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AEO winners of Best Use of Social Media on the record

10th July 2012

Events Guru catches up with Simon Press, Director of Reed Travel Exhibitions' World Travel Market – worthy winner of this year's AEO Best Use of Social Media Award.

How does it feel to win the first ever Best Use of Social Media Award at the AEO Awards?

I am extremely delighted to receive the award on behalf of the WTM 2012 team for the Best Use of Social Media within the UK Events Industry. Being the first year that the ‘Best Use of Social Media’ category was up for grabs at the AEO Awards, it makes it that little bit more special and really highlights how social media is such an important tool for the events industry to add value and keep in contact with all participants involved.

Why was your social media campaign so strong?

Over the last 12 months, we have invested significant time and resource into developing the social media (SM) strategy in order to:  

• Improve marketing and PR, sales and customer service capability;
• Provide an enhanced onsite event experience for all participants;
• Build the WTM brand as an industry community and content provider.

As a result, WTM now has a SM audience of 25,000+ whom it interacts with on a daily basis. Ubervu calculates that over the four onsite days alone (7-10 November 2011) WTM mentions across all platforms reached 4.5 million people. This helped contribute to #WTM2011 trending third across UK Twitter on the opening day, putting WTM in front of a further 5.5 million Twitter users.

This strategy, combined with a passionate team who understand the great advantages social media brings to both WTM and our participants, have helped to produce these great results and ensure a strong campaign.

What did you do exactly? And why did it stand out from the competition?

WTM utilised Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Posterous, Flicker, Pinterest and Google+ in a number of ways before, during and after WTM 2011 to ensure we were engaged with our entire audience and encouraged interaction where possible. These campaigns included:

• Roving SM reporters on the event floor capturing photos and video content which was instantly put out via social media channels;
• The WTM Best Stand Award became the WTM People’s Choice Award as voted for by the WTM social media community. An album of Best Stand winners was posted to Facebook and users were invited to vote for their favourite, increasing exposure gained from exhibiting at WTM;
• A dedicated event programme stream of 'Social Travel Market' at the 2011 event attracted 777 attendees generating thousands of mentions and a #STM2011 hash tag that reached three million additional social media users over two days;
• Live Twitter chats with key members of the WTM team;
• Competitions and a wide-range of video content both in the lead-up and onsite during the event.

Among the many innovative and imaginative uses of SM mentioned above there was one campaign that we felt particularly stood out from the rest, this was the WTM Photo Competition. Launched on Facebook and promoted via Twitter, WTM’s audience was asked to submit their best destination-based photos with a different theme each week. This initiative engaged the visitor audience, encouraged conversations and built a community between them and exhibitors. It also gave exhibitors the chance to further promote their destinations.

Each week a winner was selected and results posted across all platforms. WTM account managers then informed key exhibitors from the winning destinations – many of whom were national tourist boards – demonstrating the added exposure and ROI their countries received via WTM social media activity.

The results:
• 160 entries, 500+ likes, shares and comments, more than a 100% increase in page likes;
• Images, company name and winner status shown on large screens at the event, connecting SM activity with the physical event;
• Providing WTM with SM content and recommendation in the form of video interviews with the winners – these were edited and posted to YouTube onsite.

What plans do you have to improve or tweak the campaign? What have you learned from it?

With social media being such a relatively new area, we are constantly being reminded of how powerful it can be with adding value to an event. We are regularly seeing new ways in which we can communicate and interact with our particular audience and strive to keep up with all the latest platforms.  

Following on from the successful photo competition last year, we are introducing new photo-based campaigns in the lead-up to WTM 2012 – for example the #WTMin initiative.

#WTMin competition will encourage the WTM audience to post pictures of themselves accompanied by the WTM logo in interesting locations around the globe, with the most interesting entries being declared winners at the end of summer.

We will also be focusing on new platforms such as Pinterest and Google+ which have both seen a huge increase in popularity recently. Pinterest particularly from an image sharing perspective and Google+ for sending out tailored messages to different identified social groups.

Our WTM blog which has established itself over recent months allows us continually push relevant content out to our social media following, ensuring WTM is a year-round content provider.

We learned that having real-time updates readily available to visitors at the event was crucial and this is something we will be looking at to further improve onsite engagement.

What should other event organisers do to ensure their social media campaigns are as effective as yours?

Keep it simple Always concentrate on what you’re already doing well and then see how this can be replicated on your chosen social media platforms. For example, if you have a strong conference and seminar programme at your event, ensure that your experts (speakers) are involved in either guest blogs or live Twitter/Facebook chats.

Work out who is responsible for SM The WTM year-round strategy is implemented in-house in an effective collaboration between the PR and eMarketing teams, this helps overcome the lack of clarity experienced by many organisations around who owns or is responsible for SM. This is something that needs to be determined early on when putting together a social media strategy. The people responsible should have enthusiasm and a passion for social media to ensure its success.

Monitoring and KPIs There are a number of free and paid-for online tools out there that assist in monitoring each of the campaigns you come up with. This is always important for seeing if objectives have been met and what you think worked well or could be done better.

WTM uses a range of tools including HootSuite, MeltWater Buzz, Social Bro and Ubervu to monitor and analyse its SM activity. KPIs include metrics such as community numbers and the number of interactions received – likes, comments, retweets, discussions etc – are closely monitored by type to track levels of engagement across different content, for example blog post versus press release.

Qualitative measures are also important WTM does not just look at numbers, but analyses what is being said, who is saying it and what impact that activity is having on WTM’s business. The focus is on attracting and retaining actively engaged members of the WTM community who can act as brand ambassadors, rather than just aiming for huge numbers of followers with little interaction.

Focus on your industry Make sure you’re not constantly self-promoting your event, share and generate useful information that you think might be useful and relevant to your particular industry. This will help guarantee that the content you do eventually send out that is self-promoting is more believable.

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