15 Reasons ICCA had tremendous Twitter traffic at the 2014 Congress


15 Reasons ICCA had tremendous Twitter traffic at the 2014 Congress

Before bragging about these numbers let me just make this clear: Just having great Twitter statistics is not the goal of our social media efforts. The aim of using Twitter for most participants is to bookmark and share great content (of education sessions), to inspire thinking by colleagues in the meetings industry, and to meet new people. It is not about social media, it is about connectivity.

The objectives of our social media activities for the ICCA Congress are:

  • Increasing the value of the Congress for members
  • Increasing interaction and connectivity between members, before, during and after the event
  • Showing members that are not going what they are missing
  • Online ICCA profiling to our other target groups: potential members, associations, press


You cannot reach these goals without having great Twitter statistics, so here comes the bragging: These are the stats of our current live report which represents the total number of Tweets with hashtag #ICCAWorld from 23 September until Friday 28 November:

#ICCAWorld Twitter Statistics

Of the total number of 7,377 tweets, almost 33% were original tweets (2/3 of which included links and/or images), over 62% were retweets, 4.8% replies, accounting for a reach (= number of unique users that could have seen Tweets with the #ICCAWorld hashtag) of almost 2,5 million and almost 15 million impacts (= the potential number of times somebody could have seen Tweets with the #ICCAWorld hashtag). On 28 November, we had 1,666 unique contributors using #ICCAWorld.

See the full live report on: http://www.lumicatch.com/rs/XM665Ya9mpR

When focussing on the #ICCAWorld Twitter activity in the 3 weeks before, during and the 1.5 weeks after the Congress we can see this trend from 13 October – 14 November:

#ICCAWorld Twitter stats 13 October – 14 November

When dividing the #Tweets and # contributors in before, during and after the event these numbers show as a result:

Before During After Total
# Tweets 1,545 4,024 1,611 7,180
# Contributors 240 707 1,189 2,136 *

Before = 13 October-31 October; During = 1-5 November; After = 6 – 14 November
*: The total number of contributors adds up to 2,136, but obviously this contains a double count of contributors who contributed in at least 2 of the 3 timeframes included in this table.

There were 887 delegates at the Congress. On 6 November, one day after the Congress, we had 963 unique #ICCAWorld contributors. In the 1.5 weeks after the Congress this number quickly climbed towards 1,500. 1,329 of the 1,611 Tweets in the week and a half after the Congress were retweets.


As stated, it is not about the quantity. We encouraged everyone to use social media as a way to add value to the ICCA Congress.

According to our post-Congress survey 59% of the delegates were active on Twitter before, during or after the Congress. 70% of those delegates using Twitter said it helped them to increase the value of their ICCA Congress experience, and almost 75% said they feel using Twitter helped them to increase their interaction with other members.

Why take notes on a piece of paper if you can share them and allow the world to see?

Conferences & tradeshows can be sources of wonderful ideas. By sharing their key takeaways on Twitter, participants are sharing their personal notes. Have a look at the Storify with key takeaways from #ICCAWorld Congress participants: https://storify.com/iccaworld/take-aways-from-the-53rd-iccaworld-congres-in-anta. They read as shared notes from the ICCA Congress education sessions. How useful is that?!

The large amount of #ICCAWorld retweets (> 62%) indicates that the content shared with this hashtag is perceived as being valuable. To illustrate this: The most popular #ICCAWorld Tweet from the ICCA Congress (387 retweets and 201 favorites!) came from a delegate during the Copenhagen-Denmark Lecture by Magnus Lindkvist:

These statistics are quite amazing and some members stated that those members not active on Twitter were actually missing out:


So how come these stats are so high?

