The importance of data

470049-listslistvoterphotosxc-1353643038-653-640x480Despite the fact that a significant proportion of event marketing is now conducted via social media and other channels, the majority of the response generally comes from audiences that are already known to us.

Visitors and pre-registered non-attendees are the two most important sectors for any B2B conference, exhibition or meeting. From the moment they registered they were showing a firm commitment to attend, regardless or not of whether they actually made it to the venue.

How these individuals are managed post event can have a crucial effect on the success of a follow-up marketing campaign, whether this is for the next year’s event, a new launch project, an electronic newsletter or any other point of contact.

Here are five steps that every event marketing team should take to ensure that its most important data stays fit for purpose:

  1. Clean the data post event: check that capitalisation is correct, addresses are correctly formatted and in the right fields and that any missing information is researched and added.
  2. Make sure that you have just one version of a company name rather than lots of different abbreviations: this will enable you to create peer-to-peer marketing campaigns, or even spot an opportunity to host a lot of delegates from a single organisation.
  3. Ensure that the data has been deduped: it may look as if someone did not attend after registering, but it might just be that they forgot and did it again onsite.
  4. Make sure your data has been properly coded: if your next marketing campaign is to be personalised, it is imperative that you know what kind of visitor everyone is. Have a hierarchy so that you don’t refer to someone who has given up their time to be one of your speakers as a visitor.
  5. Don’t just leave your data as a dusty spreadsheet, waiting to come out again in a year’s time: every time a customer comes into contact with your organisation you should be building a picture of their activity.

There has been much talk about Big Data and how this can revolutionise customer contact but sophisticated marketing pathways can only be created if the originating data is looked after in the first place.

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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…

Listen to the people who are talking sense

If you haven’t come across Michael Heipel yet, please let me introduce you…

Michael tweets, blogs and posts about all sorts of stuff, including marketing, events, social media and technology and I like what he has to say. (Sometimes he even likes what I have to say which is great!)

Today I found his blog post about social media and events.  It’s a topic very close to me since I spend most of my time trying to pursuade clients to focus in on their content and then work out what media they are going to use to tell their audience about it, rather than creating a social media presence and working out what they are going to put on it.

I would reproduce what Michael has said here, but I think you should go and read it for yourself.  It makes a lot of sense.

hellen @missioncontrol

Social media doesn’t work for your event? Here’s 5 reasons to think twice…

While at the big industry events like EIBTM or IMEX, social networks and the impact they have on event marketing are widely discussed, I sense that a lot of event organizers and associations are still not sure about how to deal with the topic or how much resources to invest.

Using social media to market events

Once upon a time it was all so simple…

Providing you owned, could access or buy, good data and had the budget to hit your target universe five times on average with your message you could more or less guarantee an audience for your event.  For exhibition marketers, preregistration was a very clear indicator of footfall on the day, with conversion rates of between 60 and 75 per cent.  In the conference market a twelve week cycle of marketing would, possibly with the input of some telemarketing, produce enough registrations to cover costs and deliver that all important margin.

And then life got a whole lot more complicated…

The advent of online and email marketing brought with it a more instantateous way to talk to audiences. Unfortunately though, like a child gorging on the pick-and-mix, many marketers have abused the latter, flooding their database’s inboxes with messages on a far too regular basis. Others have treated their web presence as an online brochure, asking visitors to sign up for updates and news when in reality there would be none because noone factored in the time or resource for either the marketing or the main event team to curate such things.

Into this already crowded, and rowdy, room marches social media…

It’s like a toddlers tea-party.  You want to make yourself heard above the cacophony: so you shout louder; you run hither and thither until it seems you are everywhere at once; you wear the gaudiest outfit because you think it will make you stand out; and you try everything, briefly. But when you leave you are hoarse, tired and, if the truth be told, you didn’t actually get very much done or make much of an impression because you were just one of a group of over-excited, slightly out of control children in inappropriate clothing.

For event marketers, the biggest problem is that the promotional cycle for an exhibition, conference, awards etc. is actually very short; very rarely does the campaign last for more than four months. This really doesn’t lend itself very well to social media because relationships in places such as LinkedIn and Facebook, and long lists of followers in Twitter aren’t built overnight, and if you want to establish a well-read blog then there is no point starting it ten weeks out from your show. And if you stop talking to your audience, they lose interest and go somewhere else.

Let’s look at two examples, both expos with conferences and seminar programmes attached and a technology bias, though not IT events as such, and with similar attendance figures at their live days:

Our first event takes place annually in February.  They have a LinkedIn group which was established in January 2008 – a month before that year’s event.  It’s growth profile looks like this:

While the group shows a steady growth in membership over the last four years, it is interesting to note that there are identifiable spikes in the number of new memberships in February of each year., i.e. when the event happens.  Just three weeks later both increase in membership and activity, as shown in the chart below have fallen dramatically.

