Turning Tweets into Handshakes
By Eric Olson
At its core, an event is a group of like-minded people coming together around a common interest. Social media can support that group, enlarge it and sustain it over time. Generally speaking, it can do this in three ways.
Expand an event in time:
A recent Nielsen report shows that 92 percent of online consumers trust recommendations from people they know, while less than 40 percent trust online advertising. It’s just as true with events. People check Facebook to see where their associates are headed. They watch their LinkedIn network to decide if they should go too. On Active Network’s attendee management software, RegOnline™, the number of registrations from social media is growing faster than any other source, trailing only direct traffic as the biggest single source of event attendees.
Extend it in space:
When it comes to events, the difference between onsite and offsite isn’t as clear-cut as it used to be. With ubiquitous Wi-Fi, a smartphone in every pocket, and tablets and laptops in every briefcase, the live experience now extends well beyond the conference room.
Improve it in real-time:
Social media can even help improve your event in real-time by making attendee sentiment measurable. We once saw an event where a presenter was scheduled to speak at three sessions. On the first day the sentiment on the Twitter channel was dreadful. But the organizers were able to provide feedback and add an additional speaker on the spot, and by the third day, the feedback in the room was almost euphoric. That would never have happened before the advent of social media.
Social media can also help attendees form new interest groups on the fly. We once watched a Twitter feed in a conference session spiral out into a separate conversation, which turned into a happy-hour conversation that ran well into the night.
There it was: a face-to-face meeting between people who never would have met if it hadn’t been for a social media conversation—creating valuable content and connections that the organizer didn’t have to plan or pay for. It turns out, far from being the enemy of the handshake, social media may be the best ally it’s ever had.