Monday, February 28, 2011

How Engaging is Your Event?

Engagement. I’m not sure why this is such a new trend for conferences. Is it that we have finally taken seriously the studies on adult learning and decided to incorporate them into our events? “Maybe my attendees will learn more/come again/tell their friends if I encourage them to actively participate in the creation/sessions/feedback of my event.” Here’s my disclaimer: I love innovation, I love change, I love making things better, more than the average person and it has almost been to the detriment of my career, but I can’t help it. This is who I am. Therefore, this article will be written from the perspective of someone who thinks all of these new trends for our industry are just dandy.

On my way home from the Green Meetings Industry Council (GMIC) Sustainable Meetings Conference, I am pondering all of the relatively innovative practices that I experienced over the past few days. Making a meeting more sustainable in and of itself is innovative. That is a topic for another day. I want to write about all of the other cool things they did to get and keep attendees engaged.

It is not surprising that there were a large percentage of attendees on twitter. I guess the GMIC community is largely made up of people like us (innovation lovers) and therefore, are early adopters of social media, hybrid events, and technology like smart phones. According to the www.wthashtag.com, there were 3,499 tweets, 246 contributors and almost 500 tweets per day with the #gmic hashtag on twitter from 2/18 – 2/24/11 (at 1:17pm). The twitter feed at this event turned out to be one of the fastest moving feeds I have seen at a conference. Instead of complaints or suppliers begging planners to come to their booths, it was filled with educational content.

The folks that attended GMIC via the virtual pass (viewing the general sessions on their computers at home) were also engaged in the twitter feed. I was a virtual attendee at PCMA this year and found that experience to be highly fulfilling (and it created the desire for me to attend in person next year). The sense of community engagement was so tight-knit that the virtual attendees had no problem asking questions – and they got answered! Attendees on-site were helping other attendees with tips and tricks to using social media or using it more efficiently.

The mobile app and website that was created and sponsored by QuickMobile had all of the information the attendees needed to navigate the conference. Because this was a green conference, no one complained that they didn’t receive a printed program. We all knew we were expected to view the program online before we arrived if we were not going to bring a laptop or smart phone. Ponder that thought for a moment. If we communicate the expectation, slowly our attendees will adapt.

I was happy to be present at a conference full of people who were highly engaged, who’s planning team employed speakers who were engaging and who’s board of directors was willing to take risks to provide an experience full of innovation and new trends. How else are meeting planners going to learn about what works and what doesn’t work unless we experience it ourselves?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Social Media Shortcuts

Even if you only use the basic functionality of Seesmic, HootSuite or TweetDeck, I highly recommend using one of them. All of them are good for seeing all of your social networks (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) in one place and having the capability to post to all of them (or some of them) at the same time. You will be more likely to get engaged with social networking if you can go to one place to do it.

For this article, I am comparing these programs on Google Chrome. For those of you who have not made the switch to cloud computing or don’t even know what that is, let me explain. Google Chrome is a program like Internet Explorer, which you use to see Websites. I am finding it to be much cleaner because I don’t have ten toolbars across the top of my browser and they make it easier to return to the same Websites that I frequently use. They also offer several programs for you to use instead of downloading them to your desktop. I prefer having my work done “in the cloud” so if my computer crashes, nothing is lost. The reason I include this information is somewhat of a disclaimer, just in case there are different functionalities with the desktop versions that you download.

Now, the comparison between the top three players in the world of making social networking easier for you.  Seesmic was the first one I started using in Google Chrome and I was really enjoying the new features that I hadn’t seen on the desktop versions of the others in the past. The Twitter feed refreshes just often enough so you can actually read the tweets on your home feed which are coming from everyone that you follow. Now that Facebook upgraded the business pages, I tried to add access to those pages but had difficulty doing so. One feature on Seesmic that I did not see on the others is a translation option.

TweetDeck can post to Facebook groups, which I did not see on the other programs. I really like that it combined my mentions on Twitter and Facebook (posts on my wall or comments on my posts) into one column. The Twitter feed is constantly scrolling (too fast to read). I was also unable to add LinkedIn. My guess is that they are still working out the Google Chrome version and your settings are easier to change on the desktop version.

