How ICCA used social media to add value to its 2015 Congress
The 2014 ICCA Congress in Antalya had tremendous social media traffic and provided some valuable results (see: 15 Reasons ICCA had tremendous Twitter traffic at the 2014 Congress). The most valuable results were not only the fact that 59% of the delegates indicated in the post-congress survey that they used social media before, during and/or after the event, but that 70% of those delegates said it helped them increase the value of their ICCA Congress experience. Additionally, almost 75% said they feel using Twitter helped them to increase their interaction with other members. These are very high and tangible results that are hard to top! Was this a one year result only and did ICCA get lucky or was this a more structural result that we could repeated this year?
Quick recap: Objectives
Every social media strategy should be based on clear objectives. Before going into the 2015 results, here’s a quick recap of the objectives of our social media activities for the ICCA Congress, which have not changed compared to the previous year. These are:
- Increase the value of the Congress for members
- Increase interaction and connectivity between members, before, during and after the event
- Show members that are not going what they are missing
- Online ICCA profiling to our other target groups: potential members, associations, press
So how did we do this year?
Activity: Has the #ICCAWorld Congress community reached a critical mass?
This year, 58% of all Congress delegates indicated to have used social media before, during and/or after the event – again a very high score, especially considering that according to Gerrit Heijkoop (How Can I Be Social’s Social Media Consultant who provided input in ICCA’s social media strategy), the average percentage of participants active on Twitter at tradeshows and events is around 10-20%.
It seems that the ICCA audience has reached a critical mass – delegates are missing out if they are not joining the online conversation!
Increasing value and networking
Increasing value and networking are the key indicators, as these are directly related to our objectives. In 2015 77% of the delegates who were active on social media feel using social media channels before and during the ICCA Congress helped to increase the value of their Congress experience (+7% compared to 2014). 76% feel using social media channels before and during the Congress helped to increase their interaction with other members (+1%).
Here’s some of the feedback from ICCA members on how social media increased their event-value:
My social media activity helped me to prepare for the Congress ahead of time to make sure to make the most of it.
Since I was a first time attendee, I was able to make contact with some other attendees such as my mentor or people in the same group, which made me decrease my worries prior to the event.
Social media helped me to anticipate some of the content at the congress and to get in touch early with some other participants.
It gives visibility within the industry, it shows partners and clients how involved an organisation is and it adds the fun factor!
I felt more engaged attending the conference.
It made me more excited to go there.
It helped me to connect with new people, and to know everything that is happenning during the congress (we cannot attend all the sessions, for example ).
Getting in the congress mood, and following important messages. More visable than in an email.
Increases participation and interaction.
Start interacting, getting into the spirit before the event. Afterwards keep in touch and sharing the experience.
There was a nice build-up of excitement and one could already see who was going to attend.
Social media allows me to be connected with delegates that maybe you didn´t have a chance to talk to during the congress, and made me feel part of a big #ICCAWorld family.
People that aren’t there are able to see the value of the ICCA Congress and put it on their wish list for the following year to attend.
Easy to interact with other participants and share the experience.
Connected with new people and engaged more with existing contacts
Opportunity to pick up information and engage more with other delegates
Building up excitement and expectations through Twitter.
Last year, 7,377 ICCA Congress Tweets were shared by 1,666 contributors in the run-up and in the aftermath of the Congress (23 September until 28 November). This year, 8,524 ICCA Congress Tweets (using hashtag “#iccaworld” OR “@iccaworld” OR “#roadtoargentina” OR “#iccafriends”) were shared over roughly the same period (22 September until 1 December) by 1,344 contributors.
The figures showing that we had less contributors could have to do with the fact that we had about 150 participants less in Argentina in 2015 compared to Turkey in 2014 – due to the fact that most of our members are based in Europe.
Of the total number of 8,524 tweets, almost 37% were original tweets (+4% compared to 2014); 30% of these 37% contained images and or links (+9%) and 7% were text only. 59% (-1%) were retweets and 5.5% replies (+0.7%). In short: We used a lot more images in our Tweets in 2015, had more interaction and the most #ICCAWorld Tweets were still retweets, which indicates the content is being perceived as valuable.
