Friday, December 19, 2008

Social Media is the End of Tradeshows

Just about every company is using the current economic crisis as an excuse to re-evaluate its event strategy. More than just a few companies have decided to forgo their booth presence, something that would have been unheard of just a few years ago. Scobleizer puts the blame of the dying tradeshow industry on bloggers and social networks but I think tradeshows have been struggling to show tangible return on ROI for quite some time and social media offers the first successful alternative.

Whatever the reason, social media and web 2.0 are being utilized more than ever to connect with customers. Here are just a few ideas I had when it comes to leveraging these tools to maximize your involvement at a tradeshow:

  • Blogging - okay this is an obvious one but make sure you have one or two people covering the show. Summarize keynotes, write about what's hot and what's not - and not only traditional blog posts but microblogging with Twitter is a great way to make people who aren't at the show feel like they know the major happenings and video can really bring things alive!
  • SMS - if you have a keynote session you can use SMS as a way to poll the audience or take questions.
  • Widgets - Maybe you can create a widget that ties everything together, your blog posts, event schedule, collateral - you can even create a countdown to the show or any other major announcements.
  • Virtual Presence - In lieu of a booth promote and send your customers to an online environment where they can not only attend a virtual event but they can ask questions, network and be part of a community you can grow over time. Check out what ON24, Unisfair and InXpo are doing in this space...
  • PowerPoint - Post your webcast and keynote presentations on your community (ie. Facebook), on your blog and on SlideShare to extend the reach of the content.
  • Mobility - Leverage the fact that everyone has a cell phone these days. Allow people to see the event schedule from their phones and offer to provide reminders to your events. Provide mobile promotions where you can send links to content or videos to those who request them. You an even enable your sales folks to send mobile business cards to people they meet.
If you have other ideas I'd love to hear about them...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Running a Blog Like a Newspaper

When it comes to running a corporate blog I think we can all learn from Molly Mulally, Marketing Manager at Abrevity. They didn’t just jump into the blogosphere blindly; they had clear, achievable objectives in mind: increase web traffic, demonstrate industry leadership and build a following of readers who are interested in learning about the industry (not just Abrevity).

The Abrevity blog provides a platform for Molly and her team to quickly and easily generate new content used for educating customers and partners. For an emerging industry like data classification, this allows Abrevity to demonstrate both domain expertise and legitimacy in the market.

However the “why” is not what sets them apart from most blogging companies – it’s the “how”. Molly manages her blog team like a newspaper editor. There are deadlines, word counts, editorial meetings, and assignments. The team of six bloggers meets weekly to discuss upcoming story possibilities and each blogger is expected to write one post a week on a topic in which they are considered a subject matter expert. This does not only ensure that the Abrevity blog has a constant flow of fresh content but that the different facets of the market are covered by an ‘expert’.

Molly also considered how they would participate and have a voice on other industry blogs. To keep a pulse on the market, each of the bloggers has a list of blogs they follow as well as Google alerts set up based on their subject matter expertise and they are encouraged to comment on other blogs as appropriate. To make things fun there is an incentive to participate in other blogs – each week, the blogger with the most comments gets a free lunch. Oh and Molly thought of everything, “Hey great post” does not count – comments must have ‘substance’ and add value to the conversation. To keep track of the conversations they have across the team there is a tracking sheet created which is updated and managed weekly.

It’s been just two months since the launch of the Abrevity blog and the ROI is already apparent. Molly has been able to track and identify the blog as a source doubling Abrevity's web traffic and collateral downloads and a noticeable uptake in sales leads since starting the program.

Molly’s recommendation to those looking to start a blog is, “Do your research, and don’t start too ambitiously. Start with realistic posting deadlines and how many posts a day (ie. one a day vs. one a week).” However my advice is to seriously consider following her process and run your blog like a newspaper!