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Digital footprints

by Nicola Macdonald

On 11 September, a diverse group of exhibition organisers met at Good Hotel in East London to discuss what an event’s online presence should look like.

The event was sponsored by LiveBuzz. Photography by Daniel Morales/Splento. Hosted by Good Hotel London

The topic for this month’s Roundtable discussion – how to optimise your event’s online presence – first grew out of a conversation between EN editor Nicola Macdonald and Diversified Communications’ Zoe Lacey-Cooper around how organisers were making use of social media for their events, and it was here that the conversation kicked off.

ZL: I’m interested in this in particular because I’m still on a long journey where I’m learning a lot. We went through a transition period three years where we bought the Accountex brand off another company, and for the first two years we did no social media at all, because we didn’t know what we were doing, we didn’t understand the industry, and the profession works in a very particular way. Then we started to wake up a little to what we should be doing, so we invested a lot of money in social media marketing. But what I was interested to know is who manages it, for us originally it was the sales team which manages it all year around, then the marketing team focuses on visitor related social media during the five-to-six-month marketing campaign. We have recently recruited an editor who now manages our content alongside the sales team for exhibitors, and marketing team for the visitors, and we do morning Twitter posts to keep the brand live all year round. Who does it, who manages it, whose responsibility should it be – that’s what interests me.

Rommon Thompson: For us it’s a bit of a mixture. Because our marketing team is formed up of a matrix, we’ve got our digital team that look after a lot of the channels. Anything digital like social media, they tend to be the owners of it. However, because of the nature of the show, our brand team and our brand marketing team get involved as well.

Hasiba Minhas: For us it’s very, very different. My marketing team is two people and it’s one person’s job to own the social media, to learn about the trends, stay ahead of the game and watch what This Morning is posting. We’re quite different in that we have to keep an eye on their social, and they’re always active.  A lot of the viewers are double screening, which works in our favour, but at the same time they’re interested in TV show and we have to make sure that they’re also aware there’s a live event.

Online streaming

Michael Myburgh: This is something we are looking at at the moment. With World Travel Market we’ve got a big push towards video editing, and very much what we’ve done now is put in a campaign.  They don’t want to be looked as a professional travel industry and all sort of very tight and pulled. We try and be more open and ‘bloggy’ style videoing and try and find out what the big new idea is in the travel industry with our exhibitors. We’re running a video companion with our exhibitors now, which we’ll be pushing out in the next couple of weeks.

HM: Video is big for us. We’re lucky in the sense that ITV’s digital team also are big on video, and they post a few a day. During the show we get all of our footage to use for next year’s campaigns. The first three days of the show when we’re putting content out we’re still encouraging people to book tickets, because the main message is you can still come to the show. We have a same-day video on day one, which goes that night on email and social. When it’s completed, we have a timeframe that it has to be in my hand by about 4pm. When we get that, that goes to the web team, they then put that on the website because the website is switched at midnight anyway to the onsite version. Then we add the video and it goes on social and email as well, and then it goes on our YouTube channel.

James Moffat: There are platforms like Instagram Stories where you’ve got opportunities to experiment with video where the cost is low and also the risk of anything going bad is, well, I can’t say low but it goes after 24 hours. Then by the time you get to your show you know what works and what doesn’t.

RT: It’s horses for courses. What’s the aim for it first, before you decide on what platform you’re going to push whatever content out on, and what do you want back? If you just want engagement or you want someone to action it then you have to think about what channel you want to use. 

External vs Internal

Courtney Baldwin: “We took on a PR company to manage our social because when we took on the show, none of us knew the language and or the audience very well. We decided to take an industry PR company who knew the exhibitors, and who knew the visitors. They ensured that through that transition of the acquisition we still remained the leaders and the knowledgeable people.

Sylvain Meneux: There’s a bit of a battle between many companies because I think when you do it yourself you accumulate the knowledge.  Add to that the knowledge of the audience, then you’re in a much better place than when you outsource to an agency, especially when in our industry we see people come in and out.  So you get somebody on the job for a couple of years and they move out and then this knowledge gets lost.  We regularly have these conversations about this struggle between should we outsource or should we do it ourselves. It takes some time but the job is done better I think.

MM: I come from marketing agencies and it’s the first time I’ve actually gone and looked at any events, so it’s quite interesting for me to see an agency side and incorporate the event side. I suppose I come from the old school where I feel that agencies still own the best marketers.

