A new whitepaper looks at how destinations and CVBs can benefit from expanding their social media efforts beyond the traditional leisure travel market and into the meetings and convention space.
For the most part, destinations across the globe are becoming really well-versed at using social media—whether through Facebook, tweets, video, Instagram photos, etc.—to tout their benefits to the typical vacation/leisure traveler. For instance, they may offer “23 different types of activities for kids 5 and under,” or “200-plus days of sunny, beach-perfect weather,” or “six world-class golf courses.”
But how often do you see a destination using these same social tools to market a convention center with 250,000 square feet of meeting space, the fact that there are 7,500 hotels located downtown, or that three new unique meeting venues have opened?
Not very often at all—and a new whitepaper released by Marketing Challenges International earlier this week says that needs to change. Titled “Social Media Marketing for Global Destinations in the Meetings and Conventions Industry [PDF],” the paper takes a look at how CVBs can use social media to better market to and work with meeting planners.
According to the whitepaper, social media marketing has two main purposes for destinations when it comes to the meetings and convention industry: to promote the destination to potential new clients and to help planners attract attendees to their meetings and events.
The whitepaper mentions a number of destinations that leverage social media for meetings and conventions, including Berlin, which maintains a separate Twitter account for its convention market, and the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, which uses LinkedIn to broadcast news targeted to meetings industry professionals.
But it does set apart the Austin (TX) Convention and Visitors Bureau as “an exemplar of social media marketing success.” Its marketing strategy includes a website that serves as a hub for both the leisure and meetings and conventions markets, a Pinterest board called “Meet in Austin” that highlights the city’s meeting spaces, and a special list in Foursquare that highlights restaurants and nightlife near the convention center.
The CVB will also work with clients to create custom strategies (at no additional cost) for individual meetings. By working closely with the Biomedical Engineering Society’s Annual Meeting, they were able to increase the association’s Twitter followers by 461 percent and Facebook likes by 218 percent.
To take what the Austin CVB did and apply it at your destination, Marketing Challenges International recommends getting started with the following three strategies in mind:
1. Use social media as a simple and cost-effective way to promote the destination’s brand with the meeting-planning audience. One way to do this is to include a social media feed on your website.
2. Build professional networks to meeting planners and other decision makers by making connections on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. A 2012 survey by Meetings Net revealed that more than 80 percent of meeting planners use LinkedIn to build and maintain contacts, 52 percent use Facebook to post information or photos after an event, and 70 percent use Twitter to tweet live at their events.
3. Use social media to provide value-added services for meeting planners to help boost attendance. Two examples would be building special content guides or offering “social concierge” services for meeting attendees, where members of the CVB team would answer questions from meeting attendee via social outlets.
“Convention bureaus around the world are quickly realizing social media’s utility when it comes to attracting new business and assisting meeting planners with delegate boosting—an added value that can ultimately help destinations win event bids,” the report said. “Though the leisure side has traditionally led social media efforts, convention bureaus must ultimately own their own social media marketing in order to best reap the benefits that these new technologies can bring.”
If this isn’t enough to convince you it’s worth trying, a study from the United Kingdom earlier this year showed that social media pays off for those who are willing to give it a try. Twenty-nine percent of hospitality vendors surveyed attributed up to 25 percent of all of their sales to social media, and 13 percent said that these platforms generate up to half of their sales. Additionally, 68 percent of those currently using social media report that they have had a “positive” or “very positive” experience, whether that’s attracting new customers or receiving recommendations.
For the meeting planners reading this post, how would a destination’s social media marketing efforts affect the likelihood you would choose it to host an upcoming event? And for the CVBs, how do you use social media to market specifically to meeting planners? Share your thoughts in the comments.