James Sun, CEO and founder of pirq.com, is a Facebook guy. Nicholas Segura, CEO of Somos Agency in Kansas City, Missouri, is a big fan of Twitter. Monica Vila, co-founder of The Online Mom, is platform agnostic, preferring to spread her message over two or three social networks at the same time.
Regardless of their favorite tool, each understands what is becoming more evident by the day: Social media connects people in a way few things can. For planners, nothing could be more important in reaching as broad an audience as possible. The trick is finding a message that resonates and causes action, particularly when reaching out to attendees of various races with myriad backgrounds and interests.
Consider that the U.S. Census Bureau counts 50.4 million Hispanics, 38.9 million African-Americans and 14.6 million Asians among the country’s population. The growing minority represents the new majority. By 2043, the census projects Latin Americans will overtake the number of Caucasians in the United States. Simultaneously, the face of meetings is also changing.
To get ahead of the curve, planners are actively reaching out to diverse groups to bring them together for conferences, conventions, meetings and other special events. There’s nothing wrong with that, says Sun, who advises the best approach is a direct one.
“Be honest when you are reaching out and saying you want representatives who are Millennials, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, African-Americans… Be forward about it,” says Sun, who was a keynote speaker at Collinson Media & Events’ Diversity Marketplace 2015 in Newport Beach, California. “They don’t want a watered-down message. Tell them why you want a diverse group of people and how you want to collaborate with them.”
Taking an in-depth look at ethnic communities in the United States, planners must recognize that individuals have a strong affinity and ties to their country of origin. An attendee from Puerto Rico does not exhibit the same cultural identity and buying habits as those of a person from Mexico. The same is true when discussing Asians of different origins: It’s not one size fits all; you must tailor your message to each culture and community. This includes doing your homework to understand cultural differences, language preferences, buying habits and socioeconomic backgrounds of attendees.
For instance, marketing efforts to the Hispanic community should be done in both English and Spanish, as members of the older generation often still use Spanish, while second- and third-generation Hispanic-Americans speak English first.
Hispanics’ Habits: In the push to attract Millennials, it’s important to realize 71 percent of Hispanics are under the age of 40. Not coincidentally, Hispanics are five times more likely to share online content than non-Hispanics, according to “The Source Book of Multicultural Experts” (Multicultural Marketing Resources Inc., 2014).
In the digital market today, planners can choose several ways to reach their client base. But where should they begin?
Between Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and LinkedIn—not to mention old-fashioned email blasts—there are many options. Different generations use different modes of communication.
To drive business through events, start with Facebook, says Sun. “Facebook allows you to target geographically as well as target ethnic groups,” he says. “Tell the people you are reaching out to that you want to give them a highlight reel as to why they should attend.” Let potential attendees know you are trying to bring diverse minds to the event. People are proud of their ethnic heritage, he notes, so that will appeal to them.
But not so fast, says Segura, who discussed the power of social media for businesses at a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City meeting in 2014. The competition for attention is only getting worse, so the shorter the message the better.
“I love Twitter,” Segura says. “In 140 characters, I can send my message out to the group of people I want to reach. With Facebook, you have to send a friend request and they have to accept, or they have to click on my page to like me.”
Not only is it a lot of steps, Segura notes, but there’s another issue that may defy the purpose of using social media to attract attention. “Because of some changes in the Facebook rules, everyone who follows you may not be able to see your posts,” he says. That means important messages being passed along on social media by planners may only be reaching a fraction of followers and potential attendees.
Perhaps that’s why Vila recommends using both Facebook and Twitter in tandem to market your event, if for no other reason than to reinforce your messaging in two different arenas.
“The goal is to be good at business and good at using social media,” says Vila, a Latina whose OM Media Group has been lauded for its efforts engaging users in coveted segments like women, multicultural communities and Millennials. She recommends planners use Facebook and Twitter to reach out about their events and keep their pages active with current postings.
Less popular—but fairly effective—is Google+, which its parent company says adults who are online use 22 percent of the time. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, planners can use Google+ to build an analytics page, gauging a deeper understanding of attendees’ online habits. The network, featuring Google Hangouts, is used to interact, create brands and check the status of online content. Perhaps the platform’s biggest selling point is its affiliation with its parent company. Each day, there are more than 40,000 Google searches per second, which adds up to 3.5 billion searches per day, the company says.
AN INTEGRATED EXPERIENCE
Picking the most effective network to reach diverse groups is only part of the challenge. Knowing how to use social media effectively is possibly more important.
The key to a successful meeting is to get people talking about the event. It’s important to showcase the meeting through daily photos, videos, tweets and text posts. In the same way nearly 50 percent of purchases are influenced by word of mouth, creating good buzz not only pays off in the short term with greater interaction, but it can build momentum to increase attendee totals for next year.
When targeting specific demographics to build as diverse an audience as possible, keeping the specific audience in mind for each post is vital. Remember, changing a few words is all it takes to adapt one post to multiple groups.
The groundwork should begin before the event. Ideas include using a countdown to the event and creating a forum page allowing attendees to log in from Twitter or Facebook, which gives them an outlet to post about why they are excited about the event or what they want to learn. This can result in testimonials for future marketing efforts.
The work will start the conversation early, which can lead to in-person connections at the event.
“When I see someone tweeting about an event I am going to attend, I look at their background and profile,” says Sun. “I start to talk to them through social media and we begin to share our thoughts about the topic and upcoming meeting. We can then meet up at the event and have all the prenetworking done.”
Vila recommends collecting and posting videos to reach Millennials, who, according to a study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, are more likely to click on videos versus digital copy. She believes the tactic is also more personal than text.
“You can tell your audience in two minutes or less who you are and what you are doing,” says Vila. “This is the best way to reach the younger generation and encourage them to share your video with friends.”
Mobile phones, the Internet and Skype connect our world today in a way radio and television couldn’t when they dominated the media landscape. Embracing technology puts planners one step ahead in competing for the new majority.
“It [should be] an integrated experience,” says Sun. “There’s not one way you can get to everybody; it is a multifaceted approach now.”
Photo credit: Frida Marie Grande