A question of timing

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Ever since the emphasis for event marketing switched to content generation, one of the biggest questions has been when to broadcast.

The same message sent out at 08:32, 11:45, 13:15 or 17:22 can have vastly different response rates so there is always that difficult decision as to which, if any or all, time to choose.  Does it matter when the original message is posted so long as any additional prompts hit home, or do we need to be careful that our tweets, emails and other electronic nudges aren’t so frequent that they turn potential audiences off?

At Who’s who in events we have been spending the last few months experimenting to work out when blog posts and email announcements get the best response.  Since we don’t do the latter more than once a week it is absolutely imperative that it arrives in the recipient’s inbox at exactly the right moment when they are likely to read it.

Another big challenge for events marketers is that because we essentially ignore our audiences for six months of the year or more, when we turn the promotional tap on it can feel like we are using a water cannon.  There is nowhere for the hapless audience to hide as we bombard them with advertising, tweets, emails, announcements on LinkedIn (or invitations to join our newly formed groups) and any other method we can think of.

Plus we often haven’t bothered to find out that much about our audience either.  Any research will consist of an exit survey conducted at last year’s event, so we really have no idea how things have changed, what new directions businesses are taking, if there have been legislative changes or simply what devices the potential audience is most likely to look for information on.

It would seem therefore that getting the right message in front of the right person at the right time is actually a game of chance – like bees pollinating flowers – if you spread enough around some of it will eventually stick.  But does it really have to be like that?

Taking a long-term approach to your event marketing will mean that you can identify the content which generates the greatest response as well as the time of day when it is likely to be read.  You will find advocates and champions, as well as connectors and influencers.  Rather like the divers in the picture, by constantly practising your marketing messaging, you will ensure that you hit the target in complete synchronisation.

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Why events professionals use LinkedIn

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This month the Who’s who in events community has been running its annual survey and there has been a great response from every aspect of our vibrant industry.

One of the primary purposes of the survey was to discover more about our members to ensure that decisions taken about group management and other such matters are based on consensus.

Crucial to this latter point is understanding what event professionals use LinkedIn for in the first place.  Consequently a question was included in the study.  Respondents were asked to rank six activities in terms of their primary reason for using Who’s who in events on LinkedIn.

In first and second place were ‘Seeking information about the industry’ and ‘Networking’, illustrating the importance members place on being able to identify and connect with like-minded professionals.  In third and fourth place were ‘News’ and ‘Asking for advice/assistance’, though statistically these were not too far behind in terms of popularity.  In fifth and sixth places were ‘Looking for suppliers’ and ‘Job-hunting’.

You can draw a number of conclusions from these results, but primarily it illustrates the vital importance that is still placed on making individual connections upon which a relationship can be built.  It also shows that if you are active in your social networks you will attract fellow professionals and create links that could, in the long-term, be both beneficial and lucrative.

 

Social Media – just a way of killing time

Killing-timeA couple of years ago the following question was posted on the Who’s Who in Events LinkedIn group.

Is Social Media just used to kill time and find out what old colleagues are up to or does anyone, other than social media consultants, get business out of it?

While social media, and technology in general are now fully embedded in the event marketing mix, it is worth remembering that there are still a significant number of people who view it with a degree of scepticism. Following numerous stories (given much larger audiences thanks to online and social media) of data leakages and inappropriate sharing, many are much more cautious about what they put into the public domain.

Social media is a great enabler of the creation of a continuous dialogue between like-minded people which can be capitalised on to create really great live events that the attendees truly value. When many people think of social media they are just considering Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, but these are really just the juggernauts that are educating the masses in the capabilities of what social media can do.

Technology now exists that enables you to take the capabilities and structure of social media and use it to create your own network, drawing in your current attendees, other interested individuals and partner organisations. By providing them with an open and collaborative environment you can understand what it is that motivates and concerns them, and then you can deliver business services and events that match these needs.

The organisations that are currently doing this successfully are incredibly diverse: from Cancer Centers who want to know how their patients select care at their center and what they want to receive in return; to AFOLs (adult followers of Lego); and then on to large technology organisations who were creating an event for their users based on what they thought were the issues but when they stopped and listened they discovered that there were other more pressing topics that needed to be addressed.

Social media is no longer just a useful part of an event or business marketing campaign, it is the linchpin of an event or business marketing campaign. Organisers and organisations that stop shouting and interrupting (outbound marketing) and start listening and responding (inbound marketing) will be the winners in a world that has been transformed.