SM: I think the risk is when you have a smaller budget and then the agency, then you’re a small fish. If you do it yourself you can really immerse yourself into it, make it work, make a case, and next year you’ll have a bigger budget for it to reallocate money towards it.

Allocating budget

NM: Are you finding it harder to decide where to spend money, when there are so many possible avenues to go down in terms of marketing?

SM: Yes, especially with everything that’s not measurable, or that’s difficult to measure. Since I joined Upper Street I’ve tried to push for measurement as much as possible,. When I joined sometimes 100 per cent of the marketing budget was direct mail and that’s not right. People rely on discount codes, I introduced using control groups, but beyond that these are channels that are impossible to track.

ZL Social media marketing is quantifiable, so when I’m doing my budgets year-on-year, I can say we’ve increased by 10 per cent this year because we did X, Y and Z. It’s quantifiable. It’s the beauty of online media, and that does help with me getting a little bit more budget. But it’s how much you can spend? From a marketing perspective, you could spend so much.

HM: I think it all depends on your industry, a lot of our audience is mummies and I’m working  a bunch of mummy bloggers. They all want a fee, so I’ve got a small pot which I spread across eight people. But it’s worth it, and if they come to the show, then we’ve got content. They’re celebrities in their own right, they’ve got huge followers and that’s where we’ll get a new audience. We’ve got the TV audience already but we want people who are going to spend money with the exhibitors.

Delving through data

RT: This year we’ve seen the value of having a marketing analyst because it means that as brand marketing I can see everything but I don’t have to see everything in spreadsheets and budget tables that I’ve done myself.  I know there it is, in graphs, then if I want to I can delve into the data detail more. I think we got ourselves up to 93 per cent of our digital activity I tracked fully.

CB: Do you have quite a clear picture of the proportion of people that have engaged with your pre-reg campaign socially that actually turn up at the event?

RT: To some extent, yes. We have the capability of being able to link into your social activity but we haven’t done that integration yet. 

ZL: When do you stop with the budget? And paying for social media and then paying for someone to analyse it. The costs go up.

RT: That’s why we went in-house with so much of our stuff.

NM: Do you find it easy enough to say this is a very expensive thing but it’s worth spending that money?

MM: If you want to draw the line between whether you’re going to drown yourself in data or whether you’re going to go more to the people side of things. You can look at the data, and data’s great, I come from strategic analysts, I like that side of it. But I also try to make sure that the marketers are on the ground, make sure that we actually touch the people, because you’re not going to do anything with that data if you can’t even get it out to the people.

RT: I really want us to move towards behavioural data, not so much just data in general. We know full well just from surveys that people say stuff but they may act differently. We all do it. We know that what we say on paper isn’t necessarily what we do and how we act and what touchpoints we’ve had. Behavioural data that we can have on people actually tells us what people are doing and so then we can talk to them better.

A seamless web experience

JM: We talk about the same message but different voices. It’s a very creative process and I would consider the website to be more about experience and social to be more about conversation and community. But you’ve got to have them talking to each other. The lessons that we see or that we try to say to organisers is when they have a social team and they have a website team and they’re not talking. You really have got to make sure is ties in together. You have control over a website that you don’t have with platforms. It’s an opportunity to create that experience, and I think a lot of people almost treat their website like Twitter or Facebook and don’t see it as an opportunity to create something that really reflects their show in the digital space, because that’s the key advantage websites have over social.

SM: People go to a website for a very specific reason. They’re here to do something so you have to make it seamless; the call to action needs to be at the right place and the navigation needs to be fast and the website needs to be fast.

ZL: In our company we have a set way of doing websites. We do natural product shows and I don’t want an accounting business technical show to look like a natural product show. We have an in-house designer and amazing web design, the design team are absolutely incredible and they understand the individuality, whereas I think before it’s just been ‘this is the template’.

RT: It’s the problem with standardisation, but I get why you need standardisation if you’ve got a huge portfolio. They’re naturally going to have standardisation, but it gets to the point of how rigid is it and does it serve its need?

JM: There’s a growing trend towards standardisation of portfolio. But I think more and more organisers are trying to make it more of a soft touch in terms of navigation and layout, as opposed to anything like design or creative. You still get the benefit of users that go to one of your events and have figured out how to go there and check a speaker out and add it to their diary. They know how to do that for all of your events, but in terms of the experience that the website will give you, it’s a bit more bespoke.

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