June 2013

Digital attendee herding through social media

by Ruth A. Hill

Ariba Onine Content and Community Coordinator Josh Hedrick had a creative new idea to move attendees to his company’s show booth for the recent Ariba LIVE 2013 users’ conference. He also had goals to enrich attendees’ conference experiences with value-adds, and to encourage attendees to chat about conference happenings online.

To implement his plan, he sought partnership with the conference host, Marriott’s Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, contacting the Gaylord’s director of public relations, Amie Gorrell, about using the resort’s venue on the app Foursquare. Gorrell said it was the first time a client had reached out with such an idea, and she was thrilled to get the call.

“Foursquare is an app for mobile devices that interacts with Twitter or Facebook and works off GPS coordinates,” she explains. “It knows where you are, and lets friends on your network know your location. We’ve used the app for a couple of years to promote special offers like spa treatments within the hotel to guests who check in via the app. It’s another way we can use our outlets to bring benefit to convention customers.”

For the Ariba conference, attendees were encouraged to check into the hotel via Foursquare with their Twitter handles and Facebook pages for exclusive discounts. Once they were near or inside the D.C.-area resort, they could obtain the welcome offer screen on their devices that Gorrell created, advising them to pick up the Gaylord discount coupons at the Ariba show booth. Attendee buzz about the discounts on social media feeds were broadcasted on screens throughout the resort.

About 123 people claimed the discount coupons for the resort’s bars and restaurant outlets--about 5 percent of the conference’s 2,000 attendees--a return that both Hedrick and Gorrell said was a success without a lot of advance publicity.

Hedrick says he intends to repeat the promotion at next year’s conference.

“It’s a way to surprise and delight people with an experience they aren’t expecting,” he says. “The fact that they couldn’t get the coupons electronically, but had to visit our booth to pick up the paper flyers meant we had some great connections there--a good example of new and old media working together to achieve goals.”


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