I’m very pleased to hear that Rootstech has reconsidered their decision of not allowing book vendors to exhibit at Rootstech 2012. While this is their conference and they certainly have every right to design it in the way that they want, I think this is an excellent decision. And here’s why:
- Not only are you missing out on direct revenue from booth rentals, all indirect revenue realized from the vendors is lost as well, and not just for the conference itself but for the local businesses.
- Genealogy-based books can be technologically based and printed books make a perfect bridge for the non-tech genealogists to cross over into the tech world. It’s a familiar medium.
- Some book publishers have electronic books. Those who do not electronically publish could possibly learn why they should be doing so. [And I fully believe they should.]
- As far as the arts and crafts vendors are concerned, I know I couldn’t do my heritage arts and crafts without technology, and I’m sure prospective arts and crafts vendors are the same way. Further, I use technology to share with my readers how to make the heritage crafts. [However, I don’t know if they’re being invited or not as some of the book vendors are.]
- Any successful conference in any industry knows its target demographics. After all, this is basic salesmanship. In order to get the target conference-goer to come to the conference, you must be offering something that they want, which in this case is education and exhibits. I think your target demographics have spoken up this past weekend to let you know what kind of exhibits they are not only wanting but expecting.
- In this tough economy, most conference-goers are having to make difficult choices as to how to spend their allotted genealogy money. Many can only afford one major conference. When making this decision, they will have to make tough choices between conferences that don’t welcome technology and a conference like Rootstech that is choosing to concentrate on technology as it pertains to genealogy. Both conference models are fine, but you must understand that there are consequences to every action, positive or negative. Further, I believe the main complaint at genealogy conferences is the lack of technology [education as well as the acceptance of the usage of technology]– not that there was too much genealogy. [Is there such a thing?] The need in our genealogy community is an acceptance of both genealogy and technology.
However, I have been surprised by the lack of usage of social media for the promotion of Rootstech 2012. As far as I can tell, there have been only 4 main ways that have been used to advertise this conference:
- The official Rootstech 2012 conference site at Rootstech.familysearch.org/ .
- The official Rootstech Facebook page.
- The official Rootstech Bloggers.
- The media disk handed out at the FGS2011 Geneabloggers reception hosted by FamilySearch.org.
However, blogs and a Facebook page are just two social media platforms out of many that can be used to promote a conference. Now, I know that several of the official bloggers have and use twitter accounts, but that is not a complete social media plan.
I cannot express enough how useful Twitter can be in this kind of promotion, and it has been ignored. The last time I checked the Rootstech Facebook page, there were 1040 Likes. That’s a low number for a conference that had over 3000 attendees last year and with less than 2 months left before the start of the next conference. I only ‘liked’ the page recently simply because I don’t spend much time on Facebook. I don’t prefer it. The majority of my social networking occurs on Twitter, and I’ve recently have been engaging on Google Plus.
I have, at the time of this writing, 3973 followers on Twitter and I follow 4361 Tweeters. Most are genealogy-related, but not all. I also network heavily with mom bloggers, authors, writers, self-published authors, and tech-related tweeters. Some have even expressed an interest in genealogy at times. All are heavily into technology to complete the work that they do. It makes a fantastic demographic to target for a conference such as Rootstech
And I’ve only shared with you my stats. There are others with very high stats on Twitter that could be leveraged to assist Rootstech in their marketing endeavors. All who have varied followers based upon different interests.
Below is what I had expected in terms of social media for a conference such as Rootstech:
- Having a dedicated social media person or a coordinated group of persons to manage all social media accounts at all times so that questions and concerns can be addressed immediately as is expected in social media. Because of social media, we live in a '24/7' type of world now.
- Growing the Facebook Page’s ‘Likes’ number. The whole point of having a Facebook page is so that people can like, and or follow, the page thus creating a community. Once this is done, the entity who runs the page would have access, and or influence, to this community for both direct marketing purposes as well as for creating excitement over the reason the page was created in the first place. In this case, of course, that’s Rootstech 2012. This is a great place to foster discussions on genealogy and technology. Getting people to think about it will get a certain percentage of them to register and go to the conference. Engagement is key, and of course, if your Facebook page fans share the page, then some of the work is being done for you.
