How the Growth of Influencers and Short-Form Videos Have Impacted Digital Marketing and Events

In the past few years, we have seen a shift in social media across all channels, starting as platforms promoting interpersonal connection and evolving into powerful vessels of consumerism, word of mouth, and B2C marketing.

Instagram was one of the pioneers in creating a new landscape for marketing and advertising, particularly in an avenue we are starting to see grow exponentially — influencer marketing. Large accounts that showcased their photography, art, and hobbies began to open up and allow followers to know the person behind the account, creating the invaluable marketing tool we now know as the “influencer.” Photographer and influencer Jaci Marie Smith recently posted a TikTok video on the evolution of Instagram, where she took a deep dive into her Instagram feed in 2014. She was solely a photographer at the time and most of her photos were of her subjects. Then, she noticed a trend. Out of all her curated, impersonal photography, a post of her eating lunch gained the most likes. “The reason that’s interesting is because, at this time, being a social media influencer wasn’t really a thing yet,” Smith said in the video. “Once I realized people were more interested in the person behind the lens, and their life, and following along with that, I started … working with brands and ‘becoming an influencer.’”

This speaks volumes to the rise of the new world of social media we marketers thrive in today. Instagrammers would start branding themselves for the masses, curating a lifestyle industry that their followers tuned in to daily. Consumers would buy products recommended by their favorite influencers because they trusted their opinion and wanted to recreate their personal brand for themselves. Brands and other businesses began to realize that word-of-mouth promotion was booming and began to work with influencers to promote products or services.

The next step in this evolution came with the creation of “Stories.” Snapchat was the first to implement Stories, a means of photo and video slideshows. Instagram, Facebook, and even Twitter soon began to implement Stories on their platforms. Individual users would post throughout their day, curating a new sense of realism and romanticizing the mundane.

Since the creation of Stories, gone are the days of heavily stylized posts — consumers want to see a glimpse into the “behind the scenes” of daily life and brand authenticity. The key to Stories is their video capabilities. Brands and influencers can film themselves promoting a product or service and directly provide a link for their followers to access immediately. Brands have even sold out of a particular product within hours because a particular influencer posted a photo with it or filmed a story raving about it.

After influencers have well-dominated the social media marketing game, then came the rise of video within the last few years, specifically short-form videos. TikTok and Instagram Reels have been a game changer in terms of word-of-mouth marketing and user-generated content. Viral videos on TikTok have led to feta being sold out in grocery stores because of users attempting to recreate a popular pasta dish they saw. Certain makeup products have been sold out for months due to the popularity of one successful video, and the list keeps growing!

Not only is this platform a tool for creating influencers out of everyday TikTok users who inspire and promote brand loyalty with companies they love, but the companies themselves have hopped on the bandwagon with their own TikTok accounts. There, they create funny, snappy, engaging content that users love. Production studio Lionsgate is an excellent example of this, posting witty videos poking fun at their own films, especially ones that have cult followings. Followers want to see their favorite brands have personality, they want to see authenticity, and the best way to convey brand personality is through short video content.

If you’re wondering how this influencer and video-based marketing translates to events, it wouldn’t be much different. While we are not selling products at MCI, we sell experiences, and the world of quick, captivating video and influencer marketing is invaluable. We all remember the disaster of Fyre Festival, but why did it blow up to begin with? One could say a key participant in this false hype was that Kendall Jenner and other A-list influencers promoted the teaser video on their Instagram accounts.

When looking at more successful music festivals and events such as Coachella, a huge part of their popularity is that celebrities and music artists attend and film videos of themselves there or preparing to attend. Companies even pay for social media influencers to attend, sponsoring them with VIP passes, because they know they will document the entire experience by posting photos, creating daily Stories, and filming in-depth videos while there. This is a major part of the hype of these events. If it’s seen on social media as something desirable, the masses want to be part of it.

How does this translate to the events we work with at MCI? While we may not be marketing Coachella, every event has an audience and industry, and in every industry, there are influencers who are well-respected and widely followed by prospective attendees. Find them, connect with them, and use them to promote your event. Many potential attendees will register because a particular influencer tells them it is worth their time to do so.

In addition, consider your audience to have a short attention span before they lose interest and move on. They will glance at a photo and keep scrolling. Video begs them to hang on a little longer and watch engaging content to understand the full message. Video media is crucial nowadays. Everyone is watching something, whether it be a streaming service, scrolling through TikTok or Instagram Reels, or engaging with content on Stories. Video can capture attention faster than a photo, especially when scrolling through primarily photo-based social media feeds such as Instagram or Facebook. To the consumer, it feels more personal and authentic, and it is an excellent way to inspire brand loyalty through word-of-mouth and user-generated content, as well as establish your event’s personality.