On average, each contributor sent out 6.6 tweets (last year’s average was 4.4 tweets); 214 contributors (15% of all contributors) posted 6 or more tweets in this period and 54% only 1; last year 163 contributors sent out 6 or more tweets and 74% sent out only 1. Despite the fact that the total number of contributors was lower than last year, those that were active were a lot more active; the #ICCAWorld online community on Twitter consisted of a hard-core group of a couple of hundred users.
We also had 43 Instagram messages this year, compared to only a few last year.
The reach (= number of unique users that could have seen Tweets with the #ICCAWorld hashtag) was up from 2.4 to 3.4 million Twitter accounts. The impact (= the potential number of times somebody could have seen Tweets with the #ICCAWorld hashtag) went up from almost 15 million to over 22 million impressions.
There were 664 delegates at the 2015 ICCA Congress in Buenos Aires, which started 1 November 2015 (the 2015 Congress lasted one day shorter than in 2014 and started on a Sunday instead of a Saturday). On the evening of Friday, 30 October we already had 2,567 tweets by 649 contributors. On the evening of Sunday, 1 November, the day the Congress started, this amount had grown to 3,849 tweets by 812 contributors. The next evening of 3 November, the number of Tweets had grown to 4,869 tweets by 959 contributors, so roughly over 1,000 Tweets were sent out on each Congress day.
Twitter is still king
It should be mentioned that these numbers include Twitter traffic only. We shared a lot of the same content via our ICCAWorld Facebook page and Facebook Event Pages— our members-only LinkedIn Group, and Instagram, especially before and after the Congress. However, we drove these audiences towards Twitter just before the Congress and invited them to join the online conversation there, and this is where most of the interaction took place. Proven to have been effective especially during the event, Twitter was the most preferred channel.
Twitter is recently getting some criticism about it lacking innovation and the growth in the number of monthly active Twitter users is slowing down, but Twitter is still the primary channel for interaction during live 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. It would be interesting to see what alternatives are yet to come in the near future; Smaller closed groups like Whatsapp and Slack are growing rapidly and could provide better options to have more in-depth discussions online.
At this year’s Congress, we built on last year’s strategy and we focused even more on driving education and networking. We truly believe you can only be successful with creating online interaction if you go with the flow, by listening and paying close attention to what our members and delegates are already doing off- and online, and finding ways to facilitate and amplify these trends.
- Hashtags with a call to action
We repeated the different hashtags with clear calls to action. More than last year, we took the delegates by the hand and tried to inspire them to use social media to add value to their Congress experience. We communicated Gerrit Heijkoop’s “5 L’s”, which provide a useful rule of thumb to help write valuable and relevant social media updates, on all channels. See “What to share?”.
We took the hashtag-campaigns a step further this year:
The #RoadtoArgentina campaign, aimed at building excitement and encouraging preparation by triggering delegates to “Share your images, tips and advice on your journey to- and preparations for the #ICCAWorld Congress in Argentina”, did not start 3 weeks before the Congress, like the #RoadtoAntalya campaign the year before, but actually already started during the closing session of the 2014 Congress when delegates started sharing: “See you on the #RoadtoArgentina!”.
We facilitated and amplified this into a year-long #RoadtoArgentina campaign by organising Tango-dance competitions together with the Argentina Local Host Committee at the ibtm and IMEX tradeshows, at which ICCA members had to take a picture in a Tango dancing pose with professional Tango dancers for a chance to win a free registration for the Congress.
The closer we got to the Congress the more we applied fun strategies such as the daily #RoadtoArgentina alphabet countdown to show some of the highlights related to the upcoming Congress:
Sharing learnings: #ICCAWorld
We used the community hashtag #ICCAWorld as the official hashtag for the Congress again, and we spelled out how delegates can use it. During the Congress, the call to action for #ICCAWorld was to share key takeaways with the ICCA community. This year we added a link to Twitter from the event app after delegates filled in a session evaluation, asking them to share their key takeaways online.
