by By Tom Isler | February 01, 2009

Karissa RLast month, M&C's cover story ("Blogged Down?") looked at ways planners could manage their meeting's reputation online via monitoring, influencing and responding to attendee feedback. Other partners in the meetings industry use social media as well.

Karissa Rittmeyer, until recently the social media manager and manager of communications for the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association (she left in January to become the events and media manager and Indy Hub Inc., a company that promotes happenings to young professionals in the city), made time to talk with M&C about how she worked to protect and enhance the Indianapolis brand online.

How did you monitor what was being said about Indy or the ICVA?

Google Alerts -- it's an easy way to catch online news channels. Google also offers a Blog Alert tool that will send blog search results via RSS technology. I had several RSS feeds from various blogs and media outlets coming to my RSS reader home page.

How often did you scan for posts, and how often did you find you needed to respond to something?

This was part of my day, skimming the news and blogosphere to see what was being said. When I found something that needed to be responded to, it was considered on a case-by-case basis. We tred not to interject too often, unless the information was flat-out incorrect, in which case we responded with the correct information. Otherwise we might simply make an effort to redirect the conversation. We responded to roughly half of the blog posts about Indianapolis and tourism-related topics.
What was your preferred method of responding to bloggers? Did you respond directly on blogs or take the conversation offline?

We thought it was important to respond directly to bloggers, truly engaging them and making responses targeted and authentic. Most often, I would respond directly on the blog, via the comments section. There were times I chose to open a dialogue offline, as a matter of introduction or to further a relationship. But almost always this was in addition to participating in their online discussion via the comments.

What difference do you think you made doing this kind of work?

Indianapolis is definitely making a positive influence via these online conversations. For example, during our largest citywide convention -- National FFA [formerly Future Farmers of America] last October with 55,000 attendees -- we came across an online conversation with several negative comments. As I read through the comments, I found that initially the conversation was positive, but someone along the way threw in one opinion that started a negative wave of comments. My colleagues and I began weighing in with facts and positive stories of experiences with the group. Others then starting sharing like experiences, and we were able to refocus the discussion to show the group's positive impact on our community.

We felt our proactive social media campaign was very successful. From blogs to podcasts, from Facebook to RSS feeds, the CVA has made progress. There were many more tactics we didn't have the time to try; I expect these likely will roll out in the months ahead.

Why do you think it's important for destinations to get involved with social media?

As a thriving convention city, Indianapolis hosts 21 million visitors each year -- that's the potential for 21 million impressions to be had and in turn shared with family and friends. Many of those conversations are happening online and will have a viral effect. That's a pretty wide reach, so why wouldn't the CVA want to have a piece of that conversation? It's the work they do.

The hope is to address concerns proactively and also educate. The important thing to note is that the conversations are happening, whether or not you choose to listen and participate in them.