Stop Showing Them What They Don’t Want to See

Exasperated manby Tom Baer

Bob Garfield, long-time marketing and media reporter for Advertising Age magazine recently wrote an article about the commonly mistaken mindset many marketers have about using social media.  His article was really geared toward consumer marketers, but the idea behind it is extremely relevant for those of us who market meetings and events as well, so it seems well worth noting here.

The key message is clearly stated in his headline, “Social Media is About Cultivating Community, not Corralling Cattle.”  He feels, and I agree that while most marketers these days are smart enough to realize they need to include social media in their marketing mix, they still view it the same as any other media they use to help drive sales to the bottom line.

While the ultimate goal of any marketing is to drive sales, social media MUST be looked upon and handled differently if it is to help with that bottom line goal.  Too many marketers fall into the trap of approaching social media with the “advertiser” mindset – talk enough about my features, benefits, and brand to get the target to buy.  So their social media efforts are full of features, benefits and brand.  What happens?  Their target gets quickly turned off and wants nothing to do with them anymore.

The goal of your social media effort needs to be building a community, not selling a product, service, or meeting.  They already know you and are interested in you or they would not be following you.  Provide content that is valuable, engaging and interesting to them.  Content they want to share with others – that’s how you build community.  Content like relevant news, polls, contests, pictures and videos.

Then you won’t have to use your social media to sell, because your followers will do it for you.

Searching for Attendees?

Word cloudby Tom Baer

More and more associations have realized times have changed, and are now ready to step up marketing efforts to drive annual meeting attendance back to where it needs to be.  But many are not so savvy when it comes to how to spend dollars that have been shifted to marketing.  Instead of exploring new opportunities, some are still just going with what they know – simply sending out more post cards or conference brochures to the same old tired list.

Time to change the mix.  The first place to add?  Online.  Why?  Because that is the world in which we – and more importantly your potential attendees – now all live.  Remember when people used to fill out and mail in registration forms?  How many do that now?  And if they are registering online, ask yourself, which is likely more effective, a post card where they have to get from their mail to their computer, log on, get to your site and register, or an online ad where they simply click right to your registration page?

So assuming you agree you want to promote your event online, then you have another decision – should you invest in display advertising, search engine marketing, or social media?  The best response would be all three, but that implies you have the budget to do so.  If not, you have to prioritize. 

If this is the case, here’s how you should do so:  1. Search, 2. Facebook, 3. Display.  Search should be your first priority because it offers the best ROI and is therefore more effective for lower budget campaigns.  Aaron Goldman, Chief Marketing Officer at Digital Marketing software company Kenshoo, puts it well: “Search is unique in that it reaches people when they’re in the right mindset. When people search, they’re in between activity on the Web (moving from one site to the next) and actively looking for something. This makes them more open to commercial influence. Display just sits on the perimeter begging to be ignored while consumers engage with the content they’re interested in.”  Admittedly this is a bit of an overstatement regarding ineffectiveness of display – otherwise it would not command more than 60% of internet marketing dollars as it does, but it does illustrate the point.

Facebook shares search’s ability to take advantage of consumers being more “tuned in” to content.  Yes, they are more interested in the “social content” of the page they are looking at, but just being on facebook allows the target to feel you are more in tune with their likes and needs than if your ads are found on non-social sites.  One caveat – if you plan on marketing on facebook, make sure you have a facebook page for your event that potential attendees can visit.

Another great benefit of marketing online is that you can monitor and tweak your campaign as you go, and get a great deal of data to learn from through Google analytics, but that will be the subject of another blog.

Bottom line, if you add online to your marketing mix you should see results.  If you can, invest in all three, but at minimum, test a search campaign before your next event…it will likely provide some of the results you are searching for.

You’ve Come a Long Way……….Baby!

By Max Suzenaar

Can You Guess What year was this photo taken?

Newborn photo

The First Camera Phone Picture

This photo “is credited as the first-ever picture taken and transmitted from a phone, made by technology entrepreneur Phillipe Kahn of his newborn baby daughter Sophie on June 11, 1997, in Santa Cruz, California and sent instantly to 2,000 relations, friends, and associates around the globe. Kahn was a proud papa in more ways than he realized:  not only did the camera phone (and otherwise transmitted digital photography) became an underpinning of the modern phenomenon known as social networking, it became a crucial communication and political tool.”*

It’s hard to believe that it was only 1997! Social Media has taken the business world by storm – ironic in that it is SOCIAL media, not BUSINESS media. Yet, its tentacles have not only crept into corporate America, they have connected the entire world at lightning speed leaving every association and corporation scrambling in its wake feverishly looking for any opportunity to ride the wave.

So how does Social Media pertain to your meetings? Your membership? Yes, Social Media is a necessary channel for your marketing mix – and its future is exciting (albeit difficult to harness with predictability). The bottom line? Social Media does not singularly drive attendance. It can influence and help create a buzz for specific segments of your audience. But with rare exception, it does not drive a call to action to register for your meeting. Yet it is essential to integrate a Social Media Plan into your communications strategy. Learn more about how to link Social Media into your meeting from your friends at MYB.

*Source: “LIFE 100 Photographs That Changed the World” Published by LifeBooks an imprint of Time Home Entertainment, Inc. Copyright 2011