IMEX Group Social Media Manager Miguel Neves talks about how IMEX is utilizing Social Media to help exhibitors and buyers connect and share at IMEX America. Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and other social media platforms are discussed.
Mike: Welcome back to the Meetings Podcast. This is Mike McAllen from Grass Shack Events & Media, and today, we have IMEX group Knowledge and Social Media Manager Miguel Neves, and Miguel, how did I do with your name?
Miguel: That was good.
Mike: I practiced it so many times before.
Miguel: That was awesome, yup.
Mike: Why don’t you say it so I’d say it correctly?
Miguel: Okay. My name is Miguel Neves.
Mike: Perfect. You did it correctly. Nice. We also have the same first name, which I got pretty well, so that’s good. So tell me what does the Knowledge and Social Media manager do?
Miguel: Well it’s really a fancy title for someone who works within the knowledge team, and the knowledge team takes care of the educational side of IMEX; both IMEX Frankfurt and IMEX America. We set up the educational booths with, you know, set up the speakers and decide on the sessions, etcetera, and we also run all the kind of small things that happen outside of IMEX. So not the actual exhibition itself, but for example, the Sustainability Initiatives, the Social Legacy Initiatives, the Smart Monday, the Association Focus, all this sort of things fall under the knowledge team. Also, a very popular event called the Future Leaders Forum that I’m very much involved with. That also happens at both IMEX shows as well as at MPI events worldwide and other small events, and that’s a student-focused event. That’s a partnership between IMEX, MPI, and MCI. That’s the knowledge side of my title.
The social media side of my title just came about because when I was hired, the management understood that I did a lot of work on social media, and I was quite active also within my MPI local chapter. So I was asked to kind of take over the social media, and I’ve now been rewarded with my work with actually being responsible for the social media for IMEX at this point, so I’m very happy to hold that title, and we’ve been doing a lot of work on that, so I’m happy with that.
Mike: That’s great. You know, I can remember that’s where I met you, I think. Weren’t you part of that – Excuse me for not knowing this beforehand, but weren’t you part of that MPI Future Leaders Forum? I remember the first time seeing you standing up. You were being awarded something or something like that.
Mike: You were doing essentially a big MPI thing. I remember like who’s this guy? You stood up then.
Mike: Yes, yes.
Miguel: And yeah, I was on stage. I don’t think I got to speak, but I got a big award that I still have at home so that was good.
Mike: Yeah, it’s funny because – You know, it’s funny. I was having a hard time with your last name, but I’ve known you for a long time, and through social media mostly. So it’s an interesting and a really good testament to, you know, doing this sort of thing for your event because – I mean I do know you. I feel very comfortable talking to you though we’ve spent how much time together in our lives?
Miguel: Probably not too much. At a few different events maybe.
Miguel: I don’t know, 6 or 7 different occasions? Something like that?
Mike: Right. Yeah. It must be like that. It’s just interesting. It’s an interesting world that we live in these days, and the social media is a big part of that. So that’s a kind of a question that I had was social media – You know, IMEX has been around a lot longer than social media so how has IMEX adopted social media? Have you been the first one to really kind of spearheading this or…?
Miguel: I’m not really – I mean I actually started going to IMEX in 2008 as a student or I started being more aware of it. I’m not really aware of the earliers, but I know that when I joined the company, there had been a presence on Facebook and on Twitter, and on LinkedIn before that. It was not necessarily the most proactive presence, so you know, the management was aware of the channels and the marketing department, but it was very much a case of being on social media rather than using social media, and I think that’s something that’s changed over the last couple of years. I’ve been with the company for just over a year now, and yeah, we’ve been very much working on defining what each channel does for us, and when I say channel I mean Facebook, Twitter, things like that.
Miguel: So what each channel does for us, how they’re different from each other, and how we can use them.
