Online Exclusive

May 2011

Social Awareness

by Katie Morell

The very way we interact with each other is changing rapidly, with major news events reaching us first via “tweets,” momentum for social movements large and small first harnessed via Facebook and the foundation of how we present our professional selves to the world built on a LinkedIn platform.

Those who work in an industry such as meeting and convention planning, which begins and ends with interaction, are embracing this social phenomenon and acting as a conduit to attendee cohesion.

Among them is Jessica L. Levin, president of Seven Degrees Communications, who firmly believes social media is a transformative force that must be harnessed.

“Social media is not a trend, it is a shift in the way we communicate,” she says. “The job of a meeting planner is to bring people together and educate them, which is also the purpose of social media.”

This being said, some planners have yet to jump on the bandwagon, notes meetings technology guru Corbin Ball, CEO of Corbin Ball Associates.

“Not everyone is on board; many planners are still trying to figure it out,” he says.  “Plus, there are some vertical markets that are not using social media at the moment.”

Even so, the numbers indicate that nonusers make up a small and rapidly shrinking percentage. More than 500 million people use Facebook, more than 200 million use Twitter and more than 100 million use LinkedIn.

Meeting planner MaryAnne P. Bobrow, owner of Bobrow & Associates, readily uses social media for events, many of which are for association clients who are heavily concerned with building attendance. She is an enthusiastic advocate.

“It is incredibly effective at getting the word out about an event,” she says. “It also positively affects a company’s bottom line; they don’t use as much print marketing material anymore. By using social media, my clients have saved thousands of dollars.”

Before launching into a social media campaign, Ball recommends first spelling out the goals and objectives.

“Don’t just do it and hope it will work,” he says. “Establish a plan and measure your activity. After the event, figure out where your plan succeeded and failed; that way you will know better for next year.”

The following are some important steps to take.

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