The effectiveness of Twitter as a connective social media channel is declining In July I wrote about why 2017 is a tipping point for Twitter, noting that the rate at which users follow established accounts has slowed dramatically. As the year draws to a close I’m seeing further evidence that conversations in the twittersphere are drying up too.
Hapless automated marketing abounds. Here’s an email I received this morning:
Subject: Love Your Content (Collaboration Proposal) “My name is RJ, I am the main editor at [a website about car care].
I just wanted to send you a quick email to let you know that we recently released a comprehensive blog post on “How Much!? Replacing A Catalytic Converter”.
While browsing your site, I noticed this page http://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/facilitating-change/2014/09/a-caveat-on-working-with-human-catalysts.
I believe our piece would be a great addition to your page.”
RJ “believes” his/her post would be “a great addition” to this post:
I am receiving more and more hapless automated marketing efforts like this: no careful thought, no subtlety, no serious attempt to check that the target might be relevant to the pitch.
Just spray and pray.
Perhaps some “marketer” thought that instead of just scraping page titles that mentioned the phrase “catalytic converter” (which might make more sense) they could increase the volume of useless mass emails (and extract more money from their client?) by expanding their target search to anyone who mentions the phrase anywhere on the page.
The only reason my post mentions “catalytic converter” is as an example of what the word “catalyst” means. Otherwise, it has as much in common with RJ’s content as a toothbrush has to a lunar eclipse.
“Best” is context-specific, a matter of opinion, and transitory. So, there will always be a next best thing.
When we use “best” dishonestly, we ignore one or more of these realities. We appeal to status, implying that our “best” thing is absolutely best, transcending environment, viewpoint, and the passage of time.
Claiming the highest status for our “best” thing preys on our audience’s fears by offering a simplistic solution. “Believe us, buy this, and Bingo! You can stop worrying that you might have made a mistake!”
Sure, when aware of environmental and personal context, it’s fine to make an in-the-moment judgment that some thing or course of action is the best of multiple alternatives (be sure there are at least three!) We do this all the time.
But when we simply slap on a “Best” label we are selling comforting feelings disguised as our product or service.
Ultimately, what’s important is to continuously strive to be the best, not for the sake of being best, but from a genuine desire to provide the best value / outcomes / opportunities for one’s organization or clients. Rather than feeling proud under the illusion that you are the “best”, work to be proud of your own efforts and achievements (including the learning that occurs when things don’t go according to plan or you take a risk that doesn’t pan out.)
Live with the knowledge that “best”, while well worth pursuing, is a moving fluid target. Remember, there will always be a next best thing.
Are you attempting to build social media followers by drive-by following—i.e. following a batch of new accounts every day, waiting a day or two, and then unfollowing the accounts that don’t follow you back? STOP THAT! You are trashing your brand.
Many people with social media bios designed to project a professional image destroy their credibility by using this “strategy”.
I suspect these are people that would never stoop to buying followers or likes. And yet ~30% of my daily new Twitter followers are drive-by followers.
Drive-by following backfires because it ensures that I’m extremely unlikely to want to have any kind of social media connection with you.
Here’s how it works on Twitter, my most important social media platform. I do my best to read the profile of every new follower. Rarely will I follow back right away unless you’re someone I know. Birdbrain, the excellent app I use to track Twitter followers, also shows anyone who’s unfollowed me. That’s where I get to notice that you’ve drive-by unfollowed me, typically within 48 hours of your initial follow. That’s when I make a mental note that you’re not a serious user of social media, just someone chasing a high follower count.
Instead, follow for a bit and post interesting stuff (I admit that mentions and RTs of me are nice too!) I may well follow you back.
What’s worse than drive-by following? Repeated drive-by following! I routinely see accounts commit multiple drive-bys, usually a week or so apart. My conclusion: either you are using a second-rate automated drive-by service, or you have a memory even worse than mine (which is saying something). Either way, your attempt to get me to follow you back is even less likely to succeed.
If you want to use social media as an effective marketing platform, don’t broadcast stuff about yourself all the time. Don’t implement elaborate plans solely designed to maximize your followers. Instead, post interesting stuff (both yours and others) and interact with people. Keep doing this. Over time, if you’re doing a good job, your followers will grow and be genuinely interested in your social media presence, and your brand recognition and value will increase.
We all have moments when we wish our lives were easier.
We struggle at times with change we would like to see in our lives but can’t seem to make happen.
And we are continually exposed to marketing that promises quick and easy solutions to the problems we are experiencing.
If we want to:
find the right person for that special relationship;
be at peace with ourselves;
give up addictive behavior; or
make a hundred other common changes
there are tens of thousands of speakers, books, and programs that offer a revolutionary, simple method to cure what ails you.
