Social Media and Your Meeting: No Longer an Optional Topic

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Creative Commons License photo credit: JeffSands

This blog post is for business leaders, meeting professionals, and others who plan events. At The Speakers Group, clients expect us to offer innovative speaker suggestions to help them make their next event the best ever, and it has become clear that the topic everyone wants to know about today is social media. Social media sessions at conferences – whether breakouts or keynotes – are some of the most-attended and highest-rated, and the subject is in such demand that social media-specific conferences are selling out easily. If you plan events, we hope this post will help you in considering how to integrate social media into your agenda.

In case you haven’t noticed, social media (or new media, or social networking) is everywhere. Blogs. Facebook. LinkedIn. Twitter. YouTube. Flickr. The list of social media tools and applications goes on and on, and it’s multiplying every day. As recently as a few months ago, businesses and professionals were asking, “Is this relevant to me/my organization/my industry/my profession?” It’s hard to question relevance, though, when:

  • Facebook alone now claims over 250 million members. It’s estimated that there are another 300+ million people engaged in other social media channels. Odds are, some of those people are your colleagues, employees, customers or prospects. You want to connect with them, right?
  • Over the next five years, Forrester Research estimates social media marketing to grow at an annual rate of 34 percent – faster than any other form of online marketing and double the average growth rate of 17 percent for all online mediums. That means social media marketing spending will hit $3.1 billion in 2014. The question is not whether you need to invest in social media marketing, but how do you spend wisely?
  • TIME magazine recently featured “10 Ways Twitter Will Change American Business.” Has your business been impacted yet? If it hasn’t already, it’s very likely that it soon will be.

Whether you plan meetings for an association, non-profit, corporation, healthcare organization, Chamber of Commerce, government entity, or institute for higher education…

Whether your meeting objectives are to boost sales, increase employee engagement, build customer loyalty, or improve the quality of healthcare…

Social media is one topic you can’t afford to leave off of your meeting agenda.

No matter your industry, no matter your profession, social media matters. Here are a few examples:

Social Media and Associations

Buzz2009, the first “Social Media for Associations” event was held on July 9 and focused on helping association executives learn social media concepts and strategies that would allow them to:

  • Recruit more members
  • Energize their events
  • Activate their community online
  • Engage volunteers by leveraging your social capital
  • And much more!

In addition to featuring several social media “expert” speakers, one of the sessions featured a panel discussion with real stories of how associations are implementing social media programs to deepen their connections to existing members. Read this post on SmartBlog for some of the highlights, including examples from the American School Counselor Association, Property Casualty Insurance Association of America, IEEE and CEA.

Social Media and Healthcare

What role does social media play in healthcare? A fascinating one! From Aurora Health Care broadcasting a surgery on Twitter as means of patient education to physicians tweeting and blogging to strengthen the doctor-patient bond, the medical community is finding that there are many relevant applications of social media. (Here’s a blog post about Three Ways Healthcare Brands Can Leverage Social-Media.)

Leading healthcare organizations such as Cleveland Clinic, Duke University Health System, Henry Ford Health System, Mayo Clinic, and Emory Healthcare recently gathered at the Healthcare New Media Marketing Conference in Phoenix to learn and discuss best practices. Watch this short video featured at the conference to see exactly how social media is impacting the healthcare industry:

Social Media and Human Resources

Human resources professionals are especially interested in social media, whether because of the unique challenges it presents for corporate IT policies, or because of the opportunities it presents to increase community and engagement among employees, or because of the potential it holds in attracting and retaining top talent. The topic was explored at the most recent Annual Conference of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and also at  the Social Media for Talent Management Conference in New York and the Innovating Employee Engagement Meets Executing Social Media event in Chicago.

In August, the Advanced Learning Institute’s 26th forum on Internal Branding: How To Use Strategic Communications To Drive Employee Engagement, Build Your Brand, & Impact Your Organization’s Bottom Line, will be held, and among the companies involved are Hyatt Corporation; AAA Northern CA, NV & UT; American Express Canada; Benetton USA; Pitney Bowes; U.S. Department of the Interior; and Booz Allen Hamilton.

Social Media and Government

On one hand, government is all about the people, and social media is where the people are. On the other, government is usually not thought of as being the most forward-thinking in terms of technology. With government budgets being tighter than ever before, though, representatives at the federal, state and municipal levels must find new, more efficient ways to support their constituents over the web. Social media provides that solution, offering a great way to connect and mobilize a community.

The Advanced Learning Institute just held their 11th Forum on Social Media for Government: How To Engage Your Employees And Citizens By Using The Latest Web 2.0 Technologies To Drive Communication Results.

Social Media and Corporations

BlogWell: How Big Brands Use Social Media is an upcoming event that will feature eight case studies of big businesses successfully using social media, including General Mills (How the parent of Betty Crocker, Yoplait, and Pillsbury uses social media), McDonald’s (Social media for internal and external communication), Walmart (Using social media to connect with 200 million customers), and Ford (Sharing your story through social media).

At the previous BlogWell event, Josh Karpf, PepsiCo’s manager of digital communications, shared some insights based on their social media strategies. Read some highlights here.

Social Media and Small Business

Like all businesses, small businesses depend on their customers for survival. What makes small businesses different, though, is that their budgets are more limited than their big business competitors, and they often depend on superior, hyper-personalized customer service to compete with their larger competitors. Social media is valuable on both counts.

Because connecting with customers and prospects is the foundation of all successful social media programs, blogs, forums and social networks allow small businesses to bring the voices of their customers directly into their organizations. And to top it all off, most of these social media tools are free or very affordable. That’s why BusinessWeek columnist Steve McKee says social media is worth a small business’ time.

Recognizing the relevance of social media to small business, The Frederick County Chamber of Commerce in Maryland recently held a full-day social media conference to help business leaders in their community consider whether or not to use social media, and if so, how to use it strategically for maximum effectiveness.

Social Media and Higher Education

You don’t have to look far to see how social media is becoming a focal point for colleges and universities. A recent post highlights “10 Ways Universities Share Information Using Social Media” – among them, to showcase student and faculty work, broadcast events, and create a dialogue with students. An April article in The Chronicle of Higher Education explains why college admissions offices overwhelmingly consider social media important for recruiting students and cites studies that show more institutions are creating blogs (41%) and online social networking profiles (61%). And now students are even learning about social media in the classroom.

In Conclusion

We could go on and on with examples, but what does all of this tell us?

  1. Social media has near-universal relevance – it’s hard to find an industry or profession that cannot benefit from either internal or external (or both) applications of social media.
  2. There is a craving for wisdom and guidance in navigating the ever-changing, often-overwhelming world of social media – people and organizations are looking for help!
  3. If you don’t address social media on your meeting agenda, your attendees are going to turn to another event that does (such as those listed above).

As you look to help your attendees by incorporating social media content into your program, we at The Speakers Group are here to help you, having already researched numerous social media practitioners and authorities so you don’t have to. Search the web and you’ll find hundreds, if not thousands of “social media speakers” for consideration, but if you have other things to do, check out 10 Social Media Speakers who are guaranteed to deliver the kind of cutting-edge, proven insights your attendees expect.