by Michael Shapiro | March 9, 2012
Last week, event-community platform provider Pathable published a report, State of Social Networking for Events: Outlook for 2012. Fueling that report was a brief survey of 111 event pros, conducted from December 2011 through this past January. The results, while not particularly surprising, provide some insight into how planners are using social media and whether or not they've done so successfully.
First off, all 111 respondents had indeed used social networks for their events (but only one-fifth had used Pathable, so the survey wasn't limited to customers). More than two-thirds (68 percent) said they were doing so successfully. According to the report, the successful ones were those who had dedicated resources to managing and moderating the networks, as well as taken the time to determine the appropriate network or networks for their event audiences. Again, that isn't surprising, but it underscores a basic tenet of social media success -- time and resources are required to make it work. Event organizers must actively promote the platforms, and they must participate in the discussions that happen on them.
Of course, the fact that nearly one-third of respondents called their social media efforts unsuccessful clearly indicates this is still a work in progress. The hardest parts about using social media tools to support events, based on responses from all of those surveyed, were "engaging attendees," "finding one platform that does everything, from announcements to check-in list for registration" and "synchronization with live events, such as getting feedback from social media to a speaker without disturbing the speaker's flow."
The second point sounds like a pitch for the multifaceted Pathable platform, but in any case it speaks to the challenge of developing an effective technology workflow. With all of the different types of technologies planners must coordinate during the course of an event, how can they integrate them so that the planning team's workload isn't significantly larger? Increasingly, technology providers such as registration companies are introducing social-media functionality; mobile apps for events are available not just from dedicated app developers but also from companies that provide other types of event technology. Finding the right combination of tools at the right price, that do everything you want and that all work together seamlessly, can be a tall order. (This was touched on briefly in our March feature, "Online Communities Enhance Events.")
Based on the survey results, social networks are still being used a lot more to convey information than they are to foster conversation. Eighty-seven percent of respondents are using social media for event promotion, and 57 percent are doing so to make announcements and share information. Slightly more than one-third (35 percent) use social media for online scheduling for attendees. But only 29 percent of respondents say they're using social media to increase conversations or engagement for their events. In the coming year, as companies likely dedicate more resources to the success of social media endeavors, I suspect that engagement number will grow.

What's working best for your events, and what's just hype? We'd love to hear about your social media approaches.