The answer, therefore, to our original sceptics question is:

If you are just an observer within Social Media then all you will ever be able to do is kill time and find out what old colleagues are up.  But if you use it effectively and professionally you will definitely get business out of it.

Social media requires you to be sociable

2015/01/img_1113-0.jpgSitting in any marketing meeting I can guarantee that one question will always be asked.

“How often do I need to Blog/Tweet/Post”

Most event marketing teams answer with “maybe a blog a month” or “a couple of tweets a week” or “the odd post every now and then on LinkedIn”. Maybe you think this is OK, possibly even a bit ambitious. Once upon a time my Granny used to send her Mum a postcard to tell her she had got back to her place of work safely after a visit home…

So, how often should you post on your social media networks? In my hunt for a definitive answer I came across this infographic from Irfan Ahmad at Digital Information World. While not specifically drawn for events, it does give a pretty clear idea that you can’t just drop the odd comment and then stay silent for the rest of the month, hoping that what you said was so compelling your audience has hung around waiting for your next proclamation.

All too often we forget that social media is made up of two very distinct elements: the media, or mechanisms through which we broadcast our messaging; and social, or the interactions we create and sustain with our community. Without the latter, the former is useless and the brand identity is akin to that of Miss Haversham – out of touch, lonely and frankly just a little bit mouldy.

In most instances, providing you aren’t hammering your connections/likes/followers with constant sales messages, it is very difficult to say ‘too much’. Unlike email or telephone marketing where the arrival of yet another sales message feels like a personal intrusion, much of what arrives via social is ambient at best. As a consumer it can feel like panning for gold, hunting out the nuggets of juicy information. What your social media marketing efforts need to do is to ensure that no matter how frequently, or when, your potential audience comes looking, you have relevant content available.

The most important thing to remember is that although you will get more coverage if you are creating a lot of content, you can also achieve a significant reach by sharing other people’s. Linking up with your friends’ friends increases your social circle much faster, and this holds true for business contacts/networks as well.

So, just how often should you be posting on social networks? My experience is primarily in the B2B marketplace and my aim is to get all of my clients:
– Blogging two or three times a week
– Pinning onto Pinterest at least 4x per week
– creating an update on their LinkedIn group/page at least twice a week
– sending out original tweets at least 3 times a day

Social media tools and scheduling can really help achieve these goals, but that’s a topic for another blog post…

The perils of managing a group on LinkedIn – Part II

Linking people togetherThe New Year sees me once again grappling with the complexities of managing my community’s presence on LinkedIn.

You may recall that last year I talked about the group Who’s who in events in my post The perils of managing a group on LinkedIn.  I’m pleased to say that the group continues to grow in numbers, it is still curated, and everyone continues to be polite to one another.

What strikes me most about managing – or curating – a large group on LinkedIn is that it is very much like parenthood.  While certain rules are all very well for a toddler, they have to be adapted and changed for the older child and teenager.  As participants get familiar with the medium they begin to use it in different ways.  In its early days, the group was inundated with undisguised sales messages that were easy to dispose of, but this is much less of a problem now.  Similarly, the number of people who post irrelevant answers to questions has also diminished, as has (fortunately) the mad ranting that some individuals used to indulge in.

For the individual(s) managing the group this does add another decision layer.  There are far more articles and interesting material available, but where is the line between what is a promotion and posts that are putting very valid views forward, albeit taken from a single, biased source.  Do I, as the group’s curator make the decision or should that be left to the members themselves?  If I manage the content, does this make me a media owner/editor, and if so should I have a clear, published policy which makes it easy for every member to understand what will make it onto the discussion boards?  Even if I did, would everyone take notice of them?

Similarly, who should be in the group and whose membership request should be rejected?  A vibrant group needs a constant influx of new members who are willing to contribute, but large numbers do not necessarily guarantee that this will be the case, particularly as new members tend to attract their own contacts who are often from similar (possibly non-relevant) backgrounds.  As I wade through another tranche of applicants to join I find myself once again questioning whether the group should be a free for all to enter but this is no guarantee that it will continue to thrive.

