In my career before the arts came the MICE industry. For those of you not in the know this is the world of meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions. Since moving away from the sector I have still kept an eye on it from a distance, keen to see how it adopts social media in its practice – after all the business tourism game is a social industry at its very heart.

On the buyer side, within the MICE industry, social media is increasingly being used to engage delegates and increase attendance at events. The Association sector in particularly seem to have embraced the medium to create online networks surrounding their membership and conferences, for example this can be seen in the work of the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.

This social trend seems to be reflected less so over in the supplier side with it appearing that convention bureaus, venues, event management companies etc. are still struggling to get to grips with the opportunities social media presents. One convention bureau trying to realise the potential is Seoul, however the MICE industry’s caution surrounding social media is reflected in the comments of their Deputy Chief of PR and Marketing Communications, Martin Kim;

“There are many who are less than optimistic about the role of social media in the business-to-business based meetings industry.”

[Source: Conference & Incentive Travel]

This is further highlighted by the recent launch of the C&IT Social Media Survey, which is aiming to undercover the how, what and why in regards to event planners use of social networks – to uncover what might be the potential social media ROI for suppliers.

Although not immersed in the industry these days (therefore I stand to be corrected) it seems from suppliers that there is little attempt being made to reach beyond using social media as another channel by which to broadcast a marketing message. Hence here I present three areas where I believe convention bureaus, conference venues and so on are missing out when it comes to social networks;

1) Building relationships / community creation: MICE suppliers can use social channels to position themselves as experts within the sector – creating communities of interest around the key issues for conference buyers – technology, sustainability, income generation for example. In offering this insight for free it raises the awareness of the destination/venue with buyers as a leader within the field.

2) Enhancing delegate experience: Social media has proven to be an effective tool for customer service for a variety of brands including Naked Wines, KLM and Zappos. Destinations and venues have the opportunity to engage conference delegates before and during events to help them orientate with the city they are visiting – with the chance to make a real impact on their stay.

3) Evaluation & Research: Social networking sites not only provide a platform by which to ‘talk’, they also provide a mechanism by which to listen. Conference suppliers and tourism authorities can see how a destination and/or venue is received by delegates by monitoring feedback left on social sites. This intelligence can then by used to identify any areas for improvement. In addition these channels can be used to identify opportunities to attract new events to cities through locating ambassadors and discovering new events.

Image c/o anifan licensed under Creative Commons.