Archive for September, 2009

Using Social Media for Meetings and Events

September 14, 2009

Social media (sometimes referred to as Web 2.0) are changing meetings marketing and management with numerous benefits for meeting planners, exhibitors and attendees. These are imprecise terms, however, covering a wide range of technologies that are part of a sweeping societal and business change.

This blog post will cover many of the key components of Web 2.0 with an emphasis on their impact to meetings and events. The heart of Web 2.0 revolves around “you” – user generated content is transforming the web from static web pages to the participatory web. Here are some of the ways that this is happening:

Wikis are interactive websites. The most widely recognized wiki is Wikipedia (, a free online encyclopedia with more than 12 million articles in more than one hundred languages. Online users have generated all of the content on this very useful site.

However, one wiki application with a direct use for meeting professionals is Google Docs ( providing online free word processing and spreadsheets. Spreadsheets are excellent project management tools with great applications for events. Using Google Docs, one can import an Excel spreadsheet or create an online spreadsheet. The creator can then invite others or view or to edit this document. If someone makes a change in a cell of the spreadsheet, everyone will see the change immediately  — everyone is on the same page electronically! You don’t have to worry about emailing updated versions of the spreadsheet.

If you are a meeting planner collaborating with a staff member in a different location or onsite, or dealing with a supplier, consider using this wiki, a helpful free Web 2.0 project management tool.

Blogs (web logs) are online journals typically written by an individual or a group. Typically the entries are dated with the most recent on top, and there is usually an opportunity for readers to make comments. There are millions of blogs. Technorati – ( – the “Google” of blogs – will allow you search on just about any term and you will find people blogging about it.

Blogs can be useful for promoting meetings. Many meeting industry associations such as PCMA, MPI and ASAE have set up blog channels around their events to create interest, to get feedback and to build community. My personal experience with this was with the eMERGE Technology Showcase for IAEE. The speakers for this first time event agreed to post blog postings ( about the subjects they were to speak. After several posting, the traffic to the website picked up, promoting the successful event using free blogging tools.

If you are interested in starting your own blog, Blogger ( is a good, free place to start.

Podcasts are on-demand radio/video “talk shows” that can be accessed directly via your computer or downloaded to your iPod or other MP3 player. They are cheap to make and can be distributed essentially free via iTunes, other podcast distributer and/or via your website.

Podcast are also great promotional tools for events. Meetings are content generators. For example, interviewing upcoming speakers about their subject matter to create podcasts is way one to promote meeting attendance. If done properly, podcast will bring traffic to your website, generate business, and attract attendance to meetings.

YouTube and video distribution channels
Videos are hot. One of the best-known video distribution sites is YouTube ( where you can upload videos free with millions of them available for everyone to see.

The classic example of a “viral video” – one that grew to millions of views through people sharing it is Will It Blend. BlendTec ( sells a very expensive blender that can grind up nearly anything. The company’s CEO, in a flash of brilliance, began posting inexpensive videos showing the blender grinding up unlikely objects (golf balls, marbles, 2x4s, and, in the height of the iPhone rollout mania, the iPhone) to YouTube. The original BlendTec iPhone video ( has generated more than 6.5 million views as people shared this link with friends — all for a production cost of about $600.

Meeting planners can use these free video distribution channels to promote meetings. Consider having your speakers create brief videos before the event discussing their topics. Interview satisfied attendees at your event to post with a link to and on your website.   These videos links will be clicked. They can promote the event in exciting and engaging ways all at a fraction of the cost of traditional media.

Social software
Social sites are currently the most visible component of Web 2.0.  MySpace (, Facebook (, LinkedIn (, Plaxo (, and Xing ( are among the many sites where people are connecting for social and business purposes. I-Meet ( is a social network developed specifically to meeting professionals. All provide the opportunity to post your profile, picture, and a means of connecting with friends and colleagues.

Some may dismiss some of these sites as a waste of time where teenagers a sharing personal information. However, if you search on “meeting planning” you will find activity in all of them. They afford ways for meeting professionals to connect, to share experiences in new ways.

For example, Facebook Connect allows you to put a Facebook “button” on your registration web page with the heading “Want a discount? Invite your FaceBook friends and they will get a discount too!” The attendee clicks on the button opening his/her personal Facebook page to choose the friends desired. Everyone gets the discount, and the meeting host increases meeting attendance using this simple and free Facebook application. You will start seeing this soon with several attendee management technology providers.

Associations are creating Facebook pages around events to generate community and excitement around the events as well.

Additionally, specialized meeting industry networking applications such as Pathable ( CrowdVine ( and IntroNetworks ( are integrating these social media tools to create social sites specifically designed around meetings.

Twitter and other mobile phone applications
Think of Twitter as “text messaging meeting the chat room.”  Users send postings (known as “tweets”) which are short messages (140 characters or less) usually about what they are doing. In this very open application, people can choose to follow anyone on twitter – which means when tweets are posted, they will see the postings of those they are following when they access the application.  For example, my Twitter page is

This is important to meetings because it is primarily a mobile application. People are tweeting at meetings about their impressions and using it to connect to people with like interests. For example, the recent MPI MeetDifferent conference in Atlanta, the Twitter hashtag (Twitter search phrase) was #meetdifferent (be sure to include the “#” sign). If you search on this at you can see all the tweets at the event.

Other mobile application companies such as Poll Everywhere (, VisionTree (, Zuku (, QuickMobile ( and Snipp ( provide a range of onsite mobile phone networking, audience polling and information applications for meetings, tradeshows and events.

User-generated review sites
Review sites may ultimately have one of the greatest impacts on meetings and events and society.

An excellent example of this is Trip Advisor ( one of the most widely used sites for researching hotels.  These reviews usually give a much better picture of the hotel than you can get directly from the hotel website. The unvarnished impressions from hotel clients, usually with some good and some bad reviews, aid greatly in making purchase decisions. These review sites are emerging for almost any goods or services – Yelp ( is one of the several that is used for restaurant reviews and many other services.

Several user-review sites have recently emerged designed specifically with the meeting planner in mind. MeetingUniverse (, Meetings Intelligence Exchange (, MeetingsCollaborative (, and Elite Meetings ( are review sites for meeting planners with planner reviews of meeting venues and hotels. One of these sites may become the next “Trip Advisor” for the meetings industry. One thing is certain, however. If you are providing a service or a product to meeting planners, they will be reviewed at user-review sites and these will become increasingly important tools for meeting planners to make buying decisions.

These are just a few of the ways that Web 2.0 is changing the meeting planning landscape. Thanks to these applications, the web has become interactive making steadily changes how meetings will be marketed and managed. They will not only affect our lives as meeting professionals, but they will increasingly impact society in general.

© 2009 Corbin Ball Associates