And you know, I started with a set of ideas, and as we moved forward, those ideas are shifting slightly, and sometimes, I have to check on myself, you know, my notes from a year ago, and just because of the speed that social media moves at this point, and you know, people start changing which channels they’re using and how they’re using them, it’s really interesting to try and keep up with it, and also, you know, because IMEX is an events, you know, very much about personal relationships, it’s about going to a tradeshow and doing business, it’s a very interesting relationship with social media because we do want people to use social media and communicate with us using social media, and you know, communicate with each other using social media, but at the same time, we don’t want to go down a route for social media replaces a lot of what we offer. So it’s almost a love-hate relationship that I feel we manage well, but it’s – I think it helps us that we’re aware of that.
Mike: Very interesting. Yeah, so is there a – What is the plan, the plan, the strategy that you’re kind of using for this year’s…?
Miguel: Well, I think there’s a very distinct strategy between what happens before the show and during the show, and probably what happens after each show is similar to what happens before in a less pronounced way, and what I mean by that is, you know, there’s this effort with social media about raising awareness of the show, and a call to action of registering, and I think, you know, one of the things that people don’t realize for example is it’s free to attend the show. We still get a lot of people calling up saying, you know, how much is the cost to come along, and I’m saying, you know, it’s free. Just, you know, as long as you can get yourself there, then you can come along. So things like that, you know, and we’re having – We’re trying to create conversations before the show via social media.
And this goes, you know, wide range of topics from just a simple, you know, call to action register to much more complex problems where we have exhibitors that have, you know, questions about their stand, or they want to get the number of someone who can help them install some AV or you have a hosted buyer with a question, and social media is another way of us having these conversations, and also posting information because the website, our website is really where we want people to end up in, but sometimes, the website’s not the quickest thing to put information on or, you know, it’s more of an information and where you do your host and buyer appointments and things like that.
So social media gives us all these other channels and different forms of communication where we can inform people, promote, but also, you know, answer questions and really open up different channels of communication.
Mike: So what are the most popular platforms that you’re using?
Miguel: It’s interesting. We’ve really differentiated things. So LinkedIn, you know, is much more the business side of things, and our LinkedIn group is quite active. We do have a large number of exhibitors that, you know, kind of just tell people to go and see their booths, their stand, etc., but we have had a lot of conversations on there, and we do, for example, we note down what are the most common questions that come up in webinars and in conversation with the sales team, and then we address those within the group. So our group also becomes a kind of FAQ that is online and people can go back and see it from very much a business perspective.
Facebook is quite popular as well, but it’s more just kind of, you know, we take some nice pictures. Whenever one of our team members is traveling for example, we try to get some pictures of them attending events all over the world. That’s always a fun thing to put on Facebook, and we get, you know, good interaction. We’ve got 2,000, you know, fans or likes, whatever the appropriate name for that is.
And then Twitter. Twitter is probably the most active one, but it’s just – it’s so dispersed, and it’s so spur-of-the-moment that we’re almost just – You know, we’re making sure that people are aware of the hash tag, and we’re making sure that people can use it to have conversation about the event because that’s the magic of Twitter when people are onsite, and that’s when the whole other kind of angle on social media happens. When everybody’s on site, then you get this huge peak of things happening on Twitter, and hopefully, you also get people that aren’t normally on social media jumping in because they see the activity, and that’s – You know, that’s when I think some really interesting stuff happens, and that’s where Twitter becomes the weapon of choice if you will.
Mike: Yeah, yeah, that’s interesting. So you of all people really have a good world perspective on social media, you know. I’m here in San Francisco where, you know, there’s an event every night for some social media thing that they’re starting.
You know, some start-up for something. I get emails for things every night, but you’ve kind of a worldview on this. Is there things that work better at Frankfurt that can do or work better meaning – I guess it’s not a good way of asking, but is there – You know, what works here that doesn’t work there? Are there other social media platforms that you find – I mean are there other ones at Frankfurt that work better in Europe?
Miguel: Sure. I mean there’s a thing called Zing or I think it’s supposed to be called Croxing – you know, it’s X-ing – and that’s – It’s similar to LinkedIn I believe, and it’s quite popular in Germany, so we do have a German language Xing group just for that.
Mike: Huh, huh.
