Social networking: Pros and pitfalls for event professionals

Recent research by Nielsen has confirmed the explosion in social networking over the last year, with figure showing that minutes spent on Twitter increased by 3,712 per cent, while Facebook usage was up by 699 per cent.

However, many marketers still feel in the dark as to how they should be using this technology to communicate with clients and raise their profile.

The events industry has taken its first tentative steps towards becoming immersed in the social networking phenomenon, but many professionals working in the sector still feel like they should be doing more and yet are not sure how to go about it.

This is a feeling which recently picked up on and as a result is running a webinar on the subject in partnership with MTO Summit. It will involve a one-hour, introductory session on how to get started with social media.

"Previously, marketers had specific avenues available to them but it's suddenly just been widened with the advent of Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Facebook," explains Heidi Williams, business development manager at Tarsus Group, who is co-ordinating the webinar.

She asserts that the fact that social networking sites are free to get involved in makes them particularly attractive to event professionals.

Ms Williams explains that people within the industry have found that using Twitter and the like has helped to generate publicity about exhibitions and shows in a viral way, with users picking up on a post about an event and then spreading the message to other communities.

She gives the example of a recent event organised by Tarsus, where visitors were tweeting from the exhibition hall and then other users who did not necessarily know about the event were picking up on the posts and communicating them to friends and colleagues.

This went as far as Amsterdam, where one Tweeter wrote about the London event in Dutch, demonstrating the diversity of audiences that can be reached.

"People you don't know actually become a viral tool for you and communicate it to their communities without you putting in the effort, almost," asserts Ms Willians.

However, the webinar is designed to give a balanced view of using social networking, highlighting the potential pitfalls as well as the huge marketing opportunities.

"The intention is to give a very practical and objective view of these technologies because I think there's also some real negativity to using them if you use them wrongly, as you can alienate communities," she says.

Ms Williams also advises that social media is not necessarily right for all events or promotional campaigns and as they can be quite time consuming, it is important to be selective.

"One of the ways this works best is if you've got industry experts commentating on what's going on in their industry," she suggests.

"If the marketing manager has a lot of knowledge about their industry and perhaps uses Twitter to make informative comments about what's going on and what's happening.

"People see through sales pitches and stuff that's obviously marketing spiel so it's about getting people who actually understand their industry to engage with these tools and reach out to other people, to connect with other people."

The webinar will take place on Wednesday June 17th at 03:00 GMT, with Stephen Nold from Meeting Tech Online and Arran Cole of ASP Events sharing their insights.

It is free to attend and accessible to all event professionals who register in advance via the TSNN website at

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