HootSuite is the one that won me over. In addition to the other features mentioned above, they add separate columns for scheduled posts to each network. HootSuite seems to have all of the features and capability that you have when you are using Twitter.com. One feature I really like is that you can send a tweet via e-mail. This may seem strange, but sometimes I want to share content with people I know are not using Social Media. You can also filter within a feed. This means that you can set up a feed for #eventprofs and filter the feed to only show tweets with certain keywords or by people with a certain Klout score.

I decided to upgrade my account for $5.99/month. If you need to show the return on investment of your social media efforts, then it is worth the upgrade because it shows your Google analytics and Facebook insights. Scott Stratten said, “When you ask for the ROI on social media, a kitten dies.” While I tend to agree in the sense that the purpose of social media is to have a conversation, unfortunately, most of us do not have the luxury to engage in any activity for which we cannot show the value.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Social Media Seminars / Webinars vs. Individual Consultation

This article can be summarized like this: "You get what you pay for". I wouldn't write about this topic just to say that you should hire me instead of going to a free seminar or webinar. However, I have been to a couple of seminars recently that are handing out incorrect information and that upsets me.

However, I will say that even the free seminars and webinars I have attended haven't been a waste of time. Face-to-face events always provide for networking opportunities, so even if I don't learn anything, I meet great people. Unfortunately, I can't say the same thing about webinars because they are not set up for networking, but they don't require travel time, either.

Recently, a few seminars and webinars I attended left me disappointed or frustrated. If you are going to advertise that your seminar will teach folks social media for small businesses, then that is what you should deliver. One in particular that I attended was advertised as such but actually delivered training on how to be an affiliate marketer. Let me explain why this is so disappointing for me. I know that most of the folks in the room really needed basic social media training. The speaker told them that they don't need a website and they should use a blog instead. The bulk of the meeting was talking about how to put affiliate ads on your blog to make money when people buy those products if they find them through your blog. What was not mentioned is that if someone clicks on the ads on your website or blog, they are clicking away (and will probably lose) the product or service YOU are selling. If the core of your business is something other than affiliate marketing, then I wouldn't recommend it.

This particular speaker also showed her Facebook profile with almost 5,000 "friends" and admitted that she was using her profile as her business presence. She either didn't know or didn't care that this practice is against Facebook's policy and was telling the group to do the same. When someone asked how to do it, she told them to just use a different e-mail and phone number to set up a separate Facebook profile for yourself. The correct way of handling this is to have one personal profile and one (or many) professional or business pages. Go to Pixel Coaching for the correct information on Facebook marketing. Stacey does a great job of explaining it and has pictures on her site so it is easy for beginners to understand.

Now for the webinars. Free webinars are always produced by a company that hopes you will purchase their program or package after the webinar and that is why they are spending the time and money out of their marketing budgets to offer you a free webinar. Sometimes the content can be pretty good. However on two separate occasions (two different companies), the speaker says, "there are certain times of the day to post to XYZ social media application". When a viewer submits the obvious question: "What is the magic time of day or day of the week?", the speaker says, "You will have to purchase our program to find out. We can't give away all of our secrets for free!" In my humble opinion, that just makes the speaker or company look like they only care about making money and not about helping people. Would you want to hire someone like that?

There are many types of social media groups you can join and many of them have a presence on meetup.com. Some are organized by companies that offer individual consultation. Some are organized by volunteers who want to share their knowledge and experience with others. On a philosophical level, the problem I see with seminars is that the speaker automatically adjusts the content to the highest level learner in the group, in an attempt to make everyone happy. What you need to look for in a seminar is a clearly defined knowledge expectation. If the group is advertised for beginners, make sure that the description clearly states that the session is for beginners only. If you belong to any other professional organizations, ask them to bring in a speaker on social media if the majority of your association is at the same knowledge level.

I will say it again. "You get what you pay for." If something is free it likely has some kind of hidden cost associated with it or it is just bad content. If you are a digital immigrant, you need to hire someone to sit down with you, at your computer, and walk you through the steps to create your online presence.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Growing Use of Twitter and Trade Shows

The last two years has seen a dramatic rise in the use of Twitter as a tool to help drive booth traffic.  In fact, it can enhance an exhibiting company’s overall brand at a show.  In this chapter, we will discuss the ways you can use this particular marketing tool effectively...

http://ht.ly/3Osyi