By Michelle Bruno, MPC
Social registration—an opportunity to leverage the social networks of stakeholders to reach new registrants and increase pre-registration conversions—is the next phase in the evolution of exhibition registration. There are two ways to approach the use of social media networks in the registration process. Depending on which path organisers take, they can end up with distorted results and diminishing returns or mutual trust and loyal customers.
How Social Registration Works
Social registration is a mechanism for allowing visitors to register for an exhibition using their existing social media accounts (For example, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Xing) in order to improve and add value to their registration process. Social registration requires that registrants give organisers permission to access information and view network connections from their social media accounts.
Registering socially allows attendees to learn who in their networks are also attending (and start networking before the event) and invite others whom they would like to see attend (to help curate their own event experiences). The same goes for speakers, exhibiting companies, and exhibitor staff.
The Benefits of Permission
There are several advantages for trade show organisers, both exhibition marketing managers and show directors, derived from social registration. With permission from registrants and other stakeholders to “see” into their social media networks, organisers gain insight into who the market influencers are, who they aren’t reaching through traditional marketing channels, and hidden sources of revenue (on paid registrations).
While the exchange of access to social networks in return for insight is presumed to be a good one for those (at least) who opt in, organisers have to approach it carefully. For example, the automatic status update (when the organiser posts a message like “Hey, I’ve just registered for the ABC event” on a customer’s social media profile without the account holder’s knowledge or explicit permission) can be a double-edged sword.
Fuzzy Numbers and the Destruction of Trust
Unauthorized posts, such as the above, can generate big numbers in terms of the impressions a social registration generates, but it can also anger the account holder if they aren’t given or informed of the opportunity to opt out of the auto-status update feature. Many users of social media consider their social media profiles as somewhat sacrosanct and automatic posts as intrusive.
Auto-status updates can give way to a backlash resulting in fewer individuals using social registration and organisers being less able to leverage its many benefits. It’s more fruitful in the long run to encourage participants to create their own authentically worded updates and invites, and in doing so, preserve the trust that the organisers have built with their customers.
Social registration, when managed effectively, holds massive potential for exhibition organisers to influence and convert attendees who cannot be reached using traditional marketing channels—including email. It empowers attendees who, through word-of-mouth endorsements and invitations, use their social networks to build events that they are interested in attending. But it comes with responsibilities.
The precedent set by exhibition organisers at this point in the relative infancy of social registration is critical. Organisers who build trust with their constituents now, when the number of social registrants is just beginning to grow, will benefit from loyalty down the road when the process becomes mainstream.
[For more information on the potential of social registration, download our white paper, “The Missing Link in Exhibition Promotion: Social Media Amplification“]