The importance of social media in the event space is growing by the minute. The ability to connect with members or attendees in real-time and the development of event-specific hashtags are both getting attendees as well as exhibitors more involved.  Welcome to the modern era of events. So how can your organization use social media to better understand members and events?

The American Marketing Association’s (@AMA_Marketing) recently held a webinar titled “Extracting Real Value From Social Media With Analytics: More Thank Just Listening”, discussed how IBM’s clients utilize social media and the endless analytics it generates to proactively understand what their customers like and dislike about their products or their company as a whole. Featuring Karen Galiger (@KGaliger), IBM’s (@IBM) Senior Marketing and Communications Architect, and Emily Rosenblatt (@ebrosenblatt), SWG Product Manager, IBM Social Media Analytics, and moderated by AMA’s Anthony Salas, the webinar offered up some actionable insights gleaned from IBM’s clients and large corporations. However, their takeaways are also useful for associations and event hosts.  Data collected from social media during events can tell an organization just as much about its attendees and non-attendees as registration records and other historical data.

So what can your organization do with social media data?

1)     Hashtags, personalized messages, and other social media tools that directly connect organizations with their members allow organizations to “listen” to what members and attendees say about an organization and its events. With that powerful information, event hosts can understand who is having discussions during their event and get a handle on hot topics and overall tends.  Looking at the data through the lens of membership engagement can also yield insights: Are the top event influencers members who attend the event yearly, or are they members who rarely attend events and are showing passion and interest in a specific topic or segment at this event? Tweets and interactions could also come from non-members or individuals who are not even at the event, but are following the chatter on social media and engaging nonetheless. These people could represent new membership leads or prospective attendees at next year’s event.

2)     Social media listening gives event hosts immediate event feedback, whether it is positive (“Best.session.ever!”) or negative (“Cold coffee? #fail”).  Organizations can also use social media to get personal with members and attendees, by asking them what they liked and didn’t like about an event or really, about any membership offering. The event host does not have to wait until the event concludes to send out a survey, but rather can ask any member or attendee their thoughts are about the event or specific session right over social media. Obtaining that “real time” feedback in the moment rather than weeks later when the attendee has forgotten about most of the event can make all the difference.

3)     All this knowledge about attendees’ feelings and experiences can help event organizers make quick and efficient decisions and adjustments based on the needs of their attendees and members (Get some fresh coffee out there stat!).  When attendees feel like their needs are being met with immediate attention, it can improve their attitude toward the hosts and enrich the event experience. That can result in high retention and positive social media marketing from them as well (“This is a great event! They even found me an iPhone charger!”).

4)     Social data can also be combined with other data collected from events and membership records, and can be used to build a productive picture of each attendee or member.  This picture enables organizations to better predict member behavior, and demonstrates that the organization is paying attention to its members, their feelings, concerns,  and how they do business. When a member or attendee feels important to you as an organization, then you instantly become more important to them as well.

These pictures can be based on several different types of data:

Demographic data

Transaction data

Behavioral data

Interaction data

According to both speakers,  social data can also help build a smarter workforce within an  organization, an added bonus. Departments that interact directly with attendees and members like marketing and event sales will have a better knowledge of who was thrilled with this year’s event, or who needs some extra TLC or needs specific issues addressed before committing to next year’s membership status or event.

The speakers agreed that organizations will be most successful when the social information is shared throughout the organization and analyzed between several departments. Each department can use the data to its own advantage. If departments take their insights and work together as a whole, then planning and marketing can become more targeted and efficient—a well-oiled machine.

Social data is sweeping the events industry. Use it to your advantage!



Photo By: hotblack