Company and industry events are a great way spark online community interaction.
Professionals with common interests and goals regularly invest time and money to attend B2B events where they can network with others in their trade.
And they’re all in the same place, listening to the same speakers and visiting the same exhibitors.
They’re all on the same page.
What better place to launch a digital initiative that extends the excitement and the knowledge shared via social media?
After the carpet’s rolled up, and the staging’s been struck, and the keynote speakers have all gone home, what do you have to show for your efforts but a stack of business cards? But if you could capture and archive what happened online, it could be discovered through search, shared on Facebook and Twitter and pay dividends in perpetuity.
Earlier this week, I conducted a B2B social media workshop for event planners at the Event Marketing Summit in Chicago (#emschi) organized by Dan Hanover. I showed plenty of examples of how B2B marketers can use social media to generate excitement before, during and after business-to-business events like trade shows, conferences and strategic corporate training events.
Here are some of the take-aways from my workshop:
Socialize Your Event Website – Make your hashtags easy to find. Include them in your logo, or in the banner of your event website. Don’t gang all of your sessions up on one page, or one page per day. Put each session at its own permalink, so people can tweet links to specific sessions. Include each speaker’s Twitter ID in their bio and make it clickable. Use Linkedin “Share” and Twitter “Tweet” buttons. Never mind that Facebook isn’t distinctly B2B. People spend time there, and there’s nothing more powerful the a personal recommendations from a friend. Install a Facebook “Like” button as well. And include an “add to calendar” widget that makes it easy to add sessions to your Outlook, iCal or Google Calendar with one click. Make sure the calendar item has all the pertinent info about the session including the Twitter IDs of the presenters and the hastag for the conference or session. For some ideas on event website best practices, check out the Event Bright and Cvent webpage templates.
Offer Social Sync on Your Website – How many times have you registered for a conference and wondered who you might know that’s attending? At SXSW 2011, Janrain built this feature into the SXSW website, so you could cross reference registered attendees list with your Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter contacts. This was an awesome feature, because it gave you the chance to schedule more meetings and network smarter.
Promote Your Call for Speakers – If you want to generate excitement before an event, promote your call for speakers harder than the event itself. Email market a call for speakers with a deadline and send two reminders as the date approaches. People are more responsive when there’s something in it for them. Blog your call for speakers as well. And share a link to your blog post on relevant Linkedin Groups and via Twitter.
Post Your Event to Linkedin and Facebook – Go to Linkedin > More > Events and select the “Add an Event” tab on Linkedin Events. Post your event and send out notifications to your Linkedin contacts who might genuinely be interested. You can also advertise your event on Linkedin, and the targeting options are very precise. Post the event to the Events area on your Facebook page. Ask an easy to answer question and rewrite your meta data to encourage engagement in the stream. The more “Likes” and comments you get, the higher the post will rank and the more people who will see it.
Post the Speaker PowerPoint Decks to SlideShare – Set up a channel and post the PowerPoint presentations directly following each session. Velocity here is key, because tyou want the session attendees to retweet the link, and they’ll be more inclined to do so right after the session, then a day of two later. Use your momentum wisely. Tweet out a link to the deck with the conference hashtag and the Twitter ID of the speaker and watch the ReTweets come in.
Register Your Event on Foursquare – Take the time register your event in advance, and ask your sponsors NOT to register the event themselves on Foursquare, so you don’t wind up with multiple registrations for the same event, which confuses attendees. If it’s an annual event, start the name of the event with the year, so people will be able to check in at the next event regardless of the location. If you can get your hashtag into the name that you register on Foursquare, all the better. And ask each speaker before the start of their session to remind everyone to check in on Foursquare.
Podcast Your Sessions – At this point, the cost to record the audio from your sessions and make it available after the fact is pretty much just the cost of labor. Bottle up the knowledge and insights your speakers share on stage and make them available immediately. Draft a search engine optimized transcript, give the final MP3 file name that’s search friendly, upload it your blog, park your RSS feed at iTunes, social media optimize your feed and count the downloads. If you have the dates and location for next year’s event, include a brief, soft-sell announcement at the beginning of each recording to generate excitement for next year’s event. Don’t worry about losing registered attendees because you’re giving away the session recordings for free. People go to events to network and press the flesh. You can’t do that on a podcast.
Offer a Branded Mobile App – DoubleDutch, a San Francisco start-up that recently secured VC-funding, offers a ready to go, skinnable mobile app with all the features you’d want at a B2B event. Users can create profiles, connect with other profiles, use social sync to find Twitter and Facebook friends, share status updates, photos and links to an activity stream, like and comment on items, publish out to Facebook and Twitter, check in on the app and on Foursquare, unlock badges and watch video. Cisco Events is using the app very effectively to sustain the buzz they generate at their corporate events. They’ve even built in QR Code reader right into the app, which can be used for check-ins. Now you can use incentives to drive foot traffic to exhibitors and sessions by offering unique QR codes at different destinations.
