I recently worked with the Virtual Edge Summit to help get the word out about the summit. Social media was an important strategy for reaching target audiences and driving a conversation before, during and after the event. Of all the social media channels, Twitter was an integral part of the strategy. Here are three tools that I recommend if you’re seeking to drive engagement around any event, such as press conference, webinar, conference, product launch, etc.
CoTweet – Schedule Your Tweets
For this particular instance, I knew I would be busy throughout the conference and unable to tweet updates regularly. As such, I used CoTweet to schedule tweets in advance. And as Guy Kawasaki points out, the tweet stream moves so quickly, only a portion of your audience will view your tweet at any particular time.
By using CoTweet, I could schedule advanced tweets about exhibitor promotions during the show, space out reminders to register for the event, and retweet relevant news at specific times to have a rolling set of activity throughout the day.
The other benefit is you can have more than one account and users to manage tweeting responsibilities. This is useful when you have large team of PR professionals, marketers, and/or event staff overseeing the event.
What the Hashtag – Trend and Track Your Hashtag
If you plan to use a hashtag, the challenge is creating a simple, visual way to capture the overall activity for the hashtag. What the Hashtag is a tool that allows you to do this. Once you’ve registered your hashtag and added a description, you can view a chart of the number of tweets, top users tweeting out the hashtag and other high-level statistics.
This is a great way to identify top twitterers for that hashtag or your brand. By reaching out to these individuals, you can develop a relationship for future announcements and events.
The only detraction is that the stats are available for only 7 days. So you will want to designate a day to go back and capture the data from the past week, such as first thing Monday morning or end of day Fridays.
Twapper Keeper: A History of Your Tweets
While Twitter is great for publicizing a brand and generating conversation around a community and topics, tweets are not archived. This provides a challenge when you want to create a history or search for specific tweets. One site that may help is Twapper Keeper, which seeks to save tweets related to a particular hashtag.
I created the archive for the Virtual Edge Summit at: http://twapperkeeper.com/hashtag/VES11. While the user interface is inelegant (which is why I decided not to include an image) and service can be a bit slow (at times doesn’t load), the idea is interesting and valuable for evaluating the conversations around a specific hashtag or even keyword. I’m curious to hear of any other similar service as Twapper Keeper has a great idea, but needs to make significant improvements to gain traction.
What do you think? What other Twitter tools would you recommend?
While attending the Virtual Edge Summit 2011 last week, one question asked by attendees is “how do I create an engaging experience.” I would argue that the experience relies not on the platform you select but rather how involved you are in planning, designing, building and implementing the environment. However, many are new to going virtual and are unsure of how to proceed.
As such, I plan to write a series of posts to help meeting/event planners and marketers understand the process for going virtual. Please feel free to forward me your questions.
First, there are many types of “virtual events.” Let me highlight three flavors of virtual events that include multiple locations, such as an exhibit hall and auditorium, chat functionality and presentations.
Virtual Event “Out-of-the-Box”
A couple of the vendors are touting that they can build an event in one day. This is possible as certain features have already been pre-selected for you, such as presentation window and chat. While you can add a logo and some other basic branding, there is not much more to this. What you see is what you get with this virtual event.
Pro: Quick and easy set up with minimal monetary outlay (estimate of $5,000-10,000). Once created, you can reuse over and over again as a central library for your archived content and future events.
Con: You get a standard “virtual” event as defined by the vendor with minimal customization. This may or may not work for your particular audience with regard to providing an “engaging” experience. If you plan to use more than once, there may be additional charges for each new “event/presentation” with in the environment.
“Template-Based” Virtual Events
The next level is adding some customization options in terms of the location look-and-feel (usually selecting from a vendor’s library of themes) and adding/taking away certain features such as group chat, locations (i.e. an exhibitor space) and social media with a click of the mouse.
Pro: You have more control over the look-and-feel and how attendees interact with the environment. Like the “virtual event out-of-the box,” once you’ve created it, you can reuse the set-up for future virtual events you hold.
Con: Increased price tag to about $30-60K depending on the features, limited to stock library of images or providing images that fit a specific criteria, and requires more time and effort to design and implement. Furthermore, if using the same format repeatedly, you have to consider additional charges to light-up the environment, as well as if the look-and-feel will become dated.
Fully Customized Virtual Event
The high-end is working with the vendor to develop a fully customized environment from a branded look-and-feel to adding features beyond chat and social media, such as games and quizzes.
Pro: You are intimately involved in the building of the virtual environment that is customized to your event, brand and audience. This provides you with the best option for engaging your audience. Once built, you can add new features to further customize the experience.