Juliana Pearce is a marketing specialist in MCI USA’s Strategic Events, Meetings & Incentives business unit. She has been with MCI for three years and continues to develop marketing materials, campaigns, and creative content for both SEM&I event clients and MCI. She is based out of the Dallas office. In her free time, she loves to explore creative writing, photography, travel, and cooking — and of course, becoming an expert in all forms of social media!

5 Topics Event Strategists Need to Have on Their Radar

Earlier this year, I participated in two events at the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) Convening Leaders conference in Las Vegas. The organization asked me to create a workshop on its “7 Change Actions” learning experience and to moderate the sessions that took place on the 7 Change Actions Stage. To do this, I first had to learn this innovative framework.

Developed by PCMA, the 7 Change Actions is a seven-module learning experience, designed to help event leaders navigate the challenging times we are living in. The course is comprised of amazing content that helps you think differently and/or use frameworks to help redesign your event or business.

For my workshop, I did a deep dive into three of the Change Actions — and what a learning experience it was! I also moderated five sessions on the stage, getting the opportunity to participate in thought-provoking conversations on topics that impact how all business-event strategists operate today.

These are the five topics that resonated with me the most during my experience at the event.

1. Collaboration

One of the 7 Change Actions I covered in my workshop was collaboration. I love and have studied this topic for years, so it was fun to bring some of my insights into the workshops.

As Albert Einstein once said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” So, as part of looking to change business models, event strategies, etc., we need to first look at collaboration in new ways to help us get there. To start, we must determine how to fix the issues that inhibit collaboration and innovation. These issues include:

  • Functional goals superseding shared outcomes from the collaboration project
  • Unclear decision-making processes
  • Lack of effective rhythm for communicating, collaborating and learning
  • Lack of understanding concerning the function of other team members

There are several ways to fix these, but let’s focus on the difference between coordination, cooperation and collaboration. Coordination involves looking at the structure and architecture; alignment of activities and information; and mechanics of the project, team and meetings. Cooperation, on the other hand, focuses on creating a collaborative environment, aligning goals and human behavior, and creating motivation. And, finally, collaboration is working together to create something new in support of a shared vision. Both elements of coordination and cooperation need to be considered to ensure the collaboration can be successful.

2. Measurement

On the 7 Change Actions Stage, Nicole Moreo, EVP, head of U.S. Analytics at Ketchum, presented “The Return on Events: Measuring and Reporting Your Value.” Measurement is about counting or documenting results of a campaign, but the real magic happens by producing knowledge and insights that support real-time optimizations, future strategy and creative executions. Don’t fall for vanity metrics such as the number of butts in seats. You need to ask why you are tracking something in the first place — what is your “so what?” Start with the end in mind. What or who are you trying to influence? That is when you get into asking the right questions that can help you drive your event or business.

As Moreo says, “As problem-solvers, we are very eager to give the business/our boss/the client the right key we believe will fix their issue and cause the change they want to see. Every key in our toolbox is useless if we don’t find which lock we need to put it in first — the one that is ultimately responsible for changing the situation [or] behavior.”

As you know, there is an infinite number of things you can measure. The following framework from Ketchum is a great example of how you should think about what you should measure and why.

KPI Framework/Measurement Plan developed by Ketchum

Moreo, who is on the board of the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC), said during her presentation that AMEC has free resources that provide additional frameworks to help you decide how you can and should be measuring your events. Check it out and see if you can use any of these tools to look like a rockstar!

Framework developed by the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC)

3. Focus on Storytelling

The second session I moderated on the stage, “Making More with Less: Content Hacks to Drive Engagement and ROI,” was led by Bob Hitchcock, senior director of content marketing at LegalZoom. First and foremost, Hitchcock is a storyteller, and he stressed that storytelling is really all about creating emotion. (He worked for Disney for 11 years in PR and content marketing, after all, so he knows what he is talking about.)

During the session, he told a story about how to make meaningful content using video. LegalZoom wanted to showcase how easy it is to start a business with the service, and they wanted to launch a video in conjunction with National Hispanic Heritage Month. Once they found a successful entrepreneur from the Latino community, Hitchcock went to work. This example showed how easy it was to create content that costs nothing, other than time to create some questions, and to film and edit (using free software) the video. Think about how you can easily create something that can evoke emotion without having a hefty expense hitting your P&L!

