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Using social media at events: Are you missing opportunities?

Posted on Mar 25th, 2013 by
The impact of social media on the outreach of an event - click for hi-res view

Two events: one with social media support and one without.
(Click for hi-res view)

Once upon a time, there was an organisation, that ran a single day event at RIO+20, the big sustainable development conference in June 2012.

The event was well attended (around 600 people), and had a good coverage in the “traditional media” (newspapers and magazines). Apart from publishing some post-event blogposts, pictures and videos, social media was not really used to its fullest potential at the event.

Consequently, the event’s impact on their web traffic (see left blob on the graph) was almost unnoticeable: They missed the opportunity of using the event as a way to attract more people onto their website, and “hook them as returning visitors“.

Integrating social media into the next event

For the next event, they vowed to do better: At COP18, the climate change conference in December 2012, they organised a similar event: a one day forum at the conference venue, with the same amount of attendees, and largely around the same topics.
The big difference was that for this event, they organised a concerted social media outreach:

  • They made a good social media strategy, integrated with their online media strategy.
  • They defined clear goals: “use the event as a way to attract and engage their online audience”, and engage them not just for the single day of the event, but for a longer time before and after the event.
  • Their target audience was well defined, identifying the organisations and individual people they wanted to reach via social media.
  • To engage people BEFORE the event, they started publishing content around the event’s topics already a month in advance. One by one, blogposts were published and the online audience was slowly “heated up”.
    (Someone compared the engagement of an audience to preparing a good soup:” Get excellent ingredients, and cook it slowly-slowly.”).
  • A large online support team was created to help spread those pre-event blogposts on the social media’s “vapourware” (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook), and to engage the audience in the online discussions on the blogposts.
  • To expand the event’s audience beyond those physically present at the venue, they webcasted the event live.
  • Two online chat channels (via Twitter and Facebook) allowed the online audience to interact with all the discussion panels at the forum, in real-time. The event’s facilitation divided the Q&A time evenly between the “onsite” and the “online” public.
  • A day before the event, they organised a social media/social reporting training for onsite staff from their organisation, and all their partners. About 30 people attended. These trainees were integrated into a social reporting crew, reporting live from the event, via blogs, vlogs, pictures, Twitter and Facebook.
  • After the event itself, they collected all content generated by our social reporters, and gradually published them, maintaining the momentum for a longe time after the event.

The results:

Look at that traffic peak in the right blob of the stats! For almost a whole month -and not just on the day of the event- they had 2x to 3x more pageviews. But even better: apart from the usual dip around Xmas en New Year, the traffic on the website continued to be significantly higher even for months after the event. That by itself showed they attracted loads of new “visitors” and hooked them onto our website, as “returning visitors”.

THAT is the difference between “so-so campaigning” and “real campaigning”, engaging social media to its fullest.

In figures:

All figures in total page views:

Baseline before both events: Apr 1 – May 1 2012 26,414 visits
One month around 1st event May 19 – July 19 2012 30,473 visits
One month around 2nd event Nov 2 2012 – Jan 2 2013 52,892 visits
Base line after 2nd event Jan 2 – Mar 2 2013 42,615 visits
(per month)

What do we learn from these basic statistics?

  1. The first event caused almost no traffic peak: 15% more visitors in the event’s month.
  2. The second event had a significant peak: 100% more traffic in the event’s month.
  3. The second event caused a continued traffic increase of 61%, for months after.

Quanta costa?

What was the extra cost to properly capitalize on the power of social media for this event? US$10,000 !

This cost included a social media coordinator (including travel), and the live webcasting. Compared to the total cost of the event, and certainly compared to the outcome, that was a relative small cost…

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