2010 was the year were businesses entered the social web. And of course not everything was a good experience. Many just pumped their "message" into what they call "the new channel" hoping that somebody will pick it up. Others were a bit more innovative than that. Our latest experiment with a virtual exhibition and conference generated great results.
The Social Media Academy was exhibiting at Vue2010 this week. We didn't have a lot of time to chat with business friends and others prior of the event about what we are going to do. We also had only three people on the booth as we thought maybe 50 people will actually swing by. But after 5 hours on duty we counted 553 leads, over 200 conversations and 70 who picked up virtual gifts which we gave out.
A few things we learned on the spot.
Break the "silence" by opening a chat
We understood within the first minutes that people walk in don't see anything "physical" and walk out. But if we offer to chat – they enjoyed a chat and we had many good conversations.
People entering the booth may do that and get a phone call in that very moment. Or are at home and need to feed the baby in that very moment. The communication dynamics change. I talked to a VP Marketing and after a few minutes he had to leave and came back. He was just passing security at the airport. Then he continued after he found a wall plug for his laptop while waiting for his plane.
We noticed how important 5 years of work in the social web is when it comes to virtual body language. Obviously we don't see the other person face to face but we recognize based on the way they chat, how they ask questions, how to find people on LinkedIn and Facebook while chatting to get a better idea who we actually talk with. Those extra social senses only get developed over time :)
Like I mentioned above – we looked up our visitors profiles while we chatted. That means we had a much better idea how we could help, what kind of business they are in, what kind of challenges they may face. Unlike on a physical event where people neither have the patience to introduce their entire life to us nor can we say – hang on let me facebook you -but in the virtual world we can.
Leverage the public meeting points
While the team remained on the booth all time I was wandering around and had discussions on the show floor. It was great – like on a physical event but just online. I chatted with an event marketing lady from a large tech company and she outed herself after a few minutes that she does what is typically just part of online comics – she said believe it or not but I'm still in my PJ. Anybody embarrassed? No – not at all.
Like in real life, talk to the people. But since we didn't have any audio, we had to use the chat . After 20 minutes we actually began to appreciate chat over audio. Marita and Gee had up to 8 chats open simultaneously. With an audio system you can talk only to one person – but in a chat room you can do several talks simultaneously. We still would like audio support – but maybe keep both running. Some visitors actually prefer chat over phone or headset.
There is enough boredom out there – so instead of doing a video clip about us we showed a funny video clip about the divorce between a customer and a marketer. And we had hot coffee for everybody – virtual but still coffee ;)
The Down Side
Some of the folks from the older generation had a very hard time. They are not used to chat with people they can't look in their eyes. They felt "I can just go on a website and download literature". If you never connected in the online world – you can't appreciate the richness of the relationships the speed in getting things done and the efficiency to work 5 hours highly focused and generate over 500 new contacts.
The best selling product
Xeesm for event managers. A tool that allows marketing managers to grow event attendance with the help of social media and a tool to focus on the relevant audience. And right after that the Event Manager Training Class :)
Virtual events are here to stay. To many it may feel as awkward as Twitter was three years ago. And there are still many who think Twitter is awkward – but about 200 Million who use it anyway. Virtual events will find their way into the social web, where online is "home".