Con: This takes a lot of time (recommend at least 6 months to plan, design, build and implement) and can be six figures or more. If you decide to add onto the environment, the challenge is how to integrate any new functionality seamlessly into the overall experience.
In the end, you need to find the right partner based on your budget, expectations and overall experience requirements. In my next post, I’ll highlight the types of questions you should ask when evaluating a virtual events platform provider.
What other pros and cons are there with the above three virtual event scenarios?
Here are two videos that I took while I was at the Virtual Edge Summit 2011. Again, while I provided PR/marketing/social media services to the summit, the below represents my personal opinions and not those of the Virtual Edge Summit.
From January 12-13, 2011, hundreds of people will gather in Las Vegas and online to attend the Virtual Edge Summit 2011. I have had the pleasure of assisting the Summit in their public relations and marketing efforts. While I have done PR and marketing activities as a vendor exhibiting or speaking at an event, this was an interesting opportunity to help drive awareness, conversation and ultimately registrations for a conference of this sidze (not including corporate webinars and virtual events).
With the conference a week away, we will not have a full sense of the results until after it has concluded. With that said, I wanted to highlight three strategies and tactics we used (are using). While this doesn’t encompass everything we did/are doing for the Summit, it does provide a look under the covers:
1. Drive Brand Awareness: This year, the Virtual Edge Summit expanded its program beyond virtual events, meetings and conferences to incorporate virtual learning and training. This opened up the Summit a potential new pool of attendees within the elearning and training spaces. Our goal was to continue driving awareness within the meeting and events industry, while introducing the Summit to this new space.
2. Increase Engagement: We wanted to build on the 2010 efforts to further involve our audience – both virtual and physical – with the Summit. This would help generate word of mouth amongst our key audiences and hopefully reach new target audiences.
3. Grow Registrations for In-Person and Virtual Attendance: And of course, part of the success would be measured by the number of registration for the in-person and virtual versions of the event.
1. Focus on Public Relations: My foundation is in public relations, so this was a natural area to focus our efforts. In addition to the general press releases about keynote speakers, new sponsors and the program, we looked at how we can generate discussion in the industry, while promoting the Summit. For example, we decided to develop an infographic that summarized the key virtual events industrystats from 2010. The purpose was to provide the industry with a visual way to synthesize the progress that virtual had made over the past 12 months. In addition to posting to the Summit blog, we contacted key reporters, industry bloggers, and sponsors. The resulting blog posts and discussion around the infographic keeps the Summit and Virtual Edge Institute front and center.
2. Start and Seed a Summit Blog: Our speakers are the innovators within the virtual events and learning industries. We started a blog and invited our speakers to submit 300-400 word blog postings related to their presentation or industry. With a dozen speakers taking up the offer, this provided credibility to the blog, allowed us to generate relevant content quickly, and distribute this to a wider audience through speaker promotion. At this writing, our hope is to continue the blog to drive the conversation until the next Summit.
3. Social Media: While Twitter was leveraged last year, we drafted a more formal strategy for our social media program this year.
a. The cornerstone will continue to be Twitter, assigning each room with a unique hashtag to receive questions from the audience. We also created Twitter lists of attendees, speakers and sponsors to recognize all the different audiences supporting the Summit. Finally, we reached out to speakers and sponsors to promote their participation at the conference, which generated many tweets leading up to the conference over the past few days.
b. We researched groups in learning, training, events, conferences and meetings on LinkedIn. Following group guidelines, we posted information about the Summit, participated in appropriate discussions, and/or started discussions.
c. With regard to Facebook, this is being leveraged as an alternative way to connect with our audiences. We cross post all blog posts and post questions to solicit engagement. While this part is nascent, we’re contemplating using Facebook as the main photo archive for the Summit and inviting virtual attendees to post photos of where they are attending the Summit to the page.
Wish Us Good Luck
While this doesn’t cover everything we’ve been doing, I’m pretty happy with what we’ve been able to accomplish so far. If you’re interested in checking out the summit, you can register at http://www.virtualedgesummit.com/registration_reader. The interesting aspect is that the Summit will have ten different technology vendors streaming the content. The idea is to provide people with a choice and way to evaluate different ways of holding a virtual event.
In the post-event summary, I’ll highlight some other unique aspects of the event, initial results and some areas of improvement.
And I’ll also be one of the virtual hosts to bring content live from the exhibit show floor to the virtual audience! (wish me luck)
Following previous interviews with key virtual event vendors, I interviewed Dannette Veale, Virtual & Social Technology Strategist, Global Sales Experience (GSX) of Cisco, to get an end-user perspective about virtual events and what technology innovations we can anticipate. Now a member of the Cisco Global Sales Experience team, Dannette previously produced the global Cisco Live and Networkers conferences as hybrid events. She will be speaking at the Virtual Edge Summit on future trends for virtual and hybrid events on January 12, 2011 from 2:15 – 3:00 pm.
