Quit counting fans, followers and blog subscribers like bottle caps. Think, instead, about what you’re hoping to achieve with and through the community that actually cares about what you’re doing.
– Amber Naslund of Social Media Today
A recent Successful Meetings article announced that social media use among event professionals is on the rise, but as I dig into the statistics a bit, I find more than meets the eye. Let's dissect it a little.
71 percent of the 830 people surveyed say they use Facebook for networking or marketing purposes. There are no more detailed statistics beyond this very high-level number, but I would be interested to know the conversation density of the activities taking place on Facebook, and whether the site is being used by event marketers as event-specific communication, or as a vehicle in a larger marketing campaign program.
41 percent use Twitter regularly - close to double the number who used it last year. Twitter is an interesting beast. If you're not following a hashtag of interest or datamining for a specific hastag, it's largely just a bunch of useless drivel from a bunch of friends and random people. When used appropriately, however, Twitter provides a wealth of information. When used for an event Twitter handle, you must either have a strong following or have a limited following of strong influencers with strong followings. Without an audience for updates and interactions, Twitter serves no purpose. I think Twitter can be used better than it is currently being used and we should advocate for some training for our event professional colleagues!
69 percent of people used LinkedIn. Ah, but are they using it to keep their resume up-to-date and gather connections and recommendations, or are they cultivating the hidden communities lurking beneath the LinkedIn surface? Because, man! Some of those are great!
25 percent use YouTube. I can argue a number of perspectives on this one. Rich media content is awesome and more people should use it where appropriate. Interviews with keynote speakers and breakout session leaders, and interviews with customers and event staff can be really great! But you don't just stick that on YouTube and hope people will watch it. You actively have those ideas included in the marcom plan and feed them into your event hypersite, while simultaneously promoting them via other social channels. However, I rarely sit around watchin YouTube videos. When I do watch them, I usually found them via Twitter and they are usually under 2 minutes long. So that's my advice.
24 percent read blogs. Well, that's because there are 800 bazillion million gajillion blogs out there and no one has enough time to keep up! But that's where Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn come in. Sharing an interesting blog post encourages others to read it. No one comments on blogs anymore, so what? The idea that a blog is a two-way conversation was a facade from the beginning. It's one-way, with the chance to comment, and if you're lucky the blog author will comment back to you. What blogs really do (including this one), are provide an outlet for the author to share thoughts and opinions. If they are good ones, other people will share them, too.
16 percent use QR codes. Just as I suspected and wrote about previously... We haven't really figured out how to use those things very effectively, have we?
The biggest question I have for event marketers trying to harness the power of social media is this: Is social media an integral part of your face-to-face experience and the long tail of content afterwards, or is it an add-on vehicle that you have for your event because you feel you must? If the former, great! I love to watch the feeds from events like that and feel the buzz from the event. If the latter, I recommend not even trying to make social a part of your event and just let it happen naturally. It will happen anyway, and you'll get better results with organic social than forced social.