Just have Jim speak at your event, buy Sarah’s best-selling book, or sign-up for Esmeralda’s online course—and your problems will be over!
Over and over again we delude ourselves that the next miracle diet we try will be the one that “just works”, a new management fad will whip our recalcitrant employees into shape, or the latest event technology will make our attendees happy, wealthy, and wise.
In addition, even when we successfully pan the valuable flecks of gold from mountains of hype, permanently integrating useful desired change invariably requires significant effort.
For example, even after many years of use, my Getting Things Done implementation is imperfect. I flip haphazardly between several trusted systems, depending on the messiness of my desk, my mood, and—for all I know—the phases of the moon. And though, 99% of the time, my email inbox contains well below 100 items, Inbox Zero remains a fantasy, permanently out of reach.
Which leads us to a final trap: the belief that if we don’t implement a personal change perfectly, we haven’t really changed. This is dangerous if we conclude that minor slips mean that we’ve failed to change, and might as well go back to the old way of doing things. Instead, give yourself full credit for the change you’ve fundamentally made, notice when you revert to old patterns, and don’t beat yourself up when it happens (because it nearly always will once in a while.)
Given all these obstacles, it’s a miracle when personal change occurs. And yet, with hard work, it can happen!
Notice when it does. Acknowledge what you’ve done—it was hard!
My book Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love has now been available for over five years in both paperback and ebook versions and is still selling well. I thought it might be of interest to share how the proportion of paperback versus ebook sales has changed over time. The following figures include both indirect (mainly Amazon) and direct (my web store) sales.
As you can see from the above graph, paperbacks were, on average, 82%, of sales when the book was published in 2009. Although there’s significant variation from month to month, due mainly to bulk sales of one format or the other, the five year trendline shows that by March 2015, the most recent month for which I have full indirect sales figures, paperback book sales dropped to just over 60% of all sales.
The paperback costs $27.95 (Amazon) or $26.00 (from me directly), and the ebook format costs $11.00 (only from me). I haven’t changed any prices over the years, though Amazon plays tricks with the paperback pricing from time to time. These pricing levels provide me approximately the same income per copy for direct sales, regardless of the format.
One factor that affects the quantity of new paperback sales is that, these days, there are usually a few used copies of the paperback available on Amazon for a few dollars under the new price. Sales of used copies reduces new copy sales. On the other hand, I expect some copies of the ebook get shared too.
An additional trend I am noting for my website sales is that combination sales (both ebook and paperback versions of the same book) have been increasing over the last year. I offer a discount when people buy both formats simultaneously. Consider this if you are selling your books yourself.
People still like paperbacks! Even though the ebook is 40% of the price of the paperback, I’m still selling more paperbacks than ebooks.
The ebook format is becoming more popular over time.If, and that’s a big if, the trend continues, both formats will become equally popular some time in 2017. Interestingly, my new book The Power of Participation: Creating Conferences That Deliver Learning, Connection, Engagement, and Action which has only been available for three months has sold about equal numbers of each format to date.
Don’t read too much into my experience.Conferences That Work is non-fiction, priced higher than most ebooks, and is only available as an ebook directly from me, so there’s no comparable Amazon sales channel. Your mileage may vary.
Are you an author with book format sales history of your own? Feel free to share your experience in the comments below!
If you’re an event app developer, how should you market event apps to someone like me?
Like my friend Traci, I receive a constant stream of messages from developers about their new event apps. Naturally, as a frequent commentator on the event industry, I am anxious to throw myself into the tiniest details of these innovative products that are sure to revolutionize every event professional’s life. Clearly they are tools that will:
Drive sponsors to frantically push bundles of thousand dollar bills under planners’ door-stoops before dawn.
Guarantee events where gleaming unicorns gambol playfully and attendees glide above the hotel carpet transfixed with delight and wonder.
Effortlessly create timeless experiences where the A/V works flawlessly, participants’ only complaint is that the Wi-Fi is too fast, and no one ever requests a gluten-free meal.
How can you be certain to bring your app jewels effectively to my rapt attention? Here are 5 simple tips that will ensure your app’s beauty, uniqueness, and—let’s just say it—sheer virility make my heart go pit-a-pat.
5 tips on how to market event apps to me
Please make sure to couch your request in anonymous terms. I do not want to believe for a moment that you are interested in my opinions because you know something about me. Mail merge my name from a list of people who write about the event industry. This shows a unique understanding of the personal touch that is so important when doing business these days.
Demand I set aside 30 – 60 minutes of my worthless time so you can demo your app’s staggering genius. You’ll make my empty day so much brighter!
