Audience Engagement & Community Management

Managing an event isn’t just about handling items on the day of the show,
but knowing how to make an amazing experience before, during, and after.

This is the key to audience engagement and community management.

In many circumstances the ‘before and after’ experience is driven by online conversation and community buzz.
People want to talk about things that interest them and they also want to discover like-minded people they can network with.

The problem is that communities will naturally adopt online conversations based upon areas of shifting importance.
This means that a lot of them will personally select how they use online conversation.

When trying to identify and engage these conversations online, some people use singular or plural variation.
Other people use completely unique style or inconsistently jump through ten different variations.

While this is a huge opportunity to engage them with, it is also a huge management challenge to “herd the cats” into defined conversation categories.

A real world example:

You are at an event and want to find the ‘perfect conversation’ with a lead decision maker.

Unfortunately there are 5,000 other people in the event hall having different conversations.
The roar of the crowd is almost deafening.

As you spend the next hour moving through the attendees you hear the same conversation five, ten, fifty times. You personally know that there are ten people looking for each other and having the same conversation but that they are having an identical problem locating them amidst the sea of conversation.

Why does this matter?

By understanding when a specific topic gains in popularity, event managers and businesses can cultivate conversations to increase the ability to convert on tactical opportunities. Locating the right  people and getting them properly engaged with your sponsors will produce an entirely positive event ROI.

Discovering Keywords and Conversations

If your business has an important keyword or hashtag that has relevant impacts for your business, make sure to check out all sorts of variations (plural, passive, compound, abbreviations, acronyms, etc) The graphic below examines variations of a keyword several days before and after an event. While all of the results centered around one keyword, certain variations had a huge difference in volume of usage and the length of time it was used for.

(This article doesn’t cover tools, but if you are looking for some free tools to play around with I recommend SocialMention, Topsy, and Addictomatic.)


Getting Local

Once we begin to think of keywords and usage patterns in the whole, we can examine finding business benefits by defining your community engagement by geography. By narrowing it down by geography we can apply tactical marketing campaigns, drive local sales/support, or engage influential leaders to support local communities.

The same conversational data on keywords above can be collected by internal systems (web analytics), external keyword tools (Google/Facebook/Twitter), and profile data on social services (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin API.) By combining this data you can see very interesting trends over time and can integrate the most popular conversations into on-going efforts.

You can see in the chart below how the yellow keyword is very sporadic and that the blue keyword plunged in the end of 2010. When I see this kind of data as a business professional I ask about the drivers and market shifts that caused the blue keyword to lose traction: did it get replaced by another popular conversation? did a marketplace pivot? what caused the drop in 2010?

As I keep those questions in my head I can then drill down into tactical ideas for the top states and cities around the the world. If the volume of usage is high enough there are regional campaigns that can be implemented.


Using The Strategic Mindset

There are many opportunities to plan around the typical live event, but one of the largest areas of benefit is examining other like-minded events to analyze trends and audience patterns that relate to your upcoming project.

If your event only happens once a year there is a lot of time in-between that allows behavior patterns to change. By looking at similar events we can have less gaps in our knowledge and tactically apply efforts to opportunities in the here and now. 

Any useful audience engagement tips you’d like to share?



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