Social Media Tips for ACCED-I Members

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1 Social Media Tips for ACCED-I Members By Jason Walley Manager, Conference Services UCLA & Walt Martin Assistant Director of Conference and Event Services Rowan University

2 Facebook, LinkedIn, Wordpress, Blogger, YouTube and Twitter, along with many other social media and social networking sites are exploding with new options all the time. There are too many to mention, but this phenomenon will be with us for many years to come. The age of smart phones and portable Internet enabled devices means that students, planners and colleagues are connected all of the time, and as a result are being bombarded with information at a rapid pace. How do collegiate conference and event professionals incorporate these tools into their operations? Should they? Given the limited resources (e.g. time, budgets, staff, etc) along with campus protocols that dictate the methodology and content of all communications, including advertising and promotions, the answer may be more complicated than yes or no. We ll highlight and discuss the tools utilized by most business professionals and how to gain value from them. Noted below are some of the best practices and examples of well known brands along with ACCED-I colleagues and their utilization of these tools. Social Media as a Marketing Tool It is safe to say that for collegiate conference and event professionals social media outlets have not made it to the mainstream list of marketing tools. There are good examples of big corporations and well-known brands that stand out as masters in this arena, but they have big marketing budgets and lots of people to work on pushing the boundaries. There is no question that these new marketing tools will take some extra effort and given our tight budgets and staff hours it might not be a first priority and therefore deemed low value. However, the same was said about websites 15 years ago. Here are some notable examples of Facebook pages and And here are a few of our colleagues Guest-House-Conference-Center/ ?ref=ts (University of Utah), Services/ (UMass Amherst Conference Services), and (UCLA Lake Arrowhead Conference Center). Note that a best practice for a Facebook landing page is to name it the way that Target, Coca Cola, UCLA Meetings, UC Davis and Starbucks above. This also helps improve your website rankings when similar keywords are being used. Facebook not only helps increase web exposure to your sites, but ultimately is a great tool for communicating with your raving fans. Fans can leave photos and talk about

3 experiences they had while utilizing your venue and/or services. This is a place for you to interact with your fans and customers, as well as providing an opportunity for cross promotion. An organization or a customer can like your page and you can like another group s page. Or, customers can interact directly with venues or service providers by asking questions, leaving photos and comments. I noticed an upcoming guest at the University of Utah s Guest House and Conference Center asked about whether skateboarding was permitted on campus and the Guest House staff were able to answer his question. This exchange is now there for other guests to read so the information may help another future guest. Facebook also provides the opportunity to create an advertising campaign. If you don t have the resources to attend tradeshows an alternative method is on-line advertising with Facebook, similar to the pay for click advertising available on Google. However, with Facebook you can target specific demographics so that your ad pops up on the profiles you are most trying to target. For those that hire a lot of student staff this is a great way to recruit and fill positions and stay engaged with them all year long. Another great way to connect with the outside community in real-time is Twitter. You can read what people are talking about right now and engage them in the conversation. Your message has to be short and sweet (140 total characters), but that keeps people from blathering on to long without really saying anything. Twitter keeps you connected to brides, meeting planners (i.e. Meeting Planners International #mpi), event professionals (#eventprofs) tradeshow attendees, customers, experts, etc. The list is endless. The major news agencies all follow topics on Twitter to find out the latest news. Imagine CNN, FOX, NBC, ABC, CBS following you to get news stories and not the other way around. The world has changed and so have our constituencies. Business is done at the speed of a mouse click. In the above paragraph I noted some topics #eventprofs and #mpi. These are called hashtags and are used by people to post and follow messages by people that are using them. Keywords to alert tweeters that you have something to say related to that subject. Below are some ACCED-I tweeters and other prominent meetings and event tweeters. ACCED-I members: and Here are some prominent events professionals that are regular tweeters and No doubt this tweeting (the act of sending a message via Twitter) thing could get out of control. The speed at which information moves on Twitter is a blessing and a curse. Twitter takes the analogy of taking a drink of water from a fire hose to a whole new level. Although there are tools out there that assist with keeping up with the information

4 deluge, and for making sure your message isn t just more noise, keeping up with the pace can be a task in itself. All of the social media and social networking could consume your day, but once you have it set up and part of your daily routine it becomes another tool to help you succeed in your profession. Twitter is about information, not the hard sell. The soft sell technique involves displaying your expertise and knowledge sharing. If you have more to say than you can fit between 140 characters then you ll need a blog. There are many options, but two of the more prominent free ones are Wordpress and Blogger. Essentially, a blog is another opportunity for you to display your knowledge about a particular subject and hope to engage your current and future customers. Current ACCED-I examples include the travels of our ACCED-I board member Trish Carlson on Blogger and on Wordpress. The advantage of a blog is that you can write brilliant kernels of wisdom and send it to your twitter account multiple times. As long as the content remains relevant it is appropriate to tweet again. Remember not every twitter user is signed in the exact moment you send out a tweet. So, think of it as a public service. Your brilliance should be shared with the multitudes. Why not you? Have you seen the people that have the most followers? Your thoughts and expertise is valuable to those you know and those you are yet to meet. Another incredible free resource is YouTube. What started as a quirky place to show off has turned into a launching platform for several successful entertainment careers and provides another opportunity for you to promote your valuable services. UC Davis Conference and Event Services provides a good example of how this medium can be used to showcase your services Some people and institutions have privacy concerns with social media, but your customers are already out there talking about you and so you can either benefit from it or be victimized by it. Take control of the message. If there is bad press out there in a blog or other searchable Web content then you can overwhelm the bad message with all the good messages that you and your best customers communicate pushing bad content down into the nether regions of page 3, 4 or deeper of search results; another plus to having so many references on the Internet about your organization. Social Media for Professional Development and Networking Another social networking opportunity is LinkedIn LinkedIn for individuals is an on-line version of your resume. But, better than your static resume on paper you can connect with colleagues, join groups (i.e. ACCED-I national and regional ACCED-I groups), find jobs and promote your venues/services. Every good sales

5 person and service provider relies on relationships. Building your relationships on-line is a great way to stay in touch with them. The same could be said for Facebook, but LinkedIn provides a more formal presentation of you and your connections. This is also a great place for individuals to promote their organization s services and products. After all, you represent the organization. Present yourself as a subject matter expert, share articles, promote your favorite business book and recommend your colleagues. There is nothing better than a glowing recommendation from someone you have worked with in the past, whether it is a customer or colleague, to make other people eager to work with you. After all, it is all about the people in the end. Web 2.0 is a general term that relates to all of the above mentioned social media and networking tools. It will continue to expand and currently encompasses much more of the Internet than is outlined above. While it may seem daunting to tackle, Web 2.0 will is already a part of your business and personal world. Embrace it and learn to utilize it as a new tool to help you succeed. Below are some detailed resources on how to get started with Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. A simple Google search will usually bring up lots of resources on how to get started. Of course feel free to contact one of your colleagues to ask for advice. Resources Note on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Most of us would enjoy a few more planners visiting our websites and contacting us after they see all the great services and value available to on-campus and off-campus customers. One way to ensure that planners visit your sites is by making sure Google knows you exist. Search engine optimization is beyond the scope of this discussion, but one effective way to boost your website s ranking is by having lots of links to the social media sites listed above and if you have Twitter and blog feeds on your website pages it constantly refreshes content which in turn improves ranking with Google search.

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