Part 2 of this series on the findings of the Digital + Exhibit Marketing Insights study focuses on the virtual side of the business.
As a reminder, this study was conducted by The Center for Exhibition Industry Research and the Exhibition Research Foundation in partnership with George P. Johnson. 287 Corporate Brand and Exhibition Management senior-level professionals took the survey on how they are currently integrating digital marketing into their event programs.
Without further ado, here are the findings on virtual media, what they mean and what you can do about them.
1. Virtual media is used more prevalently among corporate brand marketers.
What does it mean? Brands are using virtual media tactics to engage their audiences outside of traditional exhibition marketing channels. They own the content and are looking for a way to address their audiences without the cost and complexity of third-party events.
What can you do about it? As exhibition management, make sure you are offering virtual channels to complement your live exhibitions. As corporate brands, continue to push the envelope with virtual media, but ensure your marketing activities address your total audience. Not everyone will engage virtually.
2. Webinars, web conferences and live webcasts are the virtual media of choice with virtual exhibitions close behind.
What does it mean? Brands have gravitated toward virtual media tactics which tend to drive one-way communication. One of the inherent strengths of more recent virtual media technologies is the power to interact real-time with audiences to drive a more participatory, engaging experience.
What can you do about it? Expand the use of virtual media to include more interactive tactics such as virtual exhibitions and events in virtual worlds to drive true audience engagement. Its important to understand that even the most compelling virtual event will not be as engaging or immersive as a face-to-face event. Ensure your overall portfolio of marketing activities remains balanced with both virtual and face-to-face activities.
3. Virtual media is most used to more easily accommodate a geographically widespread workforce and customer base. Virtual media is also seen as a means to save money and complement to live events.
What does it mean? The real value of virtual media in driving conversations between brands and their audiences, propagating thought leadership, and generating demand is largely untapped by event marketers.
What can you do about it? Consider implementing virtual media tactics into your event portfolio to drive awareness, propagate thought leadership, nurture relationships and enhance and extend the investment of your face-to-face activities (hybrid events).
4. The importance of virtual media is increasing and will continue to grow.
What does it mean? Event marketers will continue to adopt virtual media technologies to complement their overall marketing portfolio. As a result, virtual media will become more prevalent in the event marketing mix.
What can you do about it? Continue experimenting with virtual media. Drive understanding of how your audiences both participate and behave in virtual activities. Use the right tool at the right time for the right purpose within your marketing mix. While virtual media will have strengths at some points in your sales cycle, there are times when other tactics are more effective and appropriate. Consider how each tactic in your mix drives awareness, thought leadership, nurturing, conversion and loyalty.
Despite recent adoption and all the buzz about virtual media, the technology and its application are still in their infancy. I believe we’ll be seeing some interesting things coming out of the gaming industry (MMOGs) that will enhance engagement and interactivity. Look for virtual events to use higher quality video, innovate with sound technology, drive a much higher level of engagement and allow users far more freedom in the creation and interaction with event content. Alternately, virtual events could take a far more simplistic approach and move toward more complex chat applications. In any case the integration of social media will be paramount to the future adoption and success of virtual events.
Experiment with virtual activities to drive a greater understanding of how they impact events. If you discover something that works, please share to help build greater community knowledge. As always please feel free to comment with thoughts or questions.
I’ll publish part 3 of this post later this week. Here, the focus will be on measurement, budgeting, ROI and the overall impact of digital and virtual media on event marketing.