New stats show social media and events marriage still solid

Social media and events have so much in common: they bring people together, they have the potential to inspire and most importantly, both have story-telling potential. Really these two forms of marketing are long-lost cousins.

A recent study by Ad-ology shows some surprising (to me) results: event marketers specifically, exhibition managers, aren’t utilizing social media to its full potential, although its showing promise, I’m still surprised at the reliance of traditional media.  I’ve noticed this too in conferences I’ve been or registered for. I still get direct mail for a conference I last went to over 5 years ago (talk about barrel scraping), yet the conferences that I show the most interest in, aren’t aware of it yet, even through I tweet, blog and generally promote topics relevant to the conference, because I am not on their mailing list. Event marketers state that email is one of its most effective tools; not surprising, but what IS surprising is that they don’t appear to be integrating their email activities with their social media activities.

Event marketers are using social media, but not to its fullest potential. The Ad-ology findings show that:

Before an event takes place, the top online promotional activities include email marketing (39%), online advertising (45%) and Google ad words (36%). During the event, the strategy shifts and marketers use online games (43%) and SMS mobility. Looking to extend impact, marketers then turn to audio downloads or podcasts (40%) following the event.

This group of marketers indicates that social media is best employed as a strategy to extend the reach of marketing efforts (49%) and engage the target audience (25%). Far fewer, 9%, use the format to generate leads.

As far as pre-event marketing, I find this interesting since social media is a rich place to mine for event attendees, depending on the event. But most industries have an influential group of people using social media; listening and engaging will reveal these people quickly.  Apparently some event marketers are still scoffing at the “I’m BIG on Twitter” crowd, but event marketers are really missing the opportunity to create evangelists for their brand by not engaging these folks. Identifying influencials and bloggers are also a potentially key component for event marketers. Find people who have an audience and invite them to be involved and watch how they endorse the event and therefore, bring others along. Also really surprising to me is that the relationship between sponsorship and social media just doesn’t seem to be taking off.

When it comes to adding value for sponsors. I can think of plenty of ways to add value for a sponsor through social media, in particular Twitter and Influencials like bloggers (again) but event marketers apparently aren’t there yet. Sponsor shout-outs before the event are a no-brainer, but having them host tweet chats or other interactive pre-event conversations (about a relevant topic-be careful that this isn’t approached as one long commercial) on Facebook are great ways to raise the profile of sponsors. The use of hashtags during the event can create a fun, interactive campaign for sponsors and attendees alike.

Post event opportunities abound:  extending the reach of an event is definitely important and downloads and podcasts are great tools for that (still less than half employ this technique, again, why create content if you don’t want others to see it?!)  but why not hold tweet chats in the weeks following your event with your speakers and give attendees one last chance to engage? What about asking your attendees through social media outlets for feedback or recommendations for next year? Since engagement is the goal with both events and social media, be looking for ways to involve them both.

Finally, as with all social media programs, event marketers really need to be thinking of ways to integrate social media into all their pre, during and post event efforts.