Compared to previous ICCA Congresses, we had the basic factors that contribute to having success with social media at events more than covered. But we also used new ways to stimulate the online conversation. We came up with these campaigns by listening and paying close attention to what our members and delegates are doing online, and finding ways to facilitate and amplify these trends: Go with the flow! 15 ways in which we increased our ICCA Congress Twitter traffic:

1. Multichannel Hashtag Communication

For the first time this year, we used our community hashtag #ICCAWorld for the ICCA Congress, instead of previously-used event hashtags like #ICCA12 or #ICCA13. Reasoning:

  • The whole online ICCA-member community is involved in the ICCA Congress
  • To make it simpler for members; members can use one hashtag to engage with the online ICCA community throughout the year
  • We are not the only ones using #icca14 for an event

Or as stated in an interview with Ian Whiteling’s Meeting the World: “Everybody knows it is 2014…”

The hashtag was prominently communicated through all our channels: Congress website, emailings, hard-copy programmes, Powerpoint templates, at tradeshows, Speaker briefings, via Spotme (which was our event app) messages and of course on social media. The hashtag and the way to use it was also communicated personally to important stakeholders like the ICCA Board of Directors and Chapter Chairs. In the first couple of weeks we had to address some people on Twitter to use hashtag #ICCAWorld for the Congress, but after 1-2 weeks of consistently promoting it, almost all members were using the proper hashtag.

Join the ICCA Congress conversation

2. Create and communicate hashtags with a purpose

Just communicating the hashtag is not enough: You have to spell out and communicate what you want delegates to do with the hashtag. To make the communication of these calls to action simpler, we created 3 hashtags for the Congress, which all had a specific purpose:

#RoadtoAntalya: “Share images, tips and advice on your journey to- and preparations for the #ICCAWorld Congress in Antalya.” (See #RoadtoAntalya Tweets in Storify: https://storify.com/iccaworld/the-world-comes-together-on-the-roadtoantalya).

#SelfICCA: “Share the ICCA family love and take a creative selfie of yourself and other members at the ICCA Congress in Antalya. The more the merrier!” (See #SelfICCA Tweets in Storify: https://storify.com/iccaworld/faces-of-the-iccaworld-family).

#ICCAWorld: “Join the online conversation on Twitter using official ICCA community hashtag: #ICCAWorld and engage with the ICCA online community in the following ways:

  • Share the hottest content and key takeaways of ICCA Congress Sessions with the ICCA community, using #ICCAWorld
  • Search for #ICCAWorld and engage with other members
  • Ask the ICCA online community for advice
  • Share your ICCA activities”

We reinforced these tips in all our communication and in the “#ICCAWorld Social Lounge”, where we had power plugs and Twitter screens. See #ICCAWorld Tweets on Storify: https://storify.com/iccaworld/take-aways-from-the-53rd-iccaworld-congres-in-anta We were not sure if it was going to be successful, as we had the challenge of both communicating our “new event hashtag” plus two other new hashtags. There were some concerns that people might get confused, but using different hashtags which clearly communicate different calls to action proved to have great effect.

3. Focus on the weeks before the event

The critical window of opportunity on social media for events is not only during the event itself, but also in the 2-3 weeks in the run-up to the event. The last couple of weeks are crucial to increase member’s online engagement, to build momentum and to encourage them to prepare and make the most of the upcoming Congress. We created 2 campaigns in the run up to the Congress:



To stimulate preparations and build momentum for the Congress we asked delegates and speakers to share images, tips and advice on their journey to- and preparations for the Congress. A very important part in the #RoadtoAntalya campaign was to stimulate members to start preparing for the Congress using the ROI handbook and workbook, which is designed to help each delegate identify and maximise the benefits they gain from attending meetings, congresses and tradeshows. This online PDF document provides a detailed explanation of how each delegate can maximise their personal ROI, setting out key concepts but also providing practical advice and check-lists (http://www.iccaworld.com/cdps/cditem.cfm?nid=5096). The ROI Handbook was downloaded 614 times and the ROI Workbook 338 times.

