The Marketing Strategist:

How IBM Uses Social Media as Glue for Connecting Events

August 10, 2010

Using social media as a glue to connect traditional marketing tactics such as events is the most effective use of social media in B2B services marketing today, according to ITSMA interviews with services marketers. Rather than treat social media as standalone channels or replacements for traditional tactics, marketers should look for ways to use social media to support and enhance the successful programs they already have in place. Based on ITSMA’s research with B2B services marketers, we’re seeing companies successfully using social media to drive more attendance and interaction at events. Social media becomes the glue that binds events together, driving registration and discussion prior to events and enabling conference attendees to continue the dialogue between events. Use Social Media to Drive Event Participation For example, IBM’s Software Group used social media in 2009 to help drive participation in its live user conference, Impact, which is targeted at buyers of IBM’s WebSphere software for service-oriented architectures (SOAs). IBM promoted the live event through such channels as event-specific Facebook pages, LinkedIn groups, and Twitter feeds, leading to a 10% increase in registrations for the live event. But it also went beyond those simple uses to create a virtual companion event to the conference. For a company like IBM, with its global customer base, an online companion event meant that many more people could attend virtually than could afford to make the pilgrimage to the live event. But the virtual conference did not simply piggyback on the live conference. It had its own share of exclusive sessions. For example, IBM made subject matter experts available to chat with online participants during pre-specified times and promoted these encounter sessions both on- and offline. Avoid Creating Social Media Silos All told, the combination of the live and virtual events generated more leads for IBM at a lower overall cost per generated lead than previous conferences. Many marketers view social media tools such as blogs and social networking sites such as Twitter and LinkedIn as distinct channels, but IBM’s Software Group is determined to manage them as links in a larger strategy. “For me, having a separate standalone social media campaign doesn’t work. It’s all about integration,” says Sandy Carter, vice president, IBM Software Group Business Partners. To get the full scoop on IBM’s plan, read IBM Software Group: How to Integrate Social Media into the Marketing Strategy.

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