Flying away from my home on a rock, otherwise known as Hawaii, last week in the middle of the night for a 5,000 mile journey to New York City to attend a real estate technology conference (Inman Real Estate Connect), I was filled not only with excitement, but pride. I had been selected to be among an elite (and exceptionally well connected) group of people called Ambassadors, because I am a raving fan and an influencer. Eleven of us were chosen to help amplify information being shared at the conference to the online world through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, FourSquare and Instagram. As an event planner, PR/ marketing professional and a social media freak, this was a unique opportunity to watch how social networks can be used to harness the power of rabid fans, in this case, of real estate technology and the Inman Real Estate Connect brand.
The Ambassador program is a case study in action on how brand loyalists combined with social media platforms can amplify the message and content coming out of events. In this case, a three day conference targeted to thousands of Realtors and real estate affiliated companies around the world. In the sharing of information, Real Estate Connect solidified its relevance to its target audience.
How the Ambassador Program Worked
The Ambassadors, who are past attendees of other Real Estate Connect conferences and extremely influential in their sphere, were given front row seats at all the keynote sessions and were split up among the break out sessions to send out the key points of the speaker’s presentations on Twitter. (For a demonstration of how this worked, go to Twitter and check out the #ICNY hashtag stream). As a reward for doing this, the Ambassadors received a free conference ticket to the event and had the cache of being called Ambassadors. (rewarding fandom)
The keynote presentations were also captured on video by select Ambassadors who love the medium and sent out through the Inman News YouTube channel. I played my part by interviewing the exhibitors during the event and asked them what innovative product or service did they bring to the event and how they added value to the real estate transaction. The conference videos were shared on both Facebook and on the Inman YouTube channel.
I also did what I do best, take some fun pictures of the attendees and post them to the Real Estate Connect Facebook business page and my Facebook page. This created the feeling of being there and the energy coming out of the conference to people who could not attend the conference.
You can see where this is going in terms of marketing, right? The real estate professionals that were not there read what they were missing in their social and professional spheres. They not only read it, they saw it in bright, bold fun photos and educational videos and felt like they should have attended. WIll they buy a ticket to the next conference? Personally? I think Inman’s Social Media Manager, Katie Lance, was a genius in creating this program to drive interest, ticket sales and brand loyalty to this conference series. The Ambassadors helped create the buzz, which helps Katie ensure she has success with the next event being held in San Francisco in July.
The Meat Was Definitely Being Served
Is it all sales and marketing? No. Truly innovative information was being shared by some of the top leaders in the tech space, including a key executive from Facebook, the author of “What Would Google Do?” and the author of “The Facebook Era”. Being in the audience and seeing these visionaries up close and personal made the 5000 mile trip worth it, and I know that those who paid full price for their conference ticket, felt the same way. Additionally, as I tweeted out and re-tweeted the nuggets from each presentation, I started getting new followers. The reward was my influence expanded. A true win-win for Connect and myself and my fellow Ambassadors, whom I know picked up new followers, as well.
Beyond the conference and education, there were sponsored parties to attend. (You can’t go to New York City and miss the chance to get all dolled up and put on heels and a swanky dress, right!?) The Ambassadors and I put these experiences on FourSquare, Instagram and Facebook, giving our peers a glimpse into what they were missing in real time. (MANY comments came streaming in about how people wanted to see us in San Francisco, so I KNOW the buzz was working!)
Aside from being an Ambassador, the networking with hundreds of people whom I knew online and had a chance to meet and connect with offline, was worth the price of the five hour time difference and the consistent lack of sleep.
The Power of Social
The running stream of discussion through much of the conference was the power of social. Social to drive consumers to purchase or sell real estate. Social to drive word of mouth referrals. Social to learn to be a better Realtor by connecting with peers on open forums on Facebook groups and Twitter streams like #RTB. (Raise the Bar).
As a marketing professional, I saw social being used every moment to spread the brand awareness of Real Estate Connect. FourSquare users were checking into “Real Estate Connect”, as well as the Marriott Marquis. Twitter users were engaging with other attendees and their own sphere using the #ICNY hashtag. Attendees posted their photos to Facebook and the Real Estate Connect page to get in on some social butterflying.
Tipping Point Reached?
I believe the tipping point in using social networks to help create an online buzz, and thus drive future sales, has been reached. But how many sales? To put the buzz on speed, use your fans or “brand ambassadors” to expand your message.There has never been a better time to tap into all this sharing for business and promotion.
It all is music to the ears of conference and event promoters and to business owners who can harness the power of their fans to spread their enthusiasm on social networks. For Realtors doing an exceptional job for their clients, it’s good news, too. People like to talk to their friends when they receive remarkable service and have a good outcome to a very stressful situation in most people’s lives.
Be that service provider/business owner/conference promoter/marketer who provides the next level of an experience and creates raving fans. Tap into those “fans” to sing your praises to their sphere of influence..and let them take your picture and put it on Facebook and be sure to share their tweets: “Had the most AMAZING experience at #YourConference” “Two thumbs up to @YourName for a fantastic transaction. #HappyAsHell”
Have you sung the praises of someone you did business with that you told all your friends about using social networks?