Social media has changed the approach to conference management for all involved: the PCO, the delegates, the sponsors and the speakers...
Since social media is fast and immediate, it is also having an impact on the content of meetings. This means that PCOs can now create, share, and consolidate real-time content that adds value to the meeting through interactions and debate.
The benefits of social media range from pre- to post- event activities, where the various social media channels can be used as tools for discussion, dissemination, and discovery. All Social Media channels demonstrate real value in event promotion and can be exploited in the pre-event phase to increase awareness, interaction, and engagement. During the event, the "live" aspect of the meeting can be stimulated with the posting of photos, videos, articles, graphics, etc., through a mixture of social media channels including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Google+.
Social media content can play a significant role in engaging followers and creating loyal relationships. It generates discussion and content, empowers the delegate community by giving them a voice, and continues the dialogue after the event takes place. Additionally, the creation and use of an event-specific hashtag can strengthen the process and create an archive of all the social media mentions from the event. This data set can then be measured, analysed and used to help manage the online reputation of the event, the promoter, the PCO, and the destination.
Not only does social media increase the audience, the interaction, and the possibility to profile the various users/participants, it also offers the potential to increase the profile of the event sponsors. This provides them with visibility and a greater interaction with the participants before, during and after the event.
Social media has also meant the advent of a new profession for the meetings industry. The management of social media at conferences and events has become an integral tool that requires a thoughtful strategy. This includes an understanding of the various available social media channels, and the potential impact each might have on their target audience and how they interact with the content.
Defining a personalized online communication strategy according to the user of the congress has become a must, even for those congresses that might not be considered "social." It has become apparent that social media experts are no longer enough, social media event managers are needed as well.
In-house or outsource?
Should the function of social media management be organised internally or should it be outsourced? There is no "one size fits all" answer to this question. Increasingly, PCOs are recruiting social media managers to advance communication of their own companies and then offer them as an additional resource to clients. However, for some larger events, the client may prefer to use their own social media manager. In both cases it is fundamental for a PCO to be able to measure the results of the social media investment in terms of ROI, lead generation, sales leads, etc.
I am convinced that we are in a new pioneering phase of the meeting industry, which will be deeply changed by social media and by the technological, social, and cultural innovations that will take place within the next few years. We are surely in store for some wonderful things!
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President/Founder of EGA Professional
Emma is considered the pioneer of the congress industry in Italy. She is founder of EGA, which has been responsible for the organisation of some of the most important national and international events held in Italy. Their quality and professionalism have been tested by over 5,000 clients and guaranteed by more than 40 years of activity in the industry. She is involved in training and teaching at university level and has published several articles on congress organisation. She actively participates in many professional associations and represents EGA in most international organisations. She is also involved in public relations projects.