In Part 1, we discussed virtual events, the pros and cons of being an innovator, and how Cisco leveraged several technologies for the Cisco Live hybrid events. In part 2, to be published next week, Dannette shared her predictions for events in 2011. Hint: it’s about mobility. Please leave any questions you have for Dannette in the comments.
How are virtual events being leveraged within Cisco?
Cisco leverages virtual in many ways. We have flagship events like Cisco Live, which is annual user event with several points around the world, and Partner Summit event, which is our single point of activity for partner communities. And there are internal events, like the Strategic Leadership Offsite (SLO) and GSX (Global Sales Experience). We see virtual as a way to most cost-effectively take event activities to a mass audience.
For majority, Partner Summit and Cisco Live events around the globe, are physical events that are hybrid to extend the activity to a worldwide audience. There is some unique programming for virtual audiences. We don’t clone or repeat everything at physical event. We look at what will translate to the virtual and opportunities to create an experience that can’t be done at the physical event.
For example, keynotes are always presented at Cisco Live and taken to virtual audience. Virtual provides a unique or intimate experience for a post keynote chat session. Keynote speaker goes into a room to have a dialogue with the audience for questions that came up during the keynote. We leverage a space that the speaker can do an intimate chat with 10K people on site in Las Vegas and 30k+ people attending virtually.
That is where we see how virtual offers opportunities that you can’t facilitate at the physical.And some in the physical won’t translate well into virtual. We have a technical solutions clinic on site at Cisco Live for attendees to visit on an ad hoc basis to work with Cisco support regarding deployment issues. In the technical solutions clinic the primary source for sharing information is a white board, this format is difficult to translate virtually. Therefore we have a modified version for virtual that we call the Ask the Expert Center, providing this on a schedule basis versus intervals. When you have 10-15K onsite, there will be plenty of foot traffic to the technical solutions clinic. In the virtual environment, the open-ended aspect doesn’t work as well and virtual attendees respond better with scheduled activities, such as ask-the-expert activities.
You’re incorporating several innovative technologies, such as augmented reality and QR codes. What are your recommendations for others considering using technology for their events? Pros and cons?
We haven’t rolled out some of the technology you mentioned. We had augmented reality (AR) featured at Cisco Live Europe 2010 with keynote speaker, Prof. Bruce Thomas, and used some AR tools on stage to demo power. But we haven’t done what I feel we can do to integrate this on the tradeshow floor.
We also haven’t done a lot with QR codes, and I have blogged a lot about how to leverage it for an event. Rather, we’ve leveraged more social tools like geo-location with Foursquare and DoubleDutch (white-labeled) for Cisco events. We’ve also used Ustream with Facebook and Twitter.
While we haven’t done much for events yet, we can push the envelope with AR and I would love to see a on site and virtual blended scavenger hunt leveraging QR codes, but not at this time.
What are the pros or cons of doing this?
Pro is that we were first – a trailblazer for virtual event opportunities in general. Use that as the specific pro and con for technology.
As an early adopter, we can have a much more dynamic effect on the evolution of that industry and technology offer. There is something to be said about partnering with the companies on these technologies to evangelize the business prospect regarding what we need from these technologies. The earlier we participate on this, the more influence we can have on their long-term road maps.
Con is that sometimes things don’t work. Once we’ve done it and publicized, we have to be ok with saying that it didn’t work. For example I have some blogs about gaming implementation for CiscoLive 2010. Some goals that were on the scope couldn’t’ be realized within the timeframe of deployment. We had to be ok with saying that we didn’t meet all the objectives and met 50% of them, while pursuing the other later. That can be perceived as a con – I don’t personally see this as a con and think it’s about being a good thought leader in the space.
Dannette Veale’s Bio
As the virtual and social technology strategist for Cisco’s Global Sales Experience (GSX), Dannette Veale lives and breathes new media. Prior to her role on the GSX team Dannette lead the creation and drove the strategy for the award winning Cisco Live and Networkers virtual program. Dannette has also managed global online and virtual programs for a variety of Cisco groups; most notably emerging markets. When she’s not evangelizing the use of virtual environments to extend the reach of an event and broaden the overall audience demographic participating, you’ll find Dannette engaged in such varied hobbies as producing streaming media, designing Web sites, or watching classic films such as Blade Runner. Outside of her daily immersion in the bleeding edge of collaborative media, Dannette’s also been known to partake in such real world activities as gardening, baking, and knitting;while watching cyberpunk anime, of course.
Cece 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.
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