Antony Reeve-Crook, Director, ArciMedia Ltd.

River damming and distrust. Can organisers still use social media to grow show’s attendance?

Since 2016 Facebook has restricted its data sharing practice, and regulations such as GDPR in European Union member states have slowed the flow of data to those in search of it.

Interfaces between organisers and social media have changed too. Last year Facebook removed the API for automatic sharing, a tool commonly used (perhaps ill-advisedly) to promote tradeshows to friends of people who had registered through social media.

Previously, the minute someone signed up they were auto-opted into sharing this fact with their contacts.

This is not the case today, which is no bad thing according to Tamar Beck, director of trade show attendee acquisition company Gleanin. Beck says this practice of automatic posting can make people feel they’ve been tricked, preventing them from signing up via social media. She also believes that organisers should be wary of basing their digital marketing campaigns on third party APIs, which are prone to regular amendment that risks upsetting the apple cart.

Organisers can still leverage social media to grow attendance, refer people to the event through their contacts and networks, and they can still have sight (at the moment) of when someone has taken an action to share something, be it via WhatsApp, Facebook or LinkedIn – and track any registrations to come from the app.

The fact remains however that social sharing is down; people are simply less trusting of social networks. GDPR aside, organisers inclined to boost their visitor attendance figures by adopting a similar approach today will have to overcome a grassroots level backlash against previously popular platforms.

This may be reflected in the numbers who sign up using social media. An average of  10 per cent choose to register by social media, according to Beck; a small percentage of the audience.

For the sake of comparison, person-to-person invites and invites by email, comprise around 24 per cent of overall registration figures. “That’s really high. And this is old technology, text-based, no HTML, you have to know a person’s address, and you have to fill it in yourself,” says Beck.

“That’s why broadcast is declining. You can pick individuals out but everything is opt-in – we want to present opportunities to attendees. If they want to refer it to someone, we want to make it easier however they choose to do so.”

“They might want to use WhatsApp, email, social networks. Everyone is going to have a different view. These days we want to maximise the number of people who are comfortable sharing,” she said.

There are many companies who help – and measure – the ways in which event attendees choose to connect digitally. But to do so effectively, an organiser’s digital attendee acquisition campaign must not rely solely on social media platforms.