From a group manager/curator point of view though, here are my top 5 do’s and don’ts for companies and individuals who want to make the most of group membership on LinkedIn:

  1. Check out a group’s statistics (such as they are) before you join.  A group may have a large membership, but if the geographical concentration doesn’t match your own it is unlikely that the conversations will either.
  2. Are the discussion boards actively monitored?  Groups without moderation tend to fill up pretty rapidly with sales messages and content which few people ever comment on or even read.
  3. Do you really need to join all of those groups? Are you up to your maximum of 50 and how many of them do you actually participate in?  Whatever your interest there are bound to be two or three groups that stand out- and you can bet that a core of the same people are in all of them.  Spend a little time checking out which are the most active and relevant and put these to the top of your group listings. (You can change the order of your groups by navigating to the groups page and clicking on the settings icon.)
  4. You are more likely to get a response if you post something that warrants discussion. It sounds really simple, but lots of the posts I see don’t do this.  By making a statement and throwing it out onto the floor you aren’t actually asking anyone to participate with you in a conversation, and if you don’t start talking to people you can’t build that all important relationship.
  5. Get straight to the point. Take a leaf out of the Twitter book.  Practice getting your message across quickly and succinctly.  You have but a blink of an eye to attract someone’s attention so don’t waste it with waffle.  Post snippets of information regularly for the best results rather than one diatribe a fortnight.

Like any medium, used well, LinkedIn is a great tool.  But it is just that.  A tool.  You need to use it diligently and with real enthusiasm if you want it to create wonderful things for you and your organisation.

The perils of managing a group on LinkedIn

7K0A0129Back in 2008, when the Internet was finally throwing off its stabilisers thanks to better connectivity (who misses the modem dial-up tone?!) I decided to set up a group for the members of my event community on LinkedIn.

Admittedly I was a little behind the curve, but I didn’t see why I couldn’t join the party.  So I set up Who’s Who in Events primarily because at the time there didn’t appear to be another group for event professionals in the UK and I thought I would give it a try.

Nearly six years later, and the group I founded by inviting my 65 contacts now has 80,000 members (and I have a few more connections).  It is the third largest event industry group and the 270th largest group on LinkedIn – which out of 2.1 million isn’t bad!  I’ve stuck to my guns in terms of keeping it a curated group (despite the temptation to just open up the floodgates and let everyone get on with it themselves) and believe this is what has kept it both industry focussed, geographically diverse and unique.

When working with clients on their event marketing strategies they often begin from the standpoint of “we need to set up a group on LinkedIn”.  By the time I have finished telling them about my experiences it isn’t top of their priorities.  Quite simply, running a successful group is practically a full-time job.

For instance, it doesn’t matter how often you tell your members the rules, some of them just don’t follow them.  No promotional posts in the Discussions tab – doesn’t apply to me surely? And one person’s interesting blog post is another’s spam.  Doesn’t everyone want to know about how to write a CV?  Why can’t I answer a question with a blatant promotional post?

Some people get very cross.  Most of the time I am polite, occasionally I am sarcastic (bad habit I know – but I’ve had it for a long time and I’m not changing now), I try to be helpful where I can. I’ve made changes where I think they are beneficial and kept the wagon on the road.  Sometimes I get hauled up by someone who tells me it is the membership’s group and I have ‘no right’ but I’ve tried making the membership take control and it hasn’t worked (doesn’t mean I won’t try again sometime).  With 2,099,999 other groups to compete with I’ve got to keep the majority happy.  I made lots of sub-groups, but that just made 10 times more work, so now there are just three (they are self-managed and somehow have never quite got going).

LinkedIn doesn’t make it easy for me: a slightly more sophisticated membership filter would automate some of the entry procedure – so that I wouldn’t be greeted with hundreds of poor people awaiting approval (which is the reason so many groups have become open to all); an incremental advertising revenue model similar to YouTube would allow me to massively increase the activity and information available to members, making them come back to the site more often because I wouldn’t have to keep stopping to make a living elsewhere; a nice HTML newsletter for members on a proper weekly basis rather than the current automated timing which means at some point you have to miss out a day.

I’ve taken a decision to remove the promotions tab at the end of this month – too much good stuff gets dumped in this graveyard.  But some of the content can’t go in the discussion forums because it will just get clogged up – so I am trying something new and curating a Who’s who in events company page where the best will be posted.  I’m not sure if it will be popular – but I am going to give it a try.

I’m proud of what I have achieved, with a little bit of help here and there, and one day soon I hope I’ll be announcing that we have hit 100,000 members.