By the way, I recorded the audio for the workshop which I’ll be releasing at On the Record…Online, so head on over now and subscribe if you want to make sure you don’t miss it.
How do you use social media for B2B events? Share your best tips for applying social to B2B events here as well. And if you attended the session, what you think of it, and how are you applying social media to B2B event marketing?
With the social media policy prohibiting command from blocking access to social media indefinitely on their nonclassified network, the US Department of Defense made a public decision to embrace social media, the origins of which I profiled on my blog
earlier this year. This podcast
is about the shift from command and control to a network hierarchy inside the US Military.
“We’re in the churning point, [and we’re moving] from hierarchical to networked structure,” says Jack Holt, director of emerging media at the US Dept. of Defense, who I sat down with at the PRSA International Conference in DC last month for this podcast. According to Jack, when it comes to social media, DoD is moving from command and control to a more distributed, network hierarchy, a move that depends heavily on teaching service members not so much about social media tools, but rather the path to peace in a networked world.
Beyond public relations and public affairs applications of social media, the larger opportunity social media networked information technology presents is the ability to better manage knowledge inside to organization, and better preserve organizational intelligence in an organization where service members frequently transition in and out of different operations and commands.
Other topics discussed include: The Blogger Roundtable at DoD Live, social media training, Al Qaeda’s online effectiveness, use of video at the Gaza Flotilla Raid and speed versus accuracy. Follow Jack Holt on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jack_holt
ABOUT THE PODCASTER
@EricSchwartzman provides online communication training, strategy and social media governance to public relations, public affairs, corporate communications and marketing specialists. He has extensive experience integrating emerging information technologies into organizational communications programs through public speaking, hands-on training seminars, consulting and the development of corporate policies on social media usage.
His clients have included Boeing, BYU, City National Bank, Environmental Defense Fund, Government of Singapore, Johnson & Johnson, NORAD Northcomm, Southern California Edison, UCLA, US Dept. of State, United States Army, US Embassy of Athens, the United States Marine Corps and many small to medium-sized companies and agencies.
Eric is the instructor behind PRSA’s top-rated social media training seminars, the Social Media Boot Camp and the Social Media Master Class, which are offered monthly in the US.
His book “Social Marketing to the Business Customer” with Paul Gillin about B2B applications of social media communications is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Borders.
On January 2007, US President George W. Bush deployed more than 20,000 soldiers, five additional brigades, and the extended the tour of Army and Marine troops in Iraq.
The decision, which White House Press Secretary Tony Snow referred to as “a new way forward in Iraq” became known simply as “The Surge” and marked a significant change in strategy in Iraq. The major element of the strategy was a change in focus for the US military “to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security.” The idea was to clean up the streets, so the Iraqi police stood a better chance of maintaining the peace.
Achieving this mission would mean sending service members straight into the belly of the beast. They’d have to clear some of the most dangerous hot beds of insurgency in Iraq, at a time when press had become ambivalent about the Multi National Forces’s prospects for peace.
The public affairs strategy of embedding journalists, which was created by Rear Admiral TL McCreary, had for the most part worked quite well. The reporters developed a sense of camaraderie and loyalty with the troops they were embedded with, and told the story the Defense Department wanted told.
But that changed when the situation in Iraq stabilized and reporters could travel abound Bagdad on their own and interact with the locals, without needing the protection of the troops. Wars are messy. And the reporters saw firsthand the damage and hardships that the US-led incursion inflicted upon the Iraqi people.
This is the story of how a Senior Strategist for Emerging Media at the US Dept. of Defense named Jack Holt counterbalanced the tide of negative public opinion against the new strategy using not much more than conference calls and blogger outreach. It’s also the story of how social media engagement was initially institutionalized at the worlds ultimate command and control organization: the U.S. Armed Forces.
In 2006, DoD’s Quadrennial Defense Review included a strategic communications road map that stressed the need to find a way to communicate in a 24/7 new media environment. For the first time, Holt had a reason to pursue social media communications in an official capacity. He started to dig in, study and engage with the self-professed military blogosphere. And he wanted to know first how the Defense Dept. could help them.
Almost unanimously, the mil bloggers came back with two requests. They wanted access to service members down range and they wanted information to link to online. He also saw that those bloggers who were rising to the top were also the ones with the best sources, the strongest arguments and the most powerful ideas.
