Ok so for those of you that have come here via my twitter account may realise that have slightly fibbed last night, in my defence it was quite late. Anyway, once again its interview time. Today I have managed to pin down Mark Roberts. Mark was kind enough to talk to me about social media and (here comes the lie) networking. I met Mark last November at a Young Peoples networking event, where he was helping at the YENA stand. Enough from me, here's Mark:
Q: Let’s start off with a bit of an introduction for our readers. What’s your name and what do you do?
My name is Mark Roberts and I am a story teller, I work in communications and that covers social media, PR and everything in the middle. I also have a role as an ambassador for the Young Entrepreneur Network Association and I will be launching events in Nottingham and Manchester in the next few months. I am also an active humanist, vegan and revolutionist and write part time for various publications for business and politics.
Q: And would you say you've been to/run a lot of business events? (ie. conferences, seminars, trade shows, networking mornings/evenings etc.)
It depends on your definition of a lot? I have a background in corporate events in the leisure industry, organising events for anywhere between 200 and 2000 people. I have been to more networking events than I care to remember, lots of different times, venues and lay outs. One of my clients for Seraph Social Media was a networking company so it was interesting to see how we were able to add to their overall market presence through social media. How could we get what happens in those 4 walls outside to the wider public without losing the integrity of the room. At the moment my event based work is for YENA, this is quite unique as it involves booking speakers that I think will help inspire the attendees and this is new to me.
Q: How do you think social media has impacted businesses as a whole and business events?
Social media has made a huge impact on the world of business. Put simply it has given the opportunity for businesses to engage with a lot more people. As a business owner getting market position and brand awareness are the ultimate goals for your marketing team and social media offers that opportunity like nothing else now. For events it is particularly exciting because it gives a unique way to engage with attendees before, during and after. With clever campaigns and a well thought out strategy events are able to very easily engage their target audience and deliver them outstanding service that will undoubtedly lead to greater sales.
Q: Why do you think it's important for businesses to have a good social media presence?
Communication is key, if you want someone to make a purchase from you then you need to be able to communicate with them easily and effectively. Social media allows you to just that. How many times does your phone ring from an unknown number and you just hang it up, almost a bit pissed off that someone is trying to ring and sell you something you have now already decided that you don’t want to buy? How many times do you get emails from Groupon or similar and now just hit delete and not bother to unsubscribe because it would take too long? That’s because in this ever increasing world of the internet, the most previous commodity to ourselves is our time. We don’t want people wasting it and we want to be more independent as a consumer. Social media has led to the ‘social sell’ where you build relationships with your fans and followers, making sure you stay on top of conversations and provide them with top quality content you know they will find relevant. Social media has helped the sale become a two way process, if you aren’t willing to give your time and effort why on earth should we, the consumers, give you any of ours? Long gone are the days of the phone call that leads to an instant purchase.
Q: Finally, where do you think social media and technology as a whole is going within business events? Will it continue to grow in significance or slowly start to lose it appeal?
I think technology is heading in a exciting direction. I think the key thing to realise is that Social Media is great for businesses to get in touch with their potential customers but I don’t think that will always be the case. The internet of things is just a hugely exciting thing. I was having a conversation with a peer last week discussing that it won’t be too long before our fridge will see that it is a Friday, it’s sunny, you’re low on wine and place an order for you. For the events world it will be about getting rid of the annoying bag people you get hit by when you walk in - no one wants that. No one reads it, its a waste of paper, time and any resource that goes into it. What would be much more effective would be a smart way to use NFC (near field communication) to log in, utilise Siri or whatever it might be then and help you make an informed personal decision about the brands and stalls that matter to you. For marketeers and sales people it is all about thinking outside the box and the event industry will have to change the same as everything else. Social Media integration will be another big aspect, utilising hashtags and tweet walls are already in use but events will have to start to look at how to grab social data through pixel conversions and the like to start building their own online communities. Too many people walk in to an event, disappear and only engage at the next one, 365 engagement has to be the aim for events.