Forcefully suggest that I review your app in loving detail on my blog. Yes, you noticed that I’m starved of ideas for posts; help me out here and I’ll be so grateful!
Point out how splendid it will be for me to spend hours testing every nook and cranny of your masterpiece. I can then enjoy the privilege of reporting back on how to improve it. (Though surely I’m unlikely to find anything to suggest.) I will be so happy knowing there’s a small chance I might make your app slightly better!
Do not think for a moment of suggesting any recompense for my minor labors on your behalf, like a free trial of a non-free service or <shudder> payment. It is an honor that you even asked me to contribute; recognition is all I need!
How to market event apps to me? That’s it! Piece of cake!
I’m so committed to your apps that, to assist you to the best of my ability, I’ve discovered how to increase the hours in every day to 48 and entirely forego sleep. So keep those phone calls, emails, and social directives rolling in so I can joyously and promptly respond to your oh-so-reasonable requests! All I’m asking is for you to enrich my life a smidgen.
I like this idea! Walking potential attendees through the flow of the event helps to clarify and demystify conference process, especially if people haven’t attended an event format like Conferences That Work before. Want to try to market your conference with an annotated schedule? Here’s an example of what you can do, written for the October 2013 1st Annual Vermont Leadership Network Conference.
Want to better understand what will be happening at the 1st Annual Vermont Leadership Network Conference? Here’s an annotated schedule!
At 2pm, after a brief welcome and an explanation of conference ground rules, we’ll start with opening roundtable(s). Roundtables provide a structured, safe way for you to learn about other participants early in the conference. During the roundtable, you’ll discover topics of interest to explore, get a sense of the depth of interest in these topics, and find out who has experience and expertise that you want to connect with and explore further. We’ll include frequent breaks and refreshments during the roundtable, ending around 4:30pm.
After an hour break, we’ll hold peer session sign-up during dinner. In peer session sign-up we’ll visually document our wishes and suggestions for the upcoming conference sessions. Then, we’ll determine which of the suggested peer session topics are popular and schedule the chosen sessions into a conference program. This is a short process that will be held during the dinner and subsequent socializing, with a small group subsequently using the resulting information to create Friday’s program. The end result will be a Friday conference schedule that optimally matches desired topics with the resources of the group.
Friday, October 18
We’ll have time for four sets of (usually) one-hour concurrent sessions on Friday, with breaks between each and lunch served between sessions 3 and 4.
What might these sessions look like? They are typically informal: often facilitated discussions, presentations, panels, workshops, walks, etc. As an example, five years ago the class of ’08 used this conference format for a reunion—here are the topics that were chosen (8 sessions in concurrent pairs):
Fun and team camaraderie in the workplace • Fundraising • The political process – running for office • The systematic development of informed consent • Am I doing what I want to be doing? • Technology – social networking & other applications • Getting Things Done • Appreciative Inquiry
After these sessions are over, at 2:40pm we’ll end with two facilitated closing sessions, a personal introspective and a group spective.
The personal introspective will give you a structured opportunity to think about what you have experienced at the conference, how your experiences may impact your life in the future, and what changes you may want to make as a result. After reflection, you’ll then have an opportunity to share your answers in small groups.
After a break, a group spective will start at 3:50pm. The group spective will provide facilitated time for participants as a group to evaluate the conference and suggest and begin to develop future initiatives for Vermont Leadership and the Snelling Center. We’ll use a variety of techniques to do this.
The conference will end at 5pm, and all are welcome to stay and socialize with their classmates and new friends at a reception hosted by the Snelling Center immediately following the conference.
As you can see, participation on Thursday will make a big difference to your conference experience and your influence on its form and content. Please attend the whole event if at all possible!
Outline of the conference schedule
To summarize, here’s the outline of the conference schedule for Thursday and Friday.
Thursday, October 17, 2013
12:00PM – 02:00PM
02:00PM – 02:10PM
02:10PM – 03:10PM
03:10PM – 03:30PM
03:30PM – 04:30PM
05:30PM – 07:00PM
Dinner and peer session sign-up
Informal chat, socializing, music, etc.
Friday, October 18
08:30AM – 08:40AM
08:40AM – 09:40AM
Peer session 1
09:40AM – 09:50AM
09:50AM – 10:50AM
Peer session 2
10:50AM – 11:05AM
11:05AM – 12:05AM
Peer session 3
12:15PM – 01:30PM
01:30PM – 02:30PM
Peer session 4
02:30PM – 02:40PM
02:40PM – 03:40PM
03:40PM – 03:50PM
03:50PM – 05:00PM
Optional: class reunions, etc.