4. Skillsets and Ingenious Thinking

This session titled “Build the Event Team of the Future by Unlocking Cross-Functional Collaboration” was pretty fun and featured an engaging panel with Michael Guillory and Nicole O’Leary from The Expo Group and Jay Weintraub of Connectiv. In addition to the power of collaboration, they focused on skillsets of the team and ingenious thinking:

  • Skillsets: Project management, along with strategy and execution skills, will be in high demand. Hiring managers should look for talent who can work in the gray area (which we have been living in for the past two years) and are intuitive and diverse. Ask yourself: Are we hiring using those criteria, or are we just filling in the gaps left by the pandemic? Determine what your future looks like and hire for that need.
  • Ingenious thinking: Look for exponential versus incremental changes and growth. Lean into your partners. Use the “kill or keep” exercise to clean your slate of events. Determine what your clients/attendees need now and only keep those who meet the new need.

Part of the ingenious thinking discussion was discipline and focus. In my personal experience, if you have more than three to five KPIs or headline metrics, you have too many. Take the time to figure out what you are really trying to accomplish and focus only on those things. There are only so many resources to go around, so make sure they are focused on the right things.

Lastly, Weintraub said that one of the things that has made him successful in starting, building and selling events was “making everyone feel special” on his team. How cool is that? Is that a core value or mandate in your organization?

5. Delivering Value

One of the other 7 Change Actions I went over during my workshop was value delivery and creation. PCMA worked with Mark Payne of Fahrenheit 212 to help determine how to deliver value to your customers, while serving the needs of the business (aka generating revenue).

As event leaders, we are good at brainstorming ideas on all the things we could do to make things more fun or engaging or easy or…you get my point. What is generally missing is, how do you tie those new, innovative ideas into revenue-generating opportunities? The following framework is a good start. It looks at the needs of the consumer (or event attendee, exhibitor, etc.) and the needs of the business (or association/organization).

Make sure you are looking at both sides of this two-sided solution. You can check out this YouTube video to see some frameworks Payne created that you could use to help solve this problem.

The world is very different from what it was two years ago, and we need to look at new ways to learn about, and serve, our audiences or customers. The 7 Change Actions framework was built specifically for event professionals but can also apply to most business problems. It is a great resource if you want a methodology that can help you and your team think differently. But don’t forget to coordinate and cooperate before you collaborate and do your best to make people feel special!

Heidi (Voorhees) Haneberg, CAE, is the senior vice president of strategic projects at MCI USA.

4 Insights on Better Engaging Your Audience in 2022

Every association should consistently ask, “Are we staying relevant to our members?” – and especially now as we look to 2021, a new year with much uncertainty.

The good news is, the process to answer that question doesn’t need to be complex; it can be found in three ingredients that, when integrated into your strategy, will keep your association the top choice for your members’ professional development and networking needs.

Watch Here

How the pandemic has changed corporate meetings

Part of delivering the right solutions for our clients is curating expertise across a variety of professions, functions, and specialties. MCI USA took the same approach with a panel discussion we recently hosted to discuss “How the Pandemic Has Changed the Corporate Meetings Landscape.”

Moderated by Agnès Canonica, CMP, CMM, vice president of corporate meetings and events for MCI USA, the panel featured expert speakers from across hospitality and events: Meghan Braswell, national account sales manager for MUY; Jason Cohen, director of global accounts for Accor; Hans Kung, manager of pharma for MCI Canada; and Jason Miller, managing partner of Tallen Technology Rentals.

The wide-ranging conversation — the latest in MCI USA’s ongoing series of programs addressing how COVID is continuing to alter live meetings and events — covered everything from increasingly stringent health and safety protocols, digital and virtual options, and broader planning windows, to limits on international attendees, serving as a trusted resource for clients, and being forced to adapt, improvise, and innovate.

The entire session is worth a watch, but here are four key takeaways for meeting and event professionals working with third parties:

  1. Be upfront:“Let us know what your expectations are,” Braswell said, “so we can let you know if we’re a good fit and help you come up with a solution.”
  2. Be patient:“ You’re not going to get an answer within 24 hours sometimes, and it’s not because people are ignoring you,it’s because we have one salesperson now where we used to have four,” Kung said. “It’s really trying to promote an understanding between all of us that we just want our clients to be able to meet in person again, and we need to work together to make that possible.”

3.Be flexible:“ Especially for 2022 and even 2023, there’s been so much shift in programs that availability in key markets or key hotels or for very large groups is going to be tough, ”Cohen said. “High seasons in most places are already full, so having that flexibility and explaining to your internal stakeholders that we can’t just work with one set of dates.”

  1. Be adaptive:“We’ve found multiple different ways to have events, and it’s really important that we continue to do that,” Miller said. “The clients we have that are doing that—that are finding ways to meet, regardlessif it’s live, hybrid, or virtual — are the ones that are accelerating through this.”