- Creating a Twitter account and growing the follow/follower numbers and engaging other tweeters to create a sense of community so that they will willingly retweet your tweets. To be successful at Twitter, an organization has to not only broadcast its message [in this case the Rootstech conference] but engage other tweeters in short discussions. Because this conference is centered around both genealogy and technology, you’re in luck because both topics have a big following on Twitter. How can this be helpful in marketing Rootstech? After all, doesn’t everyone who has a Twitter account also have a Facebook account? No, not always, and even if the tweeter does have both accounts, they may prefer one over the other. Also, tweets can easily be categorized by topics, giving a unique ability to tweeters to target very specific interests and groups. All of these Twitter qualities can be used effectively for growing excitement, anticipation, and interest in a conference like Rootstech. How? Well, let’s say the social media person for Rootstech tweets something informational with a link to the Rootstech site to its 1689 followers [Update: This was and is a fictional number. Rootstech does have a Twitter account with only 20 followers.], and I happen to be on Twitter, and because I follow them, I see it, and decide to tweet it to my 3973 followers. Let’s say for this example that I had one follower who retweeted my Rootstech retweet, and this follower themselves had 2567 followers. Now, the single Rootstech informational tweet with a link back to the website that was tweeted by the dedicated Tweeter for Rootstech, has, with 2 more clicks, touched 8229 tweeters, and has moved 2 people to the action of retweeting. With these numbers, odds are, a certain percentage of these 8229 tweeters will retweet the informational tweet with a link to the Rootstech site, a certain percentage will be moved to the action of clicking on the link, and, of course, a certain amount will be moved to the desired action of registering for the Rootstech conference. This is why Twitter is a very effective social network. [Sorry for the math word problem. What was I thinking?]
- While creating a Google Plus page is a newer ability on a newer social network, a certain percentage of people prefer Google Plus over Facebook and Twitter. It provides a place to foster longer discussions. In my experience on Google Plus, many genealogy technology discussions are taking place over there that a conference like Rootstech should be, at the very least, monitoring [and it may very well already be]. Goals here should be to increase numbers of circles and numbers of followers in circles and engaging these followers in lively discussions of genealogy and technology. Moreover, with the Hangout video chat capability that is available on Google Plus, many of these discussions could be taking place using this technology and involving some of the scheduled speakers or Rootstech organizers all year long.
- Creating a dedicated YouTube channel for Rootstech would be extremely helpful. While there are 4 taped presentations on video from last year’s conference parked on Brightcove.com, this platform isn’t a social network like YouTube, and because YouTube is owned by Google, YouTube videos naturally find themselves at the top of search results. These 4 videos [and any other others that can be used for marketing purposes] should be on YouTube on a Rootstech YouTube channel. While there are many videos about Rootstech that were made by conference attendees last year on YouTube, when a person goes to YouTube and searches for Rootstech [or searches for it in Google],the Rootstech YouTube channel should come up first in the search results. This provides uniformity in the marketing of the brand that you have so diligently created. The social media aspects of YouTube cannot be ignored either and must be monitored. Engagement with followers and the goals of increasing followers, friending, and subscribing must be made, met, and exceeded for a technology-based conference such as Rootstech.
- A blog is definitely an effective social media tool, and I think it’s excellent that Rootstech has Official Bloggers for this conference. However, I think it’s essential that Rootstech have its own blog. Using Official Bloggers is an excellent way to get the word out to each of the Official Blogger’s readers, but what about those readers who don’t read their blogs? Rootstech should be creating and controlling their brand by using a blog format. I think a perfect example of a conference using a blog is FGS. These were simple posts all in one place in a technological format that many feel comfortable with reading where they could go to find updates on the conference. Blogs are like websites, and if a person doesn’t use Facebook or Google Plus, these conference-goers or potential conference-goers need and expect a conference on technology to have a blog. It’s also a great place for conference press releases and fostering community through the comments part of the blog.
- LinkedIn is a professional social networking site where many genealogists and technologists network, and this is why Rootstech should have a presence there as well. Again, Rootstech should be controlling its brand on major social media networks. Here discussions can be fostered as well. In fact, there are many discussions occurring on LinkedIn already about genealogy and technology. At the very least, Rootstech should be monitoring them, but the goal should be to be driving those discussions. While there are several in my LinkedIn network that have added Rootstech2012 as an event, I did not see an official Rootstech 2012 Group started over there, but perhaps I missed it.
- Foursquare is a social networking app that has been used in the past at conferences for facilitating networking. Here are some websites that discuss the ins and outs of using it at conferences: How To: Use Foursquare for a Conference (or an exhibit booth) and How Foursquare Rocks Conferences.
- Shhmooze is a social networking app designed for conferences and here’s a 3 part series written by Shhmooze on their blog about their app.
Using social media effectively can really boost a conference’s attendance and brand, and it also allows a conference to show its potential conference-goers and the conference-goers that it does have a handle on the topic of the actual conference. By using social media technology, Rootstech can increase its attendance and popularity as well as send out the message that it knows how to combine genealogy and technology successfully. Social media would also allow Rootstech to efficiently monitor its brand and deal with any public relations matters that may come up before they get out of hand.
What do y'all think? Did I miss any important social networks? Did I miss Rootstech on a social network? Let me know in comments below. And if I've missed something, please let me know.
I'm still going to Rootstech 2012. Hello?!? Technology and genealogy? That's what I do. [Of course, I read books about technology and I use technology to make my heritage arts and crafts. And then I tell you all about it on that new fangled technology called social media.]