See this video in which Gerrit Heijkoop of HCIBS (who was involved in ICCA’s social media strategy on a consultancy basis) and I talk about the idea behind #RoadtoAntalya and using the #ICCAWorld community hashtag:

We had 753 tweets which include #RoadtoAntalya: See the Storify on #RoadtoAntalya and see some examples below:

This campaign proved to be a success, and members spontaneously started tweeting about the #RoadtoBuenosAires and the #RoadtoArgentina straight after the Closing Ceremony of our 2014 Congress, so instead of starting 3 weeks before our 2015 Congress, we have already started our #RoadtoArgentina campaign 51 weeks before we go to Buenos Aires!

Istanbul CAT Night online pre-Congress round

Istanbul CAT Night online pre-Congress round

The traditional CAT Night at the ICCA Congress is a night of playful but competitive games between regional ICCA Chapter members in a relaxed and loose setting. Members get very fanatic cheering for their teams, dressing up in team outfits, creating their own yells and team names, etc. Each year, pictures from the CAT Night on social media proved to be the most popular on social media.

Knowing this, we tried something new this year with an “Istanbul CAT Night preview competition”: we shared pictures of all of the 11 Chapter teams from previous Congresses and did a competition to see which was one was the most “liked” ICCA Chapter. The winning picture of the Mediterranean Chapter had 89 likes. Even though the liking happened on Facebook, we drove the competition by also sharing the 11 pictures on Twitter and by email, linking to the pictures on Facebook and encouraging members to like their Chapter team.

4. Proper WiFi

Without proper WiFi no Tweets from your event. While this issue is discussed a lot in our industry, proper WiFi still proves to be a challenge at a lot of tradeshows and meetings. Because live voting during the ICCA General Assembly was done with the Spotme Event App, it was crucial for us to have quick, reliable WiFi during the Congress, and we had.

5. Twitter walls

Having live Twitter feed screens at the event integrates the offline with the online discussion and stimulates participants to join in. This year we used Lumicatch screens:

LumiCatch Twitter Walls

The screens showed all #ICCAWorld Tweets and images, key statistics like # Tweets, contributors, reach and impacts, and a Top 10 of most active contributors. For easy management, we chose to automatically display all #ICCAWorld Tweets on the screens, without prior moderation. Of course we had the option to delete Tweets from the screens, which we did on 2 occasions during the Congress, when a dubious account started posting irrelevant political Tweets, using our community hashtag. Lumicatch also automatically creates a list of trending topics within your hashtag, which is a nice feature but we did not include it in this version. The link to the screen feed is still available on: https://www.lumicatch.com/viewer/XM665Ya9mpR1278

We also used “Event TV”, provided by our local ICCA Congress technology supplier eKonnect, which was displaying pictures from the official Congress photographers, video interviews, ICCA Silent Auction prizes and Twitter feeds on the big presentation screen in all the rooms before and after sessions started:

Event TV

Event TV in plenary meeting room

Event TV in the main meeting room showing video interviews and #ICCAWorld Tweets before the session starts. 

6. Selfie sticks


This may not seem like a big deal, but it is. We have used them at a number of tradeshows as well, and experience taught us that just walking around with a selfie stick gets people’s attention, and they eventually come up to you and ask you to take a selfie with them! Moreover, you get to include more people! They are not expensive and I would recommend getting a version with a remote, so you don’t have to use a timer. Selfies still proved to be hot; we had 380 Tweets with #SelfICCA.

7. Leading by example of key players

When key players set an example, others will follow.

During the First Time Attendee programme, opening the Congress on Saturday, we asked our speaker, Jon Bradshaw of Meetology to take a selfie (with the selfie stick) from the stage with all 325 First Time Attendees in one pic:

Arnaldo Nardone, stepping down as ICCA President, took a selfie with 900 delegates from stage during his final speech at the General Assembly:

8. We focussed on Twitter as the main social media channel

Twitter is the best friend of meetings and events: All messages are open to the public, messages are quick and short, and you can easily group and find relevant messages with a hashtag. We focussed on Twitter as our main channel, but also had quite a lot of activity on other channels, specifically on Facebook and less in our member-only LinkedIn Group and on Instagram.