Notice that I’ve added a regular schedule at the end of the annotation, so attendees can still easily see when all sessions take place.
I really like this way to market your conference with an annotated schedule. Familiarizing people with something different in advance is a great way of reducing the common resistance to trying something new. Thanks for the suggestion, Judy!
Another issue of an occasional series—Dear Adrian—in which I answer questions sent to me about event design, elementary particle physics, solar hot water systems, and anything else I might conceivably know something about. If you have a question you’d like me to answer, please write to me (don’t worry, I won’t publish anything without your permission).
Forgive me if this is something you have been asked a million times before (and maybe you could point me to the page on your website which gives the answer, although I couldn’t find it.)
How do you market a new peer conference?
I can see that the peer conference structure can work for groups which have already been meeting for many years, for example industry association meetings, and people are looking for a better format.
But I think it would be very hard to get people to have enough confidence in a new peer conference without anything to show them about what is going to happen there (except possibly a list of other delegates, if it was possible to get anyone to sign up to a conference where the agenda was a blank sheet of paper).
The standard way to market conferences as you know is to try to attract some relevant interesting sounding speakers, and use the speakers names in the marketing – but that forces the structure into the standard 30 minute powerpoint format.
Do you have any examples of where someone has developed a new peer conference as a commercial business?
Great questions—no need to apologize! People often ask me about how to market peer conferences, and your request has an interesting focus.
Most of my consulting clients want help with conference redesign—making established traditional events more peer-driven and participation- and connection-rich. Actually, it’s often easier to create a new peer conference than to change the format of an existing conventional event. Changing something that already exists is often harder than starting from scratch.
I’m not saying that it’s simple to market a new peer conference. As you point out, people are accustomed to seeing a pre-determined schedule of conference sessions and speakers. This influences their decision on whether to attend. (I cover this “program trap” in Chapter 4 of Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love.) Many wonder a) how you can create a great conference program at the event and b) how good the resulting conference will be. Your marketing has to address these concerns.
In my experience there’s an essential prerequisite for a new peer conference to get off the ground: a core group of organizers who understand and believe in peer process (ideally, but not necessarily, through experience) and who are committed and prepared to proselytize the envisaged event to their professional circles. My rule of thumb is that this group should contain at least five people.
Once you have your core group in place, your marketing should feature the peer conference format without going into all the details. Intrigue potential attendees, especially those tired of traditional conferences, and talk up the proven nature of the design. Here’s an example of what you might say:
Have you attended a conference about TOPIC recently? Then you probably sat in room after room with scores of other attendees listening to outside experts talk about topics that weren’t quite what you were interested in. You were sure there were some interesting people to talk to, people who had the same questions you did (and maybe even some answers)—but how could you find who they were and meet them among the swirling crowds? Did you come away frustrated, feeling that only a small portion of the time you attended was valuable to you?
If so, you’re not alone.
INNOVCONF is different.
INNOVCONF is an out of the box conference experience that replaces highly scripted events, calls for papers, pre-determined workshops, keynote speakers, networking receptions, etc. We use the proven Conferences That Work design to create a conference that adapts to meet your needs, leverages the combined expertise and experience of all participants, and provides unique opportunities to discover, connect, share, and learn with the peers you want to meet.
Our conference format is participant-driven and participation-rich. The attendees themselves—DESCRIPTION OF TARGET ATTENDEES—will determine the conference’s agenda, presenters, session format, focus, and results during the first afternoon of INNOVCONF. (To learn more, visit conferencesthatwork.com.)
The goals of INNOVCONF are simple. Create the best possible conference for each individual attendee. Maximize participant interaction and connectedness. Strengthen our community. And explore future group initiatives. Sounds good? Then register today to join your peers at this innovative event!
To answer your last question, until I published my 2009 book I was the only person creating peer conferences. So it’s still early to expect many examples of established pure Conferences That Work format peer conferences “as a commercial business”. In addition, many current peer conferences are not commercial meetings-for-profit ventures. Instead, they create effective ways to bring a professional or vocational community together. Fees and budget are set to cover costs and make a modest profit.
What people have started to do is to use the Conferences That Work format in conjunction with traditional general sessions to create what I called in the book a hybrid event. (Unfortunately, since publishing, “hybrid” has come to mean an event that has face-to-face and online components). The marketing of these events often plays up the big names invited. However, the formats themselves contain significant peer conference elements. Three examples are FinCon: A peer conference for the financial blogging community, the Swiss Caux Conferences, and the Renaissance Weekends.
Karl, I hope this is useful. I’d love to hear more about your potential conference. If there’s anything I can do to assist you, please let me know.