How social media supports business events in emerging markets

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My first thoughts when sitting down to write about emerging markets and social media was ‘where to start?’ Social media is a huge topic and emerging markets are vast, so I’ll narrow this down to using popular social media tools to support Business to Business (B2B) events in emerging markets, virtual and physical.

One huge event “The Egyptian Revolution”
Now this deserves a post of its own, and I promise I’ll write one. This was certainly not a B2B event, but I just wanted to mention that, based in Cairo, I experienced how social media supported this huge event.

Some people attributed the whole uprising to social media, namely Facebook and Twitter, others thought the mass protests could happen without them, or that at least people would eventually take to the streets. The latter is correct: the uprising was on the horizon, however, I believe social media played a huge role in orchestrating the mass protests. The decision the government took to “shut down the internet” demonstrated their concern.

The tactics
As a marketer I was obliged to analyse the tactics. Weeks and days before the first mass protest on 25 January 2011, I was sent a Facebook event request, inviting me to participate in a mass protest.

I felt butterflies in my stomach when I realised that over 80 000 people were attending, bearing in mind the uprising in Tunisia had just occurred in the previous weeks. The nature of this campaign was viral; the page was forwarded from contact to contact. Each day, I monitored the page and the attendee numbers increased by thousands.

25 January came and people took to the streets in the masses, shortly after the government ordered all internet and mobile service providers to stop their services.

Social media landscape and usage in emerging markets
The number of attendees to this event demonstrates the high usage of social networks in Egypt. Facebook is extremely popular in many emerging markets. It’s the most popular social network site world-wide, along with other social media platforms like Twitter and YouTube.

You’ve all heard if Facebook was a country it would be the, what’s it now, the third most populous? It has the user base; this makes it ideal for “reach,” for marketers for a start. People in emerging markets enjoy using social media to communicate, learn about the latest trends, fashions and updates in this global village. Also, people in emerging markets are better connected, as governments and service providers are investing in advanced internet connection speeds and mobile internet.

Content can be communicated in local languages and the conversations can take place in local languages, which is an advantage of many of the leading social media tools.

As marketers, it’s vital to research the popular social media platforms used in individual emerging markets countries. When I was last in Tunisia and Libya (before their uprisings), I could not access YouTube. In China, for instance, Facebook is not the most popular social networking site — in terms of users, Renren leads. Individual emerging market countries may have their own local preferred sites and so it’s important to research and understand a country’s social media landscape before planning your strategy. Engaging with a local agency can help, as each country is unique.

Planning, aims and objectives
There’s a lot of hype and confusion about social media and the growth of these platforms can be intimidating. I’m a solid believer in marketing process e.g. CRM. I also believe that for any medium to work for you, you always start with smart objectives or aims and in accordance plan your metrics, otherwise how do you measure success and results?

Prior to communicating you’ll need a plan and content. The messages may be in local languages — if this is the case, whoever manages the social media communication will need to be fluent in that local language. You can find out what languages Twitter supports here.

Pre event
Your objective may be to drive 100 registrations by date x. You could drive registrations from social media sites; you could do this by directing fans on your page or followers on Twitter to your event registration website, capturing registration data, which can be used for follow-up, or by creating an event on your page, however, you may lose the opportunity to get registration data if you create an event on Facebook as people will respond via maybe, join or decline.

As we’re not always entirely sure about the “business quality” of fans, or followers, i.e. they may not be serious buyers; it’s not always advised, for small, highly targeted events to seek to drive registrations through social media. Your company database, in comparison, will tell you more about a company, accounts and their contacts and so it may be better to email these contacts.

You can then encourage visitors from your event website to join your Facebook fan page, or to follow you on Twitter, or to Tweet using a customised hashtag, by promoting these channels on your event site. A hashtag for your event enables people to search content and stay informed prior to the event. Again, this should be promoted by you on related content, i.e. emails and the event website.

Once people have become fans on Facebook or are following you on Twitter, you can then engage them in ongoing discussions, perhaps by using a competition or questions to encourage feedback.

Prior to the event you may want to post videos messages from your speakers or general manager to your Facebook fan page to educate, create hype, comments and feedback, these can also be shared by fans which can increase your following, their peers or “friends” may have similar interests.

The aim here may be to create hype, discussion, ongoing dialogue before the event and to gain real-time feedback.

During the event — keep them engaged
During physical events, you can keep people updated, in real-time, by tweeting or updating your status on Facebook. For example, you may want to advise them of any last-minute changes.

As people may not be checking updates via their own devices, you can project all the event related content on to a projector. Related tweets, which use your hash tag, for example, can be projected onto a screen though a tool called Visual Tweets. This allows you to filter out related tweets using the customised hashtag, and display them in full-screen in creative ways.

The aim here is to keep people discussing your event on social media and to engage your live audience. This is quite entertaining. As the organiser you may also Tweet your own updates in real-time, for example “lunch starts now #ThisEvent.”

You can also ask people for their feedback, live, during the events or when the day has ended, you can receive feedback in real-time and make improvements; this may help, in particular, if it’s a two-day physical event.

For virtual events, you can remind people that they’re about to start by tweeting or updating your fan page on Facebook and sharing the event link. In some emerging market countries, people can be keen to sign up/register for virtual events, but may not always attend, as these are still relatively new to some countries. So it’s good to remind them.

Post event — follow up
The aim and objectives of your event may be to generate sales leads. Once the event’s over you can capture lead data, via social media networking sites, by encouraging fans and followers, who attended, to get in touch via email or by completing a short form, or calling a number. The short form may use qualification questions to filter out people who aren’t ready to buy. For example, you may ask the contacts if they have a budget, authority to purchase, a need and a project timeframe, along with their contact and company details.

Videos of the event can also be posted to social media sites, to your YouTube account or on Facebook, showing highlights of the event and keeping the buzz going. You can also add a call–to-action as people can follow-up months later.

A link to all your event presentations or videos of seminars can also be communicated on social media sites. You can also allow visitors to share your presentations, from your event site, on their own social media accounts, which can be tracked and measured by social media sharing tools. This is also an opportunity to capture new prospects in emerging markets — again, just ensure you add call-to-actions to your presentations.

You can also request feedback. Feedback can be brutally honest, social media is an excellent tool for learning in emerging markets; provided we listen, we can learn and make improvements.

Lastly, it’s always fun to share pictures of the event after on your Facebook page allowing fans to comment on and share their photos.

The usages and benefits of social media in emerging markets are countless, however, a word of advice: fail to plan then plan to fail. Know what you’re aiming to achieve, which social media sites your audience uses and the languages they use for business. Good planning comes off of the back of solid analysis. Local agencies can assist.

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