9. Pushing live content to website visitors 

In order to push the live content of our Congress to our website visitors, the ICCA Congress website functioned as a live window on the Congress. When someone visited our website during the days of the Congress (1-5- November) a second, smaller sized pop-up over the regular iccaworld.com website automatically opened:

"ICCA Live"

During (and after) the Congress, the Congress homepage contained:

  • A live Twitter feed, including a list of Top contributors
  • YouTube playlist feed live Congress videos
  • PDF versions of the ICCA Congress Daily
  • Flickr slideshow with live Congress pictures

10. Personally involving staff

Social media is all about personal connections. Nobody really likes communicating with a company logo. To personally involve more ICCA staff on Twitter, ICCA Member and Social Media Consultant Gerrit Heijkoop of HCIBS and I have done some Twitter meetings and trainings in the run-up to the congress. Apart from basic How to-trainings, we discussed how they can personally use social media in their ICCA activities, we tried to define personal goals, asked how the online community could help them and discussed what content is worth sharing with members.

In a specific meeting about social media for the Congress we discussed how ICCA staff can help to facilitate and amplify the online discussion around the Congress on Twitter. As a result, more staff were personally involved on Twitter and reported from sessions they were personally involved in (i.e. ICCA Database Workshops) and answered questions with their personal accounts.

11. Involving ICCA Scholarship Students as Social Media Reporters

ICCA is committed to educating young professionals in the meeting industry via the ICCA Education Fund. Each year ICCA invites Scholarship Students from ICCA member Universities to the ICCA Congress to learn about the international meetings industry. We asked these students to voluntarily join the “#ICCAWorld Social Media Support Team”. By doing so, they would have the perfect excuse to “break the ice” and network offline as well as online with many members at the ICCA Congress. We asked them to share key takeaways of Congress education sessions, their personal ICCA Congress story, selfies with members (using the selfie sticks) and pics which show the atmosphere of the ICCA Congress.

12. Plan and schedule messages on best times to Tweet

Based on the Twitter stats of previous years and of other events (thanks for sharing your IMEX Twitter stats Miguel!), we identified the best times to Tweet during the Congress, and we divided pre-scheduled content in themes per hours per day:

  • Night- 8.00: Wrap up and look forward; Preparing daily schedule Good morning!; How was last night?; ICCA Congress Daily publication (schedule most important articles to be posted separately).
  • 8.00-10.00: Preparing daily schedule What not to miss today? Highlights of the day to come; Highlight (keynote) sessions and speakers: Weather forecast
  • 10.00-12.00: Moderate and report from sessions.
  • 12.00-13.00: Lunch and afternoon session preparation Thanks lunch sponsors; Highlight afternoon sessions and speakers.
  • 13.00-17.00: Moderate and report from sessions.
  • 16.00-18.00: Evening programme information (dress codes, transfer times; sponsors)
  • 18.00 – night: Wrap of the day up and social programme pics

We pre-scheduled as much messages as possible and divided content based on these themes.

13. Ingration in the Event App

We included direct links to an #ICCAWorld Twitter feed, Send Tweet (automatically including #ICCAWorld) and links to the other social media channels in the menu of Spotme’s ICCA Congress event app, in order to make it easy for delegates to access and use our different channels.

Social media integration in Spotme Event App

14. Reward influencers

We acknowledged, personally responded and pro-actively approached the most influential #ICCAWorld contributors, in order to stimulate them to continue to share Congress content and join the conversation. The Top contributors list was included on the Twitter walls, in the Lumicatch public statistics report and on the ICCA Congress website as a widget. Apart from acknowledging the top contributors, this list also adds a gamification element to stimulate activity. We have also acknowledged the top contributors with #FF Tweets after the Congress:

15. Last but definitely not least: (shareable) CONTENT

Content is king, also on social media. Our education sessions proved to have great content. I also noticed a trend that more and more speakers are including share-friendly quotes and infographics on their slides, that participants can easily take a picture of and share.