Miguel: So that’s, you know – And if you – On our website, there’s a section called ‘Join the Conversation,’ which is where we list our social media channels, and it’s very similar both IMEX America and IMEX in Frankfurt, but if you notice on the Frankfurt one, there’s that extra one. So that’s something specific to the German market. It’s open to, you know, everybody else, but it’s in German so it is language, you know, context in that way.
Mike: Yeah, there’s a little barrier there for someone like myself to you.
Miguel: Exactly. Well, Google translate those miracles. That’s true, yeah, conversations. It’s interesting. For example, in Holland, I think Twitter has really picked up – And I do find – When I do the Future Leaders Forums, it’s very interesting because I get to go to about 10 different cities around the world, and I always ask the students, you know, what social media they’re on, and when I started – And this was just a year ago – Twitter was always kind of, you know, few hands up, and maybe 5%, 10% of the people there, and now, Twitter is very much alongside LinkedIn, so I’m looking at 30% to sometimes 50% or 60% of the students, you know, using Twitter and LinkedIn.
So I think the 3 major channels are – You know, those are the ones we focus on, and those are ones I probably know more about; the Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, but the usage of them changes all over the world considerably, and I know that LinkedIn in Germany is not particularly popular probably because of the Croxing or Xing competition.
Miguel: And I guess, you know, about platform. Twitter isn’t incredibly popular in Germany, but you know, then again, it’s a bit of a loaded question not with any fault of yours, but because IMEX is very much an international tradeshow. As long as there’s no network – As long as there aren’t any network barriers, then it doesn’t really matter which country we’re in.
Mike: That’s true.
Miguel: Obviously, in Frankfurt, we have a lot more of a hosted buyer – German-hosted buyer population and exhibitor population than in America and Americans, but it is a global show in many ways. The interesting side is when we do, for example, one of the Future Leaders Forums that we do is in China, and you know, in China, there’s no Facebook or Twitter, so that just goes up the window, and then there’s a new set of rules, but we’re not – You know, it’s a small event so we’re not going to invest in a – I think it’s Weibo, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter.
Miguel: So it’s not something we’re going to jump on, but it’s interesting to note, and definitely the usage is different over the world.
Mike: It is. It’s very interesting. So one thing I know that you guys are – What’s the name of the company? And funny, I met Garrett. Isn’t Garrett part of the…
Mike: Oh sorry. What’s the name of your thing? I don’t have…
Miguel: Partnership. It’s called the IMEX Social Team.
Mike: What is it again? I’m sorry.
Miguel: Well, we call it the IMEX Social Team.
Mike: Uh-huh, uh-huh.
Miguel: And it’s a little thing that we believe gives a much more human dimension to the social media that we do, and it also – I think it just makes it more popular and it adds to that idea that we’re meeting in face-to-face rather than hiding behind any sort of phone or device. So what it means is we have some Twitter screens displaying our Twitter feed for the hash tag around the show. We’re going to have 6 of those in Las Vegas at IMEX America. And that software displays Twitter, but it also displays a list of the educational events that are going on.
Now the people that make the software, they’re also in a partnership with us to provide the IMEX social team who have their own Twitter account, and there’s 4 of them at each show, and they go around the show, and they essentially report live from the show floor so they’ll take photos, they’ll write tweets, and they are really designed to kind of generate buzz around the show because there’s so much happening at any time during the show.
You know, just the amount of press releases that we get daily and the exhibitors who hold their own small events at their booths, all sorts of things happening that it’s nice that, you know, maybe if there is an official IMEX press conference going on, that’s where, you know, all of the presses are or all of the online eyes are heading, but it’s nice to be able to report from other corners of the show floor other things that are happening. So they do a great job there. And then you can always go online or on our Facebook page or we create storify, you know, reports on what they’ve seen.
And the other side of things that they do is they also help the people who are attending the show to get on Twitter and to get on Facebook and post pictures, and any kind of technical advice or any technical questions they’re happy to help. So they have kind of a dual purpose, and it worked very well in Frankfurt. We’re going to have them again in IMEX America in Las Vegas, and we’re hoping that it makes that difference because I think in a lot of events, the separation between what’s happening online and what’s happening in person is large, and it’s almost like it’s a separate event, and this, I feel, brings both worlds together, which is our ideal situation for tradeshow like IMEX.
