was an online forum designed to encourage pre-event networking and grow a community around the event. Similar to Taptopia’s application, attendees could navigate general information about the conference, sessions and events, view media from IAEE, “friend” people and join a chat. Users could also choose to link their Facebook or Twitter account with MyExpoExpo. MyExpoExpo also linked to more detailed information than Taptopia, like hotel accommodations and registration, and included an easier to view, printer-ready schedule of events.

One unique feature that I could see being very valuable were the Groups. Groups varied from things like First-Timers to Local Attendee to Show Organizer and more. Using the groups within MyExpoExpo to pre-network could prove to be a very useful tool for attendees to find others relevant to their field to meet with face-to-face on-site.

The only problem? Not nearly enough of the IAEE attendees used MyExpoExpo. I’m not exactly sure as to why. I found out about MyExpoExpo from an IAEE e-mail blast a few weeks before the event. If the majority of attendees were not aware of the site before the conference, it surely would have been evident once they were on-site.

To successfully engage an online community, its up to the organizer to generate and maintain the buzz, and up to the attendees to actively participate. In IAEE’s defense, in the opening session the speaker did state that IAEE was experimenting with the use of multiple social media mediums to enhance events. Since there were five different social media tools available at the meeting, perhaps it was difficult to clearly communicate the usefulness and features of each one.

I had the pleasure of meeting Clinton Bonner (@clintonbon), VP of the Social Collective at the IAEE tweetup and enjoyed discussing the ways that the Social Collective can enhance events. I hope to see MyExpoExpo at the 2010 IAEE annual meeting and more attendees taking advantage of this tool.

To sum things up:

The Good

IAEE knew the importance of experimenting with social media tools and the value they can bring before, during, and after events. The speakers they lined up were EXCELLENT, including @GuyKawasaki, @ChrisBrogan (who graciously signed a copy of Trust Agents for me and posed in a picture), @velchain, @maddiegrant and @lindydreyer to name a few.

The Bad

As I mentioned above, there were some great social media tools available, but to my disappointment, a small percentage of attendees using them. However, I have a hopeful feeling that this will change for the 2010 meeting, as social media dominated the sessions and you could actually see little light bulbs popping over attendees’ heads.

Among many cute and witty choices of ribbons for attendees to attach to their name badges, was a ribbon that stated “I Twitter”.

Eeeerrrr, shouldn’t it say “I Tweet”? . . . I still say A for effort, I suppose.

The Ugly

I’m going to go ahead and say what most of the attendees were thinking. . .  the “host” of Expo! Expo! (who I will not name, but if you must know, it wont be difficult for you to find out) was awful. His mic was too loud, he was beyond obnoxious, completely played into some of the unattractive stereotypes of Atlanta (the city were the event was held), and shamelessly self-promoted at the end of the show, leaving most attendees with their jaws dropped in disbelief. George Costanza would have been a better choice. Bob Sagot, even!

The most popular session was “The Art of Social Media Marketing”, and it was great session with an impressive panel. During the session, there was a feed of livetweets on stage. This was great . . . at first. Then the exhibitors all had the same million dollar idea (or so they thought) to send multiple tweets asking the attendees to visit their booths, thus clogging up the feed and completely being, well, spammers. I’m glad that my buddy, @DQTweets had the chutzpah to call the offenders out on the livefeed.

During this same session, attendees were unwittingly given an awkward demonstration of the potential trouble with having a livefeed of tweets when one of the panelists (who shall remain nameless) was called out for having their Twitter account set to private and had only tweeted twice. This led to many other tweeps chiming in with harsh criticism as I stared at the feed in awkward shock and embarrassment for her. Now, I don’t know if the Twitter profile they referred to was actually hers, so I don’t have an opinion on her use of Twitter either way.

The Weird

How about some recharge and wifi stations for the bloggers and social media addicts who attended the conference? Seriously! I had to search for an electrical outlet to plug in my iPhone and sat on the floor while I waited for at least enough juice to get me through the next session.

A group of heavy Twitter users organized a tweetup one evening after the sessions had concluded. I went to it and had a blast! It was great to finally put faces with avatars and just hang out. @swoodruff once blogged about the value of “pre-meeting” people on social networks that perfectly illustrates what I mean. So what about this is weird? Well, I wont go into details, but let’s just say that the event organizers completely misunderstood the purpose and value of the tweetup and things got a bit . . . messy behind the scenes when they responded.

Expo! Expo! took place just after the huge controversy surrounding Tiger Woods broke. Well, guess who I see on the exhibit hall floor? None other than Mr. Just Did It himself!! I kid, I kid . . . but there was a look-alike working a mini putting green in one booth that definitely was good enough to make me do a double take!

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