A vital factor for social media of course is to make your content shareable. We did this by creating many banners and infographics: Our statistics show that Tweets with images create a much higher engagement than those without.

Other important content of our Tweets include:

  • Videos: Ian Whiteling of ICCA Member Meeting The World did 2-3 video interviews per day (of max. 3 mins) with ICCA Board Members, speakers and delegates at the Congress, and he also create a wrap-up or review video of the whole Congress, which was shown at the Closing Ceremony. The content of these videos is great, but we find that video is a difficult medium to communicate online, and that they are not generating as much response as we hoped they would.
  • Congress photos: The official Congress Photographers were uploading their ICCA Congress pictures in high resolution to the ICCA Flickr account 3 times per day during the Congress, immediately making them available to share.
  • ICCA Congress Daily: We shared a PDF version of the “ICCA Congress Daily”, a daily newspaper published by CAT Publications, and shared the most important articles individually as well, linking to the PDF.
  • News Reporting: In our live reporting on newsworty events, like the result of the presidential elections and the announced winners of the various awards, we always included pictures of the occasion, and published press releases the same day.

What the experts say

The reaction of some of our industry’s social media experts shows that our Twitter activity was much higher than they usually saw.

Gerrit Heijkoop, who was supporting the social media strategy on a consultancy basis, and is involved in many other major meetings industry events and tradeshows, said: “On average I see 10-20% of delegates at a conference or tradeshow being active on Twitter. I was overwhelmed by the number we saw at this year’s ICCA Congress!”

“It was great to see that the #RoadtoAntalya hashtag worked so well and I think it can be copied by other event planners and conferences. When trying to engage event delegates it is not only about communicating your hashtag, which ICCA has been doing very well for a while, it is about adding a purpose to a hashtag. What do we actually want people to share, so that when they get active on social media their network is seeing that they are going to the ICCA Congress and what they are missing out on, and that they should come next year. We know ICCA Congress delegates are are preparing for the Congress in the weeks before it takes place and are travelling to Antalya. They are preparing, they are packing, and they are waiting in airports: That is the moment you are getting into the mood for the event, and we were leveraging that with the hashtag #RoadtAntalya. It taps in with the FOMO trend: the Fear of Missing Out. Their network is seeing that they are going to the ICCA Congress and what they are missing out on, and are thinking: I should be at the next edition of the ICCA Congress!”.

ICCA Congress speaker and meetings industry online marketing and social media expert Michael Heipel wrote a blog post immediately after returning from the Congress: “I find it fascinating to see how social channels were used by the ICCA Congress audience to network, exchange ideas and propel the key findings that they consider interesting. It is definitely key to a good engagement level to educate and brief the delegates about the social strategy, so that everyone is on the same page. ICCA provided a clear overview of the social activities and how to make the most of joining in the discussion.”

“After my own session “Content going Viral”,  I found more than 50 @Mentions in my Twitter stream, commenting on the session, plus a lot more reactions without my own Twitter handle. Wow!” See: “ICCA Congress propelled on social networks”.

Or did we just get lucky?

Did we do a good job to get this result or did we just get lucky? Is this just a reflection of the general trend that the meetings industry in general is increasingly using social media? We had a lots of very valid news stories to communicate from the Congress, which of course played a big role in getting the sharing rates up.

No matter what the reason is, fact is: We were not able to use Twitter during last year’s ICCA Congress in Shanghai because of the “Great Chinese Firewall”, so our comparison goes 2 years back (see #ICCA12 case study), and this year’s Twitter activity was much, much higher…

What do you think? Does this case study give you any new ideas? Do you have any tips or ideas you would like to share with us? Looking forward to your comments!

6 comments on “15 Reasons ICCA had tremendous Twitter traffic at the 2014 Congress

  1. Pingback: ICCA Congress attendees break records for Twitter usage - Exhibit City NewsExhibit City News

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