Hammock Builds Social Network for SNAP Conference
Project: SNAP Conference
Launched: March 2009
Custom Shop: Hammock Inc.
For association publishersâwhose mission is social by definitionâthe concept of an online community is not only naturalâitâs vital.
Nashville-based custom publisher Hammock Inc. first began experimenting with social media (with forums and listservs) in 1993, well before âsocial mediaâ became as ubiquitous as âthe Internet.â
Earlier this year, they got to put some of those tests to work, when the Society of National Association Publications (âSNAPâânow called Association Media & Publishing) hired Hammock to manage social media for one of its signature eventsâthe SNAP Conference, which was held in Washington, D.C. in May.
âWe knew we were changing our name to include âmedia,ââ says Amy Lestition, Association Media & Publishingâs executive director. âI knew we had to have something in place with some backing to it. We couldnât say, âHey weâre all mediaâ and not have a social network, much less a Twitter feed. You know, baby steps.â
In March, Hammock created an online âpre-conference communityâ for SNAP using a premium version of the Ning platform (âone that allowed us personalize the look, remove the ads, etc.â).
âIn an environment where magazine and media related conferences have been hard-hit, we believed that a âpre-conference communityâ designed to be focused on a short time-frame leading up to the meeting, would be effective in getting potential attendees excited aboutâand thus, committed toâattending the conference even in a recession,â CEO Rex Hammock says. âThe other goal was add to value to the attendee experience.â
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. âItâs hard to form those connections in a day,â she says. âWe wanted to get those conversations started before they got there.â
Hammock worked with SNAP on the pre-conference communityâcoordinating content with the traditional marketing mailings SNAP was doingâas well as on the development of a âliveâ site that aggregated photos from Flickr, tweets from attendees, blog posts and videos.
The âliveâ site now serves an archive of the conference and will be used in marketing next yearâs 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. âWe definitely exceeded our sponsor and exhibit goals,â Lestition says.
One Good Objective
The key to this social networkâs success, Hammock says, was having âone good objectiveââin this case, generating excitement and buzz for a showârather than trying to be an all-encompassing platform.
âToo often, associations or magazines set unattainable goals for their social networks, or the goals they have are too broad,â Hammock says.
Another pitfall is spending too much time worrying about the technology. âThe hard part of any community or forum is not the technology,â Hammock says.Â âThe 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 âintegration with your legacy CRMâ as a social media goal, thereâs a high degree of risk that youâll fail. And thereâs a 100 percent chance youâll not have anything to show for six months to a year.â
Instead, the goal should be understanding your audience.Â âItâs understanding the motivations of why people joinâfiguring out who to market it to, seeding it to get people to join, figuring who and how to reward those who do,â says Hammock. âThe least important part is the technology.âÂ