by Pádraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua
By now most meetings professionals are on social media with Linkedin, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts. Linkedin has endless groups for meeting professionals and many of them are excellent with great content being shared and useful contacts being made on a daily basis. Instagram, too, with its strong optical orientation, is a natural medium for sharing the visual excitement of our industry, be it a sparkling destination image or a scintillating event picture. Facebook is perfect for our touchy-feely industry that’s comfortable mixing private and professional while Twitter taxes the minds of our chatterbox industry with its 140 character limit. So we’re all on social media but what are we doing there? Is there any empirical data or incontrovertible evidence that what we’re doing is producing any sustainable value or return on investment of our own and our employers’ time?
Does Social Media work in a B2B environment?
In the B2C environment Social Media is, without doubt, a highly effective channel. It operates in a classic “pull” capacity, using great content to build product awareness but also can also convert this awareness into actual sales. Many hotels use Social Media in this way building community around their brand sites on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram but also driving incremental revenues through promotions and offers that are only available on-line. In the B2B environment of meetings professionals, however, it’s not so straightforward and demonstrating tangible, revenue-based ROI is not so easy. In fact I have yet to hear of any MICE practitioner who can show evidence of ongoing, sustainable financial revenues coming from a Twitter account. So why do it? In fact if you’re expecting tangible ROI then you should ditch Social Media altogether!
Here are 5 key considerations for Social Media and Meetings Professionals.
Be strategic – Number 1
While most MICE professionals have Social Media accounts, very few have an overall plan for how to use them. The first consideration, therefore, once you’ve splashed about for a while on Linkedin or Twitter, is to learn how to use them properly. Jumping around in the water can be a lot of fun but it’s even more fun when you know how to swim, are comfortable in the deep end and can use your swimming ability to take yourself to places that otherwise you couldn’t go. The same applies to Social Media – take time to learn it and to understand where it can take you and your business. If you need some help with this, then SoolNua is there for you!
It’s about Marketing – Number 2
If you expect Social Media to be a sales channel for MICE business then you’ll always be bitterly disappointed. While occasionally you might score a programme by answering someone’s question on a Linkedin group, this is never likely to be a sustainable source of revenue. However, you can build incremental profile and awareness on Social and create an powerful, relatively inexpensive marketing channel that’s nimble, responsive and dynamic.
Strive to be a thought leader – Number 3
More than anything, Social Media allows you to build profile as an industry thought leader but that will always be a factor of the content you share. You’ll need a mix of original and curated content and this means connecting yourself with relevant, interesting content providers and generating your own content via, perhaps, a weekly or monthly blog. I use Feedly as a curation platform and every morning I create about 10 posts from almost 50 different industry and non-industry sources – Skift, Tnooz, MeetingsNet, MeetPie, Monocle, Wonderland magazine. I also try to create a 1000 word blog post (like this one!) and post that every Friday (but sometimes it’s Saturday or even Monday). The important thing, overall, is consistency of social activity – so Twitter and Linkedin on a daily basis, Facebook a couple of times a week and WordPress (the blog platform) once a week. If you cannot commit to regular and consistent posting then don’t do it all!
It’s about Networking – Number 4
Social Media is wonderful networking tool, particularly for anyone who finds face to face networking challenging. You can connect easily and meaningfully on Social Media with folks whom you’d never get near to a cocktail party. You can also converse without having to compete with that irritating, over-enthusiastic MC or DJ or over-served guest. I’m met veritable industry gurus like Joan Eisenstodt through social media and am proud to consider Tahira Endean amongst my best industry friends, having met on Twitter some years ago. On Social Media I’ve connected with all the latest tech platforms and thus I’m relatively up-to-date with that pioneering spirit that’s central to our industry.
Fostering and sustaining relationships – Number 5
In an increasingly global business environment, Social Media keeps us together and allows us to keep relationships ticking over until we see each other again, face to face, at IMEX or ibtmWorld, at the FICP Annual or at the next SITE Global Conference. This is massively important because our industry has always been, and will always continue to be, about the soft power of human capital. Through Facebook I can keep up to date with milestone moments in the lives of so many industry friends and share my ongoing travails and challenges as I deal with my adorable but infuriating pup, Dory (she has become quite the Facebook star!)
Ok, so there’s no bottom line results here for an investment of just under half a day per week – if I’m to be perfectly honest that’s what it takes between daily posting and a weekly blog. That’s reason alone to ditch Social Media. However there is an extraordinarily positive return on effort in terms of how it enables me to nurture relationships, make new ones, build profile as a thought leader and market my company 24 / 7 / 365. The real question is, without Social Media, what would it cost me to achieve these things?
Pádraic Gilligan, Patrick Delaney and Aoife McCrum run SoolNua, a specialist agency working with destinations, hotels, venues and MICE agencies on strategy, marketing and training for the meetings industry.