Social Revolution

Kevin Jackson gives us his view on the real value of social media
Kevin Jackson
Kevin Jackson


Kevin Jackson, vice president of event and experience marketing agency, George P. Johnson, gives us his view on the real value of social media in the events industry...

"Clients talk about technology all the time, especially social media. But it seems no-one really understands it properly.

No one understands the richness it can bring. There’s still a certain distrust of social media in the event space: does it distract? Does it add anything to the experience? How does it work, what makes it work and what’s so important about it for event professionals?

There was a recent survey by a company called Fast Future, which polled 4,500 event buyers and found that 66 per cent of participants said technology was fundamental to the event experience.

We all get briefs that say: “We want ‘wow’, we want techno whizz”, and I think — from a client perspective — they don’t understand exactly what that means. But it’s not their job to; it’s ours. So when they ask those questions, they’re actually saying: “help me understand how that works”.

Where we start with technology is what we’re trying to communicate, to what audience and why? If we need technology then we use it — if we don’t, we don’t.”

We’ve invented technologies to sustain events, and that’s an exciting thing, but they fitted into the event objectives — it wasn’t just to add a bit of sparkle to a dull event. If you’ve got a dull event it’s always going to be dull, whether you’ve got technology or not. We’ve got to try and knock back those technological desires into “what are we trying to do and why are we doing it?”, rather than just adding sparkle at the end of a process.

The survey also revealed that 58 per cent of clients think the barrier to technology is their own understanding, while 92 per cent of them don’t use it because they think it’s expensive. This is one of those things that people think about technology, when they don’t know technology.

It’s not expensive. Some of the things we’re asking for can cost a bit because you’re creating one-offs, but technology as we use it is not expensive. And those are the things that we need to start taking control of when talking to clients.

So let’s talk about social media. It’s easy to get sucked into an “it’s a load of...” point of view, or to think that it’s just people tweeting about what they had for breakfast. But, from a business perspective, it’s much more important than that.

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There’s a tree on Twitter, with 4,200 followers. It tweets every day, just about what’s going on in the world, its view from up in the leaves. And we all know about the connected shoe, the Nike+, that keeps track of your running, connects to the world, lets you see where you fit in relation to everyone else and lets them track where you are.

There is even an asthma inhaler that’s connected to the weather channel, which tells you when it’s safe to go out or what you should be prepared for. It’s all there. Technology isn’t going away — the pace of change is ever with us, and the things that we’ve got to do, that we’ve got to think about, are things like this.

A poll in the UK titled “How effectively does your organisation use social media?” revealed that only 12 per cent think they’re doing it effectively. Everyone’s still experimenting. 45 per cent are “getting there”, while 43 per cent are still ineffective.

And there are a number of reasons for this — mainly that there are always other things to do that you see as more important. But actually your customers, your clients, our audiences, are all on Twitter. Even if we’re not, they’re still there, so you need to be where they are.

One of the main problems with social media in the events world is “who owns it?” The issue is that it’s usually not the events people who are in charge of the client’s feed. It could be the digital team, the social media team, the marketing team; but it’s not the event team. We have to be very clear what value social is bringing to our event.

And one of the things that’s so great about social media is the immediacy. A guy in the UK, James, started tweeting complaints about Tesco — a UK supermarket chain — and even set up a Tumblr to show the condition of his local store. Thousands of people got behind this. What Tesco did — and this is amazing — is they followed him and they said, “Look, James, we understand we’ve made some mistakes so why don’t you come in and help us sort things out?”

Now, that immediate response from a brand and that willingness to change what they’re doing to incorporate what the customers are thinking is a conversation. Brands and consumers, events and audiences: it’s not a one-way lecture, it’s a relationship. And the more we create those conversations, the more we’re in control.

There’s often a big thing in the advertising press each year about who wins the Super Bowl. They’re not talking about the teams, though, they’re talking about the brands. Who spends the most, which company’s advert is the best and so on? By common consensus, the 2013 Super Bowl was won by Oreo cookies.

You see, during the 2013 Super Bowl there was a power cut — the whole stadium went dark and the teams had to stop playing. So someone at Oreo took a picture of his cookie against a graduated background and put it up on social media with the caption “you can still dunk in the dark”.

That got repeated and repeated, retweeted and retweeted, shared all over Facebook — that became the big hit. And for who? The brands that were spending hundreds of millions on a Super Bowl ad or the brand that spent half of nothing?

But, the Oreo stunt got real traction because of its immediacy, its connection, its “Look guys, you’re all watching the game, we’re watching the game, and we’re all upset. But you can still do this...”

It’s a live connection; a conversation. And that’s the real power of social media."

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Jackson’s tips
Here is a short list of dos and don’ts when it comes to using social media as an events company. Not really dos and don’ts, more of a ‘do remember’ and ‘don’t forget’...

- Give it a go
- Have a clear, empowered owner(s) who can work “cross function”
- Be honest and open
- Be personal
- Use the data created to inform your output
- Have fun — it’s an informal style so be real
- Be informative and funny

- Wait to get started
- Delay with replies — social media is an immediate response medium
- Try and hide information
- Always try to be the leader — you have to go with the flow sometimes
- Try to constantly sell, this is a relationship building channel
- Moan or be negative
- Forget everyone can see your tweets

About Kevin
In December 2013, Kevin Jackson bagged the number one spot in Event Magazine’s annual poll to find the industry’s leading event professionals. Over 6,500 votes were cast for 120 nominees, with Jackson topping the leader board in recognition of his achievements by bringing in £10m of new business to GPJ in the previous 12 months, as well as his overall contribution to the event industry.

Social Media statistics

- 5,473,972 total population
- 4,517,169 internet users (83%)
- 4,400,000 active Facebook users (80%)
- 5,473,972 active Twitter users (64%)
- 3h 17mins = average time users spend on social media each day

Middle East
- 279,192,238 total population
- 102,346,717 internet users (37%)
- 66,900,000 active social network users (24%)

- 7,095,476,818 total population
- 2,484,915,152 internet users (35%)
- 1,856,680,860 active social network users (26%)


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