Hammock Builds Social Network for SNAP Conference
Project: SNAP Conference
Launched: March 2009
Custom Shop: Hammock Inc.
For association publishers‚ÄĒwhose mission is social by definition‚ÄĒthe concept of an online community is not only natural‚ÄĒit‚Äôs vital.
Nashville-based custom publisher Hammock Inc. first began experimenting with social media (with forums and listservs) in 1993, well before ‚Äúsocial media‚ÄĚ became as ubiquitous as ‚Äúthe Internet.‚ÄĚ
Earlier this year, they got to put some of those tests to work, when the Society of National Association Publications (‚ÄúSNAP‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒnow called Association Media & Publishing) hired Hammock to manage social media for one of its signature events‚ÄĒthe SNAP Conference, which was held in Washington, D.C. in May.
‚ÄúWe knew we were changing our name to include ‚Äėmedia,‚Äô‚ÄĚ says Amy Lestition, Association Media & Publishing‚Äôs executive director. ‚ÄúI knew we had to have something in place with some backing to it. We couldn‚Äôt say, ‚ÄėHey we‚Äôre all media‚Äô and not have a social network, much less a Twitter feed. You know, baby steps.‚ÄĚ
In March, Hammock created an online ‚Äúpre-conference community‚ÄĚ for SNAP using a premium version of the Ning platform (‚Äúone that allowed us personalize the look, remove the ads, etc.‚ÄĚ).
‚ÄúIn an environment where magazine and media related conferences have been hard-hit, we believed that a ‚Äėpre-conference community‚Äô designed to be focused on a short time-frame leading up to the meeting, would be effective in getting potential attendees excited about‚ÄĒand thus, committed to‚ÄĒattending the conference even in a recession,‚ÄĚ CEO Rex Hammock says. ‚ÄúThe other goal was add to value to the attendee experience.‚ÄĚ
Lestition notes that while the conference is technically two-and-a-half days, most attendees go for just one, limiting their chance to network face-to-face. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs hard to form those connections in a day,‚ÄĚ she says. ‚ÄúWe wanted to get those conversations started before they got there.‚ÄĚ
Hammock worked with SNAP on the pre-conference community‚ÄĒcoordinating content with the traditional marketing mailings SNAP was doing‚ÄĒas well as on the development of a ‚Äúlive‚ÄĚ site that aggregated photos from Flickr, tweets from attendees, blog posts and videos.
The ‚Äúlive‚ÄĚ site now serves an archive of the conference and will be used in marketing next year‚Äôs conference for both attendees and potential sponsors, while the pre-conference community will live on as a its own social network.
The result was increased attendance at the show (318 attendees, compared with 298 the year before), and a sold-out exhibit hall. ‚ÄúWe definitely exceeded our sponsor and exhibit goals,‚ÄĚ Lestition says.
One Good Objective
The key to this social network‚Äôs success, Hammock says, was having ‚Äúone good objective‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒin this case, generating excitement and buzz for a show‚ÄĒrather than trying to be an all-encompassing platform.
‚ÄúToo often, associations or magazines set unattainable goals for their social networks, or the goals they have are too broad,‚ÄĚ Hammock says.
Another pitfall is spending too much time worrying about the technology. ‚ÄúThe hard part of any community or forum is not the technology,‚ÄĚ Hammock says.¬† ‚ÄúThe easiest way to doom anything related to social media is to start off talking about technology and features and platforms. If you start out with ‚Äėintegration with your legacy CRM‚Äô as a social media goal, there‚Äôs a high degree of risk that you‚Äôll fail. And there‚Äôs a 100 percent chance you‚Äôll not have anything to show for six months to a year.‚ÄĚ
Instead, the goal should be understanding your audience.¬† ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs understanding the motivations of why people join‚ÄĒfiguring out who to market it to, seeding it to get people to join, figuring who and how to reward those who do,‚ÄĚ says Hammock. ‚ÄúThe least important part is the technology.‚ÄĚ¬†