As money gets tighter, impact is going to become a key word around events.
As the new kid on the block, social media is likely to be the first activity that has to justify it's impact on the success of your event. But it will only be the first. Clients and executives are going to ask for more and more concrete proof that your event is delivering the level of impact they require.
So how do you express the impact of the social media activity associated with your event? Follower numbers, “likes”, +1's, and hit rates don't necessarily mean anything to the people who sign the checks, so we need to learn how to put these things into context and communicate the impact of our social media activity more effectively.
In this article, we explore what impact really means and some of the ways you can demonstrate the impact of social media at your event.
What is Impact?
Impact is all about changing someone's behavior or thinking. It's about making a difference.
So how might you measure the impact your social media activity is making as part of your overall event strategy?
Measure Your Influence
In academia, one of the key measures of impact is the citation. Having your work cited by someone else is evidence that you have influenced their thinking and that they give trust your ideas. It also shows that they think you are worth citing: You will give weight to their argument.
In social media there are many ways people can cite you. They can re-tweet you. They can like your Facebook update or your LinkedIn post. They can give you a +1 on Google+. These numbers are really easy to get, but unless you present them well and in a meaningful way, they are just that — numbers.
Tools like Klout and PeerIndex are emerging as ways of making sense of these numbers. These provide you with feedback about your influence, your amplification probability, your reach and your topical profile, which you can compare openly with your competitors to see how you are performing.
Put Statistics into Familiar Language
Most event organizers still use social media tools primarily for promotional purposes. But how might we actually value this activity?
The answer is in dollars and cents.
Think about what you know to be the costs and ROI on an equivalent offline activity, such as sending out a print copy of your event brochure.
- How many printed brochures you normally send out for your event?
- How much it costs you to do this?
- What is the booking rate resulting from these brochures?
Say you post out 5,000 brochures and you would normally get 150 bookings as a result. Each booking brings you a revenue of $500. It costs you $1.50 to print and post each brochure. So for an outlay of $7,500 you can potentially generate $75,000 worth of bookings.
For every online download, you save $1.50. If you have 5,000 online downloads you save $7,500. That's a powerful number in itself! But we already know that online downloads save money. However, if you use your website analytics to see how many people reached your download page from each of your social media channels, you can use this to put a clear monetary value on your social media activity in terms of real, hard cash.
Everyone values networking at conferences, and social media is the perfect platform to help facilitate more effective networking.
It's difficult to measure the effectiveness of traditional networking at an event. How many people got connected? How many business cards were exchanged? Did your attendees connect with the right people?
Because we can get a lot of data from online social networking tools, it's tempting to assume that we should be able to measure the benefits of online networking much more easily. But the truth is that the value in networking goes beyond numbers. We still need direct feedback to establish whether attendees really did make valuable connections during the event. If we try to argue that a high volume of tweets on our event hash tag indicates a high level of successful networking at an event, we risk being drawn to saying that the decibel volume of chatter in the room at an event is also indicative of successful networking, which most of us would agree to be a fairly dubious measurement.
What we can do with social media data is map how attendees are networking and identify the key networkers in the room. Here numbers won't help you to demonstrate this clearly for your clients, but visualizations can.
There are various free tools that can help you visualize the online interactions of your attendees during and after the event:
- Visualize the connections between people tweeting your event hash tag.
- See how far tweets about your event have reached.
- Create a breakdown of top Twitterers, top conversationalists and other useful information using Twapperkeeper and Summarizr.
- Visualize your twitter stream over time to see what topics emerge, using Twitter Stream Graphs.
These visualizations will help you to paint a picture of the social media activity around your event and inform decisions for future events. How might you plan your event differently if you knew the key networkers in audience?
The whole point of conducting these type of analyses of your event's social media impact is to provide you with business intelligence for future events, so don't be seduced by a pretty graph. Make sure that the visualization you're using demonstrates something useful to know.
Numbers are important. People are influenced by numbers. The media are influenced by numbers. Your clients are influenced by numbers. However, the numbers have to mean something tangible. Remember these five top tips:
- Make sure you are collecting data — if you're not collecting it, you can't use it!
- Present it in a meaningful way — either in dollars and cents, or in useful visualizations.
- Tailor your statistics to reflect what you actually want to know — a pretty graph is just that!
- Combine data about equivalent offline activities with online data to get a realistic, comparative picture of how your social media activities are performing against your more traditional working models.
- Compare your activity to that of your competitors.