Monday, June 21, 2010

Re-tweet this!

ReTweet this! They may be on Facebook, but they’re not really looking for us…

Meeting venue customers, like just about everyone it seems, have infiltrated social networks fairly heavily, but most of them are not looking for their next venue there. At least not yet.

As part of my MA research project I surveyed nearly 600 meeting venue customers to gauge the extent to which online meeting booking has penetrated the meetings industry. One section of my questionnaire asked respondents of four different generational cohorts to consider their usage of social networks and I think the results should provide pause for thought for venue marketing teams planning and implementing social media strategies.

On average, I found that 69% of respondents operate one or more social networks. 29% of these ‘follow’, or ‘like’ organisations that they have bought from in their personal lives, but only 19% of these use these tools to follow suppliers of theirs from work.

My findings suggest very strongly that social networks are to be considered personal space, and that suppliers are not particularly welcome there. People just don’t seem to want to receive advertising in their personal time in this way. I’m not entirely surprised though, neither do I, if I’m honest.

Of the ‘big three’, Facebook was the most popular amongst the my respondents, with 56% saying they maintained accounts. LinkedIn is used by 36% with Twitter accounts held by 15% of the meeting venue customers surveyed. Other social networks were mentioned occasionally, but none achieved more than 1% penetration.

As might be expected, the highest level of engagement was seen within the youngest cohort, Generation Y, 91% of which operates one social network or more. Although usage of these websites declines as age increases, when it comes to liaising with workplace suppliers, actually, a larger proportion of the so-called ‘Veteran’ generation interact with their business suppliers using social media.

That one did seem unusual, I admit. But perhaps they have only joined these networks recently to see what all the fuss is about. They’re in the unusual position of having less experience of this than their younger colleagues do, so they’re signing up to everything they can to try and absorb as much as possible. Also, fewer of their friends are available to them, so they have more capacity available.

So what are the implications to those of us building a social media strategy? Well, I think they’re pretty clear and quite simple. Work out how your customers want to stay in touch, and make it easy for them (and you) to do so. Some will want emails, some like the telephone, and some like social media, but don’t put all your eggs in one basket and don’t try and force people down a road they don’t want to go down. By all means operate a social network, but don’t be surprised if four out of five people don’t want to join it and don’t dedicate your every waking moment to cultivating it. Take care with LinkedIn too – would you want to share a network of your customers with a network of your competitors, however well you may get on when you meet?

Written by:
James Bland
Group Marketing Manager
The Sundial Group
Highgate House

Creaton, Northants, England

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