The prevalence of social media and the use of digital tools are on the rise among association meeting planners. What was once looked at as a time-waster, is quickly becoming a standard in the way associations conduct meetings-related business.
According to a recent survey by Champion Exposition Services, 83 percent of respondents currently use one or more digital tools, 91 percent plan to continue using them in the next 12 months, and 66 percent plan on incorporating even more tools into future events; none planned on using fewer tools. Social networks such as Facebook (67 percent), Twitter (54 percent) and LinkedIn (48 percent) ranked among the top commonly used digital mediums. And while a variety of factors contributed to the rapid adoption, 69 percent of respondents cited attendee demand as the driving force behind the integration of social media into their event strategies.
The study further reveals that while social media tools are being rapidly adopted, associations are still in the exploratory phase and are not yet exploiting the tools to their full potential. All respondents are using Facebook for pre-show attendee marketing, but fewer are leveraging the platform’s video applications (33 percent) or discussion forum (48 percent) features. Similarly, with Twitter, respondents using the service are only tweeting to create pre-event buzz for attendee marketing (82 percent) or to support PR efforts (68 percent). However, most are missing an opportunity to leverage Twitter as a back channel at events by using session-specific “hashtags” to follow conversations, facilitate Q&A or communicate with staff and speakers. Currently, only 23 percent use hashtags to aggregate tweets, while 36 percent use direct messaging to do so.
Other findings showed that nearly one in five (18 percent) respondents had hired someone to lead their social media/digital efforts, with eighteen percent having seen a cost-savings from using social networks, opposed to traditional marketing and communication efforts. And 35 percent reduced their use of direct mail as result.