by Issa Jouaneh | December 11, 2013

Social media has undoubtedly revolutionized the way we interact with one another, build and maintain relationships, and market our brands worldwide. It’s also changing the meetings and events landscape. Social media platforms offer meeting owners the tools to interact directly with attendees in real time. More importantly, they allow for greater distribution of information to broader audiences. While today’s meeting planners are using social media to monitor attendee activities during an event and to collect and evaluate candid feedback following events, we anticipate a more active approach in the coming year as planners seek to better engage with physical and virtual attendees in an effort to deliver stronger returns on their meetings investments.

In the world of social media, content is king. Meeting planners are eager to distribute more content via social channels as a means of amplifying their key messages during corporate meetings and events. By making social media a core component of an organization’s meetings strategy, planners are able to plan ahead and create centralized and accessible channels for attendees to access and share content. This can extend the reach of content to broader audiences outside of physical attendees — an invaluable asset.

Social media policies play an important role in maintaining an organization’s digital integrity by providing guidelines to protect confidential or internal information, while also safeguarding the brand itself. Yet, according to the American Express Meetings & Events 2014 Global Meetings Forecast, 32 percent of all North American survey respondents and nearly 70 percent of respondents in Asia, Central/South America and Europe indicated their organization or clients do not have a social media policy with guidelines regarding their use of social media for meeting and events.

Where to begin? Organizations can start by reviewing any existing communications policies and analyzing how their industry peers are using social media, thus allowing them to better develop a policy that aligns with their organization’s values and mitigates any potential risks. Since policies are not able to fully prevent employees from engaging in conversations online, organizations must embrace this dialogue by making sure their meeting planners are equipped with the right tools to more easily deliver content to attendees and by encouraging those attendees to participate in the conversation.

By planning ahead and identifying the key attendees most likely to engage in online conversations regarding content being shared or the meeting itself, organizations are able to better monitor those conversations to ensure that their messages are being conveyed accurately online. Organizations can also stress the importance of the policy by holding employees accountable and defining the consequences for those who do not adhere to the policy’s guidelines.

There is no better time for organizations to embrace owned content channels. By establishing a clearly defined social media policy and content strategies, meeting planners can increase engagement with attendees, collect feedback to improve future programs and virtually extend the meeting experience to nonattendees worldwide by giving them the proper tools to not only join the conversation but to actively contribute, communicate and engage with key audiences en masse. 

Issa Jouaneh is vice president and general manager of American Express Meetings & Events.