Mike: Yeah, and then people see that more of that they want to come to the show obviously, to see the fun. Garrett – I don’t know his last name, but I just knew him from a Google hangout that I did at an event, Google hangout, a while back, and I was talking to him, and he’s in Holland. Does he – Do you know him?
Miguel: Yes, yes.
Mike: So he was in Holland. He’s in Holland, right? And so he – I was talking to him a lot, and then I saw his pictures as one of the – on the IMEX. It’s like oh, that’s very, very cool. I mean it’s funny how it all works. It’s all come in together. Yup.
Okay. So do you have any stats that you might share or – You know, how do you evaluate all this stuff when it’s over? How do you know what’s working and what isn’t?
Miguel: Yeah. I mean I’m actually – I’m not a very big fan of stats. I can easily share with you, you know, where we’re at and how much we’ve grown. You know, I’ve put together power points of our numbers, and I think they’re interesting, but I think there’s kind of soft results that are very interesting. For example, you know, on Facebook, we grew 24% over the Frankfurt show. We’re now another 20% on top of that, and that’s likely to grow quite quickly, you know, during the shows. So no matter how much promotion we kind of do before the show, you know, a vast majority of the people are only going to jump on our social media channels when they’re at the show, or you know, when the show’s happening.
So it’s more kind of like make sure the news is out there, the news is correct, and the channels are being used, and then there’s going to be a big peak, and we just have to be kind of ready for that. But for example, an interesting side of that is on Facebook. We didn’t add any more content on a daily basis than we would normally, but our views on our Facebook page are exponentially higher during the events. So you know, it goes to show that no matter how much kind of activity you have beforehand, all you can do is prepare, and then when the event is going on, that’s when everybody is going to show up on the site.
Miguel: And it’s the same thing on LinkedIn. Our group grew. For example 12% over the Frankfurt show, 12.8%, which is healthy, but you know, it’s good to have it there all year round. Our following also on Twitter grew 19% over the month of the show. So you know, there’s a lot of statistics that we can pull from that. An interesting one that isn’t quite measurable is the fact that we were trending in Germany at IMEX Frankfurt. So on the Tuesday of the event, we were the 8th most popular topic in Germany. So that was quite interesting.
Mike: That’s really crazy.
Mike: I mean that’s really cool.
Miguel: It means, you know, you could take a lot out of that. Whatever the effects it had was that it got a lot of spammers on our Twitter feed.
Mike: So trending means for someone who’s listening who don’t know what that is.
Miguel: Sure. Twitter displays the top 10 key words that are being used on Twitter on a geographical basis. So IMEX hash, #imex12 was the 8th most popular word being used by Twitter users located in Germany on Tuesday, the 22nd of May. So you know, it’s quite an interesting statistic. It did bring a lot of kind of spammers that decided to jump in because I think they just monitor because Twitter only shows top 10. So if you’re amongst the top 10, then I think you attract a lot of spammers, which is unfortunate, but I guess we’ll leave it at that. Our Twitter screens don’t show picture so there were no pictures to be seen out of the spammers, but that would have been not very nice.
Mike: Yeah. Well, people kind of know that.
Mike: I mean they ignore stuff like that mostly.
Miguel: Yeah. But I mean there’s other – I think my favorite thing is when people report from the show floor and when people tell us things. You know, I have loads of slides of just basically favorites. When I see a nice tweet online I always favor it, and then we get it’s kind of like nice press cutting, instant press cutting, and it’s just great, you know, the kind of nice comments and things that people say around the show floor and photos that people are taking not only the social team taking photos, the IMEX social team, but other people taking photos and putting the hash tag, and it’s great. It’s really nice to see that, and from an organizer’s perspective, it really gives us a view of the show that’s impossible to have. You know, the whole IMEX team is 50 person strong, so it’s very, very hard to cover the whole show, and I think the majority of those 50 people are in an office for most of the show. So the social media side of things gives us this kind of ion round that is absolutely fascinating for us.