Since the Defense Dept. is the leading source for news and information about the military, they tried first to embed bloggers down range with units that were deploying. But that was complicated, took time and because so many bloggers are hobbyists, they don’t have the luxury of quitting their day job to pursue their interests. For many of the top mil bloggers, blogging was a personal communications outlet, rather than a source of income.
The Iraqi troops surge came at when the Defense Department was experiencing increased difficulty getting their information out through the news media. General David Petraeus has been accepted by Congress as the commissioned leader in Iraq. He had just written his Counter Insurgency Operations Manual and was ready to try a fresh approach to winning the war in Iraq at a time when the American people were starting to become war weary.
Engaging with the mil blogosphere became a more reliable way to get information out publicly, because the mainstream media was fickle and had a short attention span. The military bloggers were interested, cared passionately about the outcome of the conflict and wound up playing a crucial role helping people understand exactly what was happening in Iraq.
In February 2007, one of the most intense firefights of the Iraqi War and first major combat operation to occur under the change of strategy was captured by field combat cameramen. The live footage of the three day Battle on Haifa was riveting, and the Multi National Forces Headquarters decided to declassify the footage and release it to the television news media as proof that the surge was yielding positive results.
The graphic combat footage of the Battle of Haifa Street made the evening news cycles in the US and some of the morning shows, and was dropped from rotation by 10am the following day as the press rushed to cover the death of Anna Nicole Smith.
US Army Lieutenant General William B. Caldwell, who was the spokesman for the Multi National Forces at that time, didn’t understand why gripping footage depicting such a critical event could be so easily dismissed by the news media.
As an infantryman, his perception was that they’d done everything right. He laid out his range stakes and set-up up his sector of fire. Why weren’t they hitting anything? Unsatisfied with the responses he got back from his public affairs staff, he ordered them to do something different.
The first major battle marking after the surge had been won and people needed to know about it. And if the news media wasn’t going to tell them, the Multi National Forces needed other options. His charge aligned up nicely with the 2006 order to find a way to communicate in a 24/7 new media environment. It was at this point that the public affairs staff for the Multi National Forces in Iraq contacted Holt.
They were ready to do whatever it took to tell their story. They wanted to put up a YouTube channel immediately and start releasing information directly to the public. But like most big organizations, making new things happen at the US Dept. of Defense takes time.
Holt, a DoD vet, well versed in the ways of the bureaucracy inside the department, knew it would be near impossible to get a YouTube channel up tomorrow. But he had another idea.
He asked the MNF public affairs officers if they thought they could round up some colonels and majors on active duty in Iraq who had been personally involved in the Battle of Haifa Street. They said they could. So Holt rounded up a group of military bloggers, set up a conference call and the DoD Blogger Round Table was born.
The Round Table lives on today, and it became a significant event for the 2007-2008 period of the war in Iraq. “There was more information that actually got into people’s hands that way,” says Holt. “We were always looking for that third-party witness – which had been the whole purpose behind having embedded reporters – but as things normalized after the invasions and the reporters were able to get around town, they were looking at things from different angles. There were a lot things happening that no one was reporting on.”
Through simple telephone conference calls, bloggers got access to service members living the war day-to-day who told them their stories. A shift in the public debate started to happen. At first it was subtle. But as the Round Table’s persisted, it started to become more dramatic. The mil bloggers were investing their hearts and souls in informing the world about the progress that was occurring, as a result of the surge.
And Holt got content to park online the the bloggers could link to. He didn’t rely exclusively on them to get everything that was said on the conference call out there. His team recorded the call and released it as an MP3, and had the MP3 transcribed and posted it as text as well. Eventually they developed their own Blogger Round Table website where they hosted all the content. In one month’s time, they had half a million visitors downloading the files. They’d struck a nerve.
Through the process, they also saw the mainstream news reporters become more engaged. Reporters were using the Round Table transcripts to do background preparation and were asking more informed questions. They were drawing on the Round Table content to educate themselves and cover the war effort on much deeper, more nuanced level. “It helped us in the press and in the public,” says Holt.
Today, almost all US Military units have badges on their homepages where you can link directly over to their social media profiles on YouTube, Facebook, Flickr and Twitter. But it wasn’t always that way. And were it not for the contributions of Holt and the circumstances that led to his creation of the first Blogger Round Table, set up to help the Multi National Forces in Iraq get their story out about the successful impact of the troops surge, perhaps they still might not be.
Acknowledgement: I am grateful to Shel Holtz, co-host of the podcast For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report, who interviewed Jack Holtz for an episode on which this blog post is largely based, and grateful to Jack for delivering such a compelling caser study on the origins of social media at the United States Department of Defense. I intend to include this case study in my Social Media Boot Camp as well.