After grouped key takeaways in Storify again read like shared notes from Congress education sessions (see: https://storify.com/iccaworld/iccaworld) and members tell us they use them for sessions they have missed.
After the Congress, we follow-up by sharing content from the sessions including the learnings shared on Twitter by delegates, links to the presentations, session videos and posts from the speakers to give additional value and a second life to this content.
In order to encourage the sharing of learnings amongst ICCA Congress delegates, we asked all staff and scholarship students at the Congress to share at least one or two key takeaways per session to which they were assigned.
Don’t only share your learnings for the community, but for selfish reasons as well! I just saw a very interesting recent research, which proves that making your personal learnings very explicit by finding the words to formulate and share them, will deepen your learning experience. I have to look into this further, but this could provide a very valid additional argument to share key takeaways during events.
The #ICCAFriends hashtag replaced last year’s “#SelfICCA” and this proved to be a more natural fit to our audience, especially since selfies are becoming a bit of a drag.
The relationships and camaraderie between ICCA members go beyond business: it’s a global network of friends, often even referred to as the “ICCA Family”. We knew lots of ICCA members have become great friends, or will make new friends, at the ICCA Congress, and so, we asked delegates to remember the moments with their ICCA Friends at the Congress by taking a group picture and share it using hashtag #ICCAFriends.
- Personally involving staff
Social media is all about personal connections. Nobody really likes communicating with a company logo.
Using last year’s statistics, showing that 59% or our delegates were using social media before, during and/or after the Congress, we encouraged more staff to become personally active on Twitter during the Congress. After all, if most of the delegates are there, we should be there as well to provide personal service and information.
We organised meetings, sometimes per department, in which we elaborated on the social media campaigns for the Congress and discussed how ICCA staff can help to facilitate and amplify the online discussion on Twitter; we discussed what to share, what were their goals of sharing information, as well as practical information on how Twitter works, what profile picture and header to use, etc.
As a result, more staff was personally involved on Twitter, shared key takeaways from sessions they were personally involved in, and answered questions from delegates with their personal accounts. Also, the enthusiasm to share relevant information with delegates online resulted to some great ideas and made the lives of the Marketing department much easier.
For instance, the Events team shared some great posts on the preparations and the build-up of the venue, as well as video which showed how to travel from the hotels to the congress venue by metro:
The online interaction builds energy and excitement, not only for the delegates, but also for the organisers.
- Advocacy marketing: InGo
We experimented with a tool called InGo this year. InGo (http://www.ingo.me/) is a social media event marketing plugin, which encourages delegates to personally invite their network for the event.
This “advocacy marketing tool” greatly matches the “network of trust” which exists amongst ICCA members, and utilises and mobilises the high net promoter scores indicated in ICCA Congress surveys. Selling and advertising are not a good match with social channels and this tool allows us to use social media in an ideal way: encouraging our member community to promote the ICCA Congress instead of only pushing registration ourselves.
The InGo social widgets are integrated in the registration process in our eTouches registration system and allow delegates to register with their social account and pre-fill in fields in the registration form, but more importantly, also allow them to personally invite connections in their LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Xing network on those platforms with just one click or share their registration on social media. We also integrated a link to the widget in the Congress bulletin emails. This proved to be a big step up from your typical “share your registration” buttons.
462 delegates registered for the Congress after we implemented InGo. 82 of these registrants used the InGo social widget to invite their connections and become ICCA Congress advocates. These 82 advocates sent out 27 personal invitations through their social networks and shared their registration with 41,102 connections in total. 122 network contacts of the 82 advocates registered for the ICCA Congress after receiving a personal invitation or seeing a shared message on social media.
- From reporting to orchestrating content
I have been writing case studies on how ICCA used social media at its annual Congress for the last 5 years now (except for our 2013 Congress in Shanghai, where we were dealing with the “Great Chinese Firewall”), and it is very interesting to see how quick it has evolved. From an organiser point of view, our activities moved from mostly creating all the content ourselves and reporting on the event, to creating more interaction and moderating and orchestrating the best content from delegates and colleagues.
The social media hype is over. It is no longer just about fun and games: We have to show real value and ROI, and it looks like we are making steps to further extend this value every year.