Mike: Yeah, that’s fantastic. And so how can people – You know, do you have any recommendations for exhibitors maybe how they could utilize social media?
Miguel: Absolutely. I’ve actually written a blog post about it, which is going to come out quite soon so hopefully, it will be up by the time that the podcast release.
Mike: Oh great. Great, great.
Miguel: IMEXInsites.com. Essentially, what I recommend is making sure that they understand the different channels, and again, I go back to the 3 channels, and I would focus on LinkedIn and on Twitter. I’d say LinkedIn would be nice to ask questions – excuse me. There’s a lot of activity on LinkedIn that just says come to my booth, you know. I want to hold a meeting in this place. Come to my booth. It’s fine, but I think, at the end of the day, a lot of people see that as spam, but if you ask interesting questions, I think people do answer them. So using LinkedIn for that kind of activity is, I think, really good. And it can be very simple question such as, you know, have you ever organized an event in this location or what are your top 3 events destinations and just, you know, any question you can think of, and you know, be quite genuine about it because if it’s a leading question that just says, “Oh, you should come to my destination, then that’s – You know, people kind of see through that, but if it’s an interesting question, just you know, creating a discussion, I think that’s quite healthy.
Mike: And where do they do that in LinkedIn? In their status messages or in the actual group? In the group?
Miguel: Yeah, we have a Linked in IMEX group just called the IMEX group, and just as a discussion there that would be good. We also have events on Facebook and on LinkedIn that, you know, everybody’s happy to click on attending, and that’s always nice because you see a list of people, a few people at least that they’re attending as well. So it’s always interesting. You get a very basic list of a few people that at least share that channel with you and are attending.
But I think Twitter is really the interesting one, especially if the exhibitors have an understanding of how Twitter works, I think that can be really powerful for the show. Twitter integrates very well with our app so for all the people that are on the app, they don’t even have to sign on to Twitter if they don’t want to. They’ll see the Twitter feed for a hash tag so it’s a nice way to get messages throughout, but also, monitoring. You know, it’s not always about writing things on social media and adding things. Sometimes it’s just about listening. And there’s already a lot of questions on our LinkedIn group and monitoring the hashtag would be crucial and very, very important for any exhibitor because there will be, you know, good conversations going on and plenty of activity that people could pick up on, and direct to their business or just – You know, again, ask questions. Help people out. I think, you know, just helping someone out who has a question on social media is almost as valuable as sending them an email and displaying product because people remember, you know, who’s helped you out, who’s connected you with someone else, and that goes a long way. So I’d say that those are really good things to do on social media.
Mike: I really agree with that. And so, the other way around, what about people who are buyers that are attending the conference? Of course, listening I guess is a good big one like you just said, but…
Miguel: Yeah, buyers listening. I think the listening side of things applies to anyone, but I think especially for suppliers. I think they’ll always gain a lot from listening rather than spamming, you know, or just, you know, writing things about really listening. I think from a buyer perspective, it’s about asking questions, and I think buyers have so many questions that it could be answered by anybody. It doesn’t have to be a member of the IMEX team or it doesn’t have to be A or B supplier. It’s like using it to ask questions would be fantastic, and you know, give us feedback as well, you know. If there’s things that people don’t like about our show, then you know, we’re listening. We’re monitoring and we’ll do what we can to help them. So I think that’s very welcome feedback, and we’re very open to that, but at the same time, I think it’s important –
You know, if a buyer comes to a show and says, you know, I’d really want to meet someone who can explain to me technology, you know, some AV technology. I think my AV supplier is overcharging me. Can somebody help me? You know, I think that people will really respond to that very, very quickly, and it’s a valid conversation to have.
Mike: Yeah, that’s great. Great advice. Great advice. Okay, well, thank you so much Miguel.
Miguel: You’re very welcome.
Mike: I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me, and I look forward to seeing you in Las Vegas.
Miguel: Brilliant. Sounds good.
Mike: All right. So have a great one and safe travels too.
Miguel: Thank you very much.
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