In contrast, the second team have created a LinkedIn group which began life based around their event (which takes place in March) but has been nurtured and developed to deliver to the expo’s existing and potential audience all year around.  The group was established in December 2007, four months before the event was scheduled and their growth and activity profiles look like this:

As with all statistics you can look at these two sets of information in a number of different ways, but at face value the contrast is clear.  One team started earlier and kept the momentum going whereas another only focusses their effort in the final push towards the event.  The groups have been around for approximately the same amount of time, yet one has nearly six times the number of members as the other and is showing a positive growth pattern.  One team is clearly putting the time and effort into creating a community that isn’t abandoned as soon as the last speaker has left the building…

Utilities like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc. aren’t just another medium into which information can be lobbed out to the target audience in the same old way.  Think about it: you strive for coverage in relevant magazines and industry journals because you want your product to appear in an environment that has kudos and stature.  This is delivered by the editorial content created by the teams that manage those media.  If you want to do the same thing via LinkedIn etc. then you have to create an editorial and community environment that makes your potential audience want to interact with you.

To deliver real ROI and marketing with impact for your event you can’t just dip in and out of social media, ignoring your audience for 11 months of the year and then shouting at them for four weeks before you want them to attend.  You need to spend time getting to know them, finding out how to work with the community you have created via your exhibition, conference or roadshow.  Remember, they sought you out and it is up to you to make them stay.

missioncontrol @purerocketscience

p.s. If you want to find out more about creating social media strategies that work for events, our colleague Hellen Beveridge will be teaching a series of courses over the next few months.  Visit www.gallusevents.co.uk/our-events/ for more information.

How much time must I spend on social media…?

As part of the social media for events course I run on behalf of The Media House, we spend a whole session quantifying the amount of time it will take to build and manage a social media campaign.

Generally there are two responses to this part of the course: horror and relief.

I use a diagram originally created by Beth Kantor, adapted by others, which lists social media activities and how long it takes to monitor, contribute, create and promote a single brand within a range of social media environments. The reveal of each sector is often greeted by a sharp intake of breath and a visible lightbulb moment.

For some delegates, it is the realisation that, at long last, they have a piece of tangible evidence that they can present to members of their senior management team about the scale of the task they are being asked to undertake.  For a marketing manager looking after ten or more event brands, who is under pressure to develop a Twitter feed, a  LinkedIn group and/or a Blog for each of them, having a clear idea of the time commitment this would take is fundamental to writing a strategy.  While initially horrified that even the basic monitoring phase could take them anywhere between seven and ten hours a week, they are relieved that at least now they can create a case for more resource and/or being more strategic across a whole bundle of brands to deliver a social media strategy that has real Klout

What is most interesting though is that this time-commitment comes as a surprise at all to marketing managers who have long experience of working with traditional media.  Given the amount of time and iterations it takes to write good advertising and marketing copy, why would it take any less to write a good blog post or e-newsletter? And, since the latter have to be done with greater frequency to deliver a regular audience or following, why is it so difficult to scale this up until the realisation occurs that it could well be a full(ish) time job for someone.

But you already have a full-time job…

hellen @missioncontrol

 

Measuring ROI in a brave new (social media) world

In his book Socialnomics, Erik Qualman asserts that the only ROI on investment in social media you can count on is that your business will still be around in a year’s time.  It’s a tough concept to grasp for organisations used to measuring their marketing efforts by the 400% rule.

Social media has turned much of traditional marketing thinking on its head, particularly in organisations used to single rather than multi-stage marketing.  It can leave marketing and management teams, particularly those operating in the events sector, scratching their heads on how to measure success vs effort.

The difficulty lies in our ability to measure internet marketing efforts in a consistent and meaningful way.  Although this is now easier than it once was, it still relies on other people’s algorithms and an understanding of the errors that will inevitably be part of a process that is generalistic and mechanised.

One of the most frustrating aspects of this measurement process is that it is often impossible to see the results of efforts as they are happening – other than on a live twitter feed or by constantly running a report or refreshing a browser.  And, despite appearances, social media is constrained by the same mechanism that has been a restrictive factor for traditional media: the fact that someone else owns the environment in which you are publishing. Once again brands and individuals find themselves limited to measuring those actions which the technology providers have decided are important rather than those which are meaningful to a particular organisation.

An essential tactic is to decide which metrics are the ones which are going to give you the best feedback and a springboard to move your brand messaging forwards enabling you to continually tweak and refine your messaging and your products.  The key is in creating a positive feedback loop that delivers information which you can action quickly and visibly. While facts and figures are reassuring, real ROI can only be delivered if there is also a plan in place for drawing visitors, fans and other participants further into your community once you have initially caught their attention.

Finally, remember that since your audience can change direction many times in one campaign, let alone a 12 month-period, your measurement processes must now be measured in days and hours rather than weeks and months.