Postscript on the Use of Social Media at the 2010 Miami Boat Show

The Daily Social Media Marketing Campaign News
By Howard Oliver, CEO, What If What Next, whatifwhatnext@on.aibn.com

The New MiamiTimes ran a story featuring how social media was used to promote the 2010 Miami International Boat Show and Strictly Sail Miami held February 11-15, 2010. The five-day event draws tens of thousands of visitors each year and hosts more than 2,000 exhibitors from around the world. The event fills the Miami Beach Convention Center and Sea Isle Marina & Yachting Center with thousands of boats and hundreds of booths showcasing the latest gear and accessories.

The Miami International Boat Show & Strictly Sail Miami is produced by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), the world’s largest producer of boat shows. NMMA is the leading association representing the recreational boating industry in North America. NMMA member companies produce more than 80 percent of the boats, engines, trailers, accessories and gear used by boaters and anglers throughout the U.S. and Canada.

I wanted to get a postscript, several months after the event, on how effective the social media campaign actually was. I contacted Ellen Hopkins, Director of Marketing Communications at the NMMA, who very graciously answered my questions:

Howard: What prompted the NMMA to invest in a social media campaign for the 69th Annual Miami International Boat Show and Strictly Sail Miami ?

Ellen: We’ve been participating in the social media space for the last couple of years, engaging with potential boaters, boat show attendees, the boating community, and those within the industry. Attendees of the Miami International Boat Show and Strictly Sail are active users of social media networks and it’s important we engage with them there for three reasons:To understand what kind of experience they’re looking for at the show and what kind of information they want and then to share that useful information with them and then learn from their feedback on how we can improve their boat show experience. Social media is just one element of a larger marketing campaign to reach our core audience. We work with a lot of different media to reach our audience where they are whether it’s traditional or digital.

Howard: What quantitative and qualitative impact were you looking for? What results were achieved?

Ellen: The Miami International Boat Show was one of our “test” shows for Twitter – to see what, if any, impact Twitter would have as a communication tool to build buzz for the show and to communicate with potential attendees, show exhibitors, local Miami and the Miami Beach community. To date, we have nearly 900 followers ranging from local and international media to show attendees and exhibitors and local businesses impacted by the show. By utilizing Twitter, we were able to engage all of our audiences, answer questions, share real-time news and promotional opportunities, and receive ideas and feedback from our attendees and exhibitors that we wouldn’t have had it not been for Twitter. Given the nature of the show, with so many speakers, events within the show, and exhibitor promotions, our Twitter followers were able to stay informed in real time in order to better navigate the show.

On Facebook, we increased our fans by more than 1000 this past year. Our Facebook advertising campaign resulted in more than 1.5 million impressions and a strong click-through rate (CTR) (.065%). This was our first time advertising on Facebook but our cost per click (CPC) was very competitive. Qualitative results were positive as well. Increasing our fan base meant we could communicate more regularly and year-round with our attendees and fans. Facebook allowed us to have more of a discussion with attendees and enabled us to more proactively address positive as well as negative feedback. It also made it very easy to target our key demographic by helping us find self-identified characteristics such as geographic location and interest.

Because we are an event, the frequency of the information we disperse is heightened right before and during the show and drops off afterwards, and our audiences don’t expect to hear from us year-round. However, we utilize Facebook and Twitter off-season to pulse any relevant boat show updates or local news that may be of interest in order to keep our audiences engaged and coming back.

Howard: You built a Facebook and Twitter presence. Can you speak about your approach before, during and after the show? See previous response.

Ellen: What reaction did you get from exhibitors? Did your social media program encourage them to help social media programs of their own? What shifts could occur from traditional marketing methods? We were happy to find that a lot of our exhibitors were also participating in the social realm – becoming fans of the show on Facebook, and building their own fan pages and Twitter accounts. For example, we worked in tandem with Sea Ray to promote a celebrity appearance via Twitter throughout the show. We also worked with some of our show sponsors to contribute to conversations happening online on both Facebook and Twitter. We’re seeing more exhibitors embrace social media as they experience the communications benefits. Traditional marketing and media relations are still a core element of our marketing strategy and we’ll continue to pursue traditional channels as we evaluate where and how our audience is consuming media.

Howard: What interactions did you get online from visitors to the show? What kind of conversations took place and what was their value?

Ellen: Everything from responding to announcements to asking questions on ticketing and show hours. We also received feedback on what attendees liked and what they’d like to see different. The value is that attendees and exhibitors have a new and simpler way to interact with us and we’re able to provide responses and solutions on a very global level in real-time. It also helped us to more easily share content from the show’s website and to direct attendees there for more information. For example, this year we launched a new program where attendees can pre-shop the boat show and search exhibitors and boats they’ll have onsite before even attending the show. They get a chance to see who will be there and what product they’re bringing, to set appointments with the exhibitor and to contact them directly to ask questions. We were able to communicate with attendees who are already online using social media and would therefore more likely be interested in using this new online benefit.

Howard: What would you do differently for next year show?

Ellen: We’re continuing to evaluate our audience to better understand what media they use and how to best communicate with them. We’re hoping to enhance a lot of the ways we’re currently reaching them online and improve our use of video, images, polls, special ticket discounts – basically anything that allows us to better engage the attendee and the exhibitor. We are also working to better integrate all of our efforts between Facebook, Twitter and our website MiamiBoatShow.com. We conduct social media campaigns for many of our shows and Discover Boating, our national brand. Therefore, our strategy evolves as we learn and as consumers interactions with us change and we can test concepts and react almost immediately if needed.

Howard: In general terms, is the involvement in social media important to your industry? What do you think the future will hold?

Ellen: Involvement in social media is very important to recreational boating. Traditional media continues to be important too. It’s really about understanding our audience and developing the right mix of digital, mobile, social and traditional media to create an effective marketing campaign. The way we interact. We will go where our consumers are and we see the value of participating in the social media evolution when interacting with boat show attendees, exhibitors and the local community. .

We don’t just help our industry sell boats, but moreover, we help our industry sell a lifestyle. Boaters are passionate about their time on the water. They’re active and they’re also very social by nature, both online and off-line. An angler can’t wait to tell his fishing buddies about his latest catch and he can do it easily now by simply posting an update on Facebook or Twitter. The same goes for the boater who finally got her five year-old up on waterskis for the first time. Boaters are sharing and receiving a lot of information online because they’re peers are also sharing information online. Social media fits seamlessly within recreational boating and will likely continue to be an important way boaters communicate.

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About Howard Oliver
The founder and CEO of What If What Next, Howard Oliver (holiver@whatifwhatnext.com) for more than 20 years has been an entrepreneur, writer, thought leader, PR Guru, business development strategist, technology evangelist, manager and consultant for numerous service, industrial and high technology companies. Howard provides leadership in the application of Agile and Lean project management methodologies for technology enabled social media marketing and PR campaigns that deliver revenue, customer and alliance engagement, and media buzz. Clients in technology and other industries recognize him as a driven, highly creative and disciplined thinker. He also created the WebVoyaging® brand, a market engagement methodology that optimizes the deployment of cloud based, best-in-class marketing automation solutions. The WebVoyaging® process is inspired by the great visionaries who conceived of and built history’s great sailing vessels, which helped establish trade routes and created huge wealth. An accomplished business educator, Howard has recently created the WebVoyaging® Master Class, a training program for organizations interested in implementing Lean marketing automation solutions. Howard holds an MBA from Wilfrid Laurier University, and a Bachelor of Commerce degree from McGill University. Howard is an avid sailor and collector of books.

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