by Pádraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua
Often, when social media is being discussed at MICE industry events I’ll get the nod or the shout-out as the bloke with the blog or the twat on Twitter. There’s usually an underlying implication that I’m some kind of expert, the “go-to” guru for all things social in the meetings industry. Truth is I’ve been stumbling and staggering on social for quite a few years, figuring it out as I go along, still discovering and learning basic things I should have known years ago. I attend sessions on social media conducted by the likes of Ian Cleary of RazorSocial or Gerrit Heijkoop of How Can I Be Social and come away dazed and amazed by the superficiality of my own knowledge. On a daily basis I get tutorials from my colleague, Aoife. Yet despite all this, I do get asked to speak at meetings industry events on matters digital and usually make my presentation around the following 5 steps.
Let’s start at the very beginning …
When I’m talking about Digital Marketing or social media I always start my presentation the same way. I don’t do the stage rush and the shouting, I avoid all types of participative ice breakers, I don’t get everybody on their feet to Rihanna and I don’t commence, TED Talk-style, with the big question or statement. I simply pop up a slide that says this:
Social Media shouldn’t be thought of as a place where you need to be just because everyone else is there. Do you have the time and resources to maintain these channels daily? Until you are ready to invest in extra personnel or in outside agency services don’t start building a community on-line if you can’t look after them with a level of customer service that understands that Social Media is a global, online and a 24/7 responsibility.
This is the sine qua non for social – “don’t start building a community on-line if you can’t look after them” – and it was said by my colleague, Aoife McCrum, Digital and Social Media Manager at SoolNua.
Why do it? – STEP 1
At this stage the “why” question is probably obsolete. Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram have evolved from cute to corporate faster than a politician seizes a photo op. These platforms are now mainstream for global brands, often attracting more budget than any other media. Clearly meeting and event professionals need to understand these powerful channels and to be where their clients are. This, alone, is reason enough to dive into digital. But digital also packs the same powerful punch for building corporate and individual career profile and awareness. So why do it? Because it’s good for career, for business and for client care.
What will you share? – STEP 2
Having established that you need to be on Social Media the next thing to consider is content, ie, what will you talk about or share on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin? Many naturally loquacious individuals get clammy and sweaty when faced with the blank rectangle of a Twitter, Linkedin or Facebook post. You need to get systematic about this and create a repository of content that you find inspiring. Chances are what interests you will interest your followers too. So all the on-line content that I follow – MeetingsNet, MeetPie, Skift, HBR.com (click here to see the full list) – is aggregated on Feedly and shared daily via Hootsuite from there. I spend about 30 – 45 minutes per day on this, usually first thing in the morning. I update myself on meetings indusry matters and share what I consider to be interesting.
How will you say it? – STEP 3
Marketers spend a lot of time perfecting tone of voice and rightly so as it’s at the heart of effective communication. As a young boy my mammy taught me that it wasn’t what I said that mattered, but the way I said it and it’s the same with social media. It’s all about tone of voice and on social media your tone of voice must be conversational. It must be natural. You must avoid hard selling. If fact you should avoid all selling as social is, ultimately, about sharing and that, by definition, has to be freely given. There’s an evangelical truth at the heart of social media – by giving we mysteriously receive!
Where will you say it? – STEP 4
If you’re more verbal than visual then a WordPress blog, Linkedin or Google + might be your platforms of choice. If you’re the opposite then you might opt for Instagram or Pinterest. More fundamentally, however, it might be a question of identifying where your community is and that will depend on many factors like age, geographical region, opportunity etc. The general rule of thumb that Facebook is for personal and Linkedin for business doesn’t really apply to the meetings industry, at least in my experience. Facebook is full of meetings and events people perfectly happy to blur the lines between private and professional – I guess we’re that kind of industry! I tend to share work-related posts on Twitter and Linkedin and then keep Facebook for personal stuff and pictures of our new puppy. Keep an eye out for new platforms like Snapchat (our Aoife is a big believer) but don’t try to be everywhere – you’ll spread yourself far too thinly.
How will you measure it? – STEP 5
Social Media is a marketers dream – or nightmare – depending on the success or otherwise of the campaign you’re working on. It’s as mathematical or scientific as Pythagoras or Newton in that there’s no “maybe” about whether your posts have been seen or not. It totally overturns the old adage about advertising (50% of it doesn’t work but you don’t know which 50%) as it produces incontrovertible, real time numbers. You can post on Facebook and know at the end of the day how many people have seen it. If there’s a “call to action” on your post then you’ll know instantly how many readers have “converted”. Unlike print advertising, you can multi-tweak your campaign mid-course if you realise you’re not getting the reaction you hoped for. And then, of course, there’s Google analytics and gazillions of other measurement tools, free, freemium and paid.
Pádraic Gilligan, Patrick Delaney and Aoife McCrum run SoolNua, an agency working with destinations, venues and hotels on marketing, strategy and training for the meetings and events industry. Contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org