Nov 12, 2010
Cece Salomon-Lee

PRMM Interview – Bob Etheridge Grows Conference via LinkedIn

Bob EtheridgeI belong to several groups in LinkedIn and came across a case study regarding the use of social media to increase membership to a LinkedIn group, which then drove conference attendance. I interviewed Bob Etheridge, social media aficionado, to learn more about his experience.

Bob Etheridge’s background has been primarily in the online recruitment and job board industry. In 1999, he co-founded JobCircle.com, a regional job board in Philadelphia and 2003,  started a physical Job Fair division for the company, thus entering the event production and  marketing world. The economic downturn and lack of hiring had a large impact on the business, so in May, they took their event production experience and created a B to B conference called Social Media Plus, capitalizing on the growth and interest in Social Media. Bob can be reached at bob.etheridge@networksunday.com.

1) We both belong to the same LinkedIn Group and you mentioned how you increased membership to a group you were managing for a conference. Can you provide an overview of what you did?
Yes, creating a Linkedin Group is easy enough, inviting your first degree connections to join the group is also relatively easy.  However, growing your group quickly after that becomes a challenge.

November 21, 2010 – Per Bob’s request, I have replaced the previous text with the below two paragraphs:

We utilized a service called Community Leadership offered by a company called Network Sunday. Network Sunday has virtual assistants that can help you with your Social Media marketing outreach. Network Sunday works with business development  and conference marketing professionals to leverage Linkedin to help grow communities, create awareness and build personal and professional brand.

By joining relevant, Industry specific Linkedin groups using the Advanced People Search engine on Linkedin, we created a targeted list of members who would most likely be interested in learning about Social Media and networking with other Social Media Marketing professionals. We then invited these people, through Linkedin, to join the Social Media Plus Conference group using a simple, straight forward message. The campaign lasted for approximately 2 months before the conference.

2) Besides LinkedIn, did you use any other marketing and social media tactics? If so, how did you leverage these tactics for driving attendance. 
Yes, we created a Facebook page and a Twitter account for the event. While Twitter was a great tool for communication during and after the conference with our #SMPlus hashtag, neither produced significant results in driving attendees.

3) What was the result of your efforts?
The response was phenomenal. In 2 months, our Conference group grew from 50 members to around 1800 and over 700 people attended the conference.  We did some traditional marketing such as direct mail and e-mail marketing, but Linkedin was the most effective marketing tool by far. We tracked the click through bit.ly URL’s, measuring the use of unique coupon codes that we offered and by comparing the final attendee list to our Linkedin Group members. 450 attendees had joined the Social Media Plus Linkedin group prior to the conference. (Disclaimer – Bob was so impressed with the results that Network Sunday provided, he is now the US Partner helping other conference organizers in their Marketing efforts).

4) What three tips would you provide to those seeking to use social media to promote their conference?

 1) Social Media Marketing is a two way street. Be prepared to spend time communicating directly with your audience.

2) Don’t over sell in your Marketing message. Less is more in this case. People want to explore and learn things on their own. If they have specific questions, they’ll reach out to you.

3) Don’t go it alone. Social Media Marketing can be time consuming and often companies start off with a bang, but burn out quickly. Social Media Marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.

2 Comments

  • Jessica, I think how one approaches the introduction is key. For me LinkedIn is a venue for networking so I am open to these type of emails, as long as they are relevant to me; whereas I am curious to know what Facebook’s newest announcement will mean for the increase of spam on that network.

    As for other tactics, that’s a good question. I know LinkedIn is beginning to roll out targeted advertising for events. It will be interesting to see how successful that it.

  • I see direct messaging of group members on LinkedIn who have a group in common with you to advertise or promote your group or your events as spamming – in fact I’ve reported people in the past for this kind of spam. I’d be interested to hear the other kinds of tactics that folks are using to achieve success on LinkedIn and other channels.

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About

Cece Salomon-LeeCece Salomon-Lee is director of marketing for ACTIVE Network, Business Solutions division, and author of PR Meets Marketing, which explores the intersection of public relations, marketing, and social media.

This blog contains Cece's personal opinions and are not representative of her company's.

Learn more about Cece.

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