The Event Industry and Blogging: Are Event Managers Missing a Trick?

UKBlogAwardsLogoWe are really excited to be a collaborative partner in the National UK Blog Awards, which is the first cross industry blog awards to take place in the UK.  As a blogger myself and an avid reader of blogs on a largely daily basis we are really passionate about being involved in this exciting project.  I started blogging in June 2011 and I am enjoying continually learning and developing my skills and immersing myself in the blogging community.  I am finding it truly inspiring seeing so many fantastic blogs being entered into the Awards and wish I had more time to read them all!

One of the 14 categories for individual bloggers and businesses that blog to enter is the Events Category and I have been surprised to find entries in this category lagging behind the other sectors slightly.  I never seem to have any shortage of event blog posts to read, however I realise of course that many of my favourite event bloggers are not from the UK, notably:

As the UK has such a strong and vibrant community of event professionals I believed that everyone like me would be beavering away on their blog as often as they could, knowing how important it is to post regularly in terms of improving SEO, visibility and showcasing knowledge of their niche sector.  Now don’t get me wrong – many UK event professionals ARE doing this, and some of which have already entered the awards!  I did some research and it was great to see so many established blogs with regular postings and a back catalogue of archived blog posts on interesting topics (going back several years in some cases).  HOWEVER for every great up to date blog I discovered there were numerous others with blogs which hadn’t been updated since circa 2010/2011.  This made me wonder are these companies still in business?  I wondered if it was actually more detrimental having a neglected blog on their site rather than having no blog at all?

In this quick investigation into UK event management blogs I searched for both Freelance Event Managers and Event Management Companies as it is proven that blogging is a great leveller in terms of inbound marketing returns, particularly for small businesses.  I was also however surprised at some of the biggest companies in the event industry not having a blog at all.  And others still that called something a blog when really it was just a series of news posts and self promotion.

Now don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate how hard successful event planners work in the industry and the long hours that they keep because I do the same too!  I am certainly not saying that I am perfect in any way – you will see that I have sometimes had months when I have not posted to this blog due to work pressure, maternity leave, etc (although hopefully not recently as this is something I am improving on and committed to).  I feel however that missing a post or three is entirely different to going AWOL from your blog for 6 months plus, particularly without any explanation.  It is one thing being busy and not having enough hours in the day but not finding the time to write a post in the space of half a year or more sends out the wrong messages I would say!

It also made me laugh to discover so many sites which proclaimed “this is my new website and blog, which will be updated regularly without fail” never to have any further posts!

Generic blog logo

Universal blog icon

The UK has world class events, venues, suppliers, technology, eventprofs and event management companies but in terms of my quick blogging research it seems that the UK as a whole could be falling behind the rest of the world in the events blogosphere.  Most event managers that I know have lots to say and if the prospect appeals I would encourage you to definitely think about starting a blog and giving it a go!  Perhaps then you will be entering the awards in 2015!

One thing that I have found really inspiring is the number of students and graduates blogging.  As an employer if someone with a well written blog applied for a job in this competitive market this would potentially set them apart from the other candidates as it shows self-motivation, passion, thought and dedication – all key attributes required by an event organiser.  This heartwarming article from the Guardian Professional gives a real life example: Blogging During Unemployment Helped My Career.  Despite the difficult economic climate blogging helped this Graduate into work after 2 years of unemployment and illustrates potentially the springboard that blogging could be if you so wish, whatever your profession.

Do you think the UK lags behind the rest of the world in terms of event management blogs?  What are your favourite UK event industry blogs?  

Are you an event manager?  Do you or your company blog?  How often do you try to post and what is the longest period you have gone without posting?  What were the reasons for any breaks?  

Do you think it is best to have a neglected blog or no blog at all?  I would love to hear your thoughts on these issues below!

In a forthcoming blog post I am going to discuss the importance in engaging with bloggers as part of your event marketing strategy, before, during and after a live event.

Individuals and organisations can enter their blog for FREE in the UK Blog Awards up until midnight on 15th December 2013 via the UK Blog Awards online entry form.  There are 14 categories for individual bloggers and businesses that blog to enter – 12 industry categories (including the Events Category) and 2 sub categories including ‘Most Innovative’ and ‘Young Persons Blog Award.’  We will look forward to reading your entry!

What Have I Learnt from #BEDN

Today marks the final day of #BEDN (Blog Every Day in November). For the last 30 days myself and over a hundred other bloggers have endeavoured to write and publish a new blog post every single day.  A suggested topic was given each day which could be used for inspiration or disregarded if you had something more pressing to write about.

November has been a hectic month!  On top of my normal busy day job organising wonderful conferences and events for people I have written 44 blog posts (27 for Events Northern Ltd as I missed writing two posts over the course of the month and posted one guest blog post, 16 for the UK Blog Awards and 1 for DCMS about the Blog Awards), I have been a hosted buyer at EIBTM in Barcelona, I have spoken at the Social Media for Women Conference and on a personal note my gorgeous little boy had his 1st birthday!  Phew!

I know it sounds clichéd but I feel like I have been on a blogging journey by being a part of this process!  Originally I started this blog and religiously blogged regularly every two weeks, easily spending two hours planning, researching and writing each post.  Then there have been other times when I have gone long periods without posting at all due to workload (and of course all small business owners have it drummed into them that not posting regularly is the ultimate sin!).  During November time has been short and I was keen to participate but I knew that to succeed I would have to write shorter posts and adapt my approach. I am really proud of the achievement and glad I got involved.

So What Have I Learnt from #BEDN?
> That I can write a blog post in 20-30 minutes
> That I can take a random topic and blog about it. Or most importantly can take a subject area and relate it to the events industry
> That a blog doesn’t have to be long, shorter is often better
> That even if it is slightly after midnight you can change the date and time so that it registers that the post was published earlier than it actually was
> That connecting my WordPress blog to my social networks for automatic sharing is a great time saver
> That if I post regularly I feel it gives me greater freedom to include a variety of posts e.g. venue/hotel reviews, lists, pictures
> That there is inspiration everywhere, particularly from industry magazines, blogs and social media
> That my Tesco Hudl is amazing for allowing me to draft and publish blogs on the go
> That pen and paper are great for planning the content of a post
> That I should encourage more gust blog posts
> That picture galleries are a great alternative to a text post and I definitely should explore vlogging too
> That I need a blogging calendar
> That I should remember to repost blog posts again the day after posting and on a regular basis whilst it is still current to encourage continued traffic
> That being controversial or challenging a controversial point of view is great for traffic

As much as I would love to I can’t sustain blogging every day but hopefully I have proved to myself that blogging at least one a week is feasible.  Perhaps I can work on the position of posting at a set day and time each week and building up a stack of posts in reserve for when it is impossible to find time to blog?

Blog Traffic
I have seen my followers and blog traffic increase massively during November. I am unsure if this is an immediate knock on effect of posting so regularly, the support of others doing the campaign stopping by or perhaps a bit of both? 

Thank you everyone for reading!

How have you found #BEDN?  What have you learnt?  I would love to hear your comments below!

Twitter Chats

Blog-Every-Day-in-November-with-RosaliliumTwitter chats, or tweet ups, are a great way to use Twitter to network virtually with individuals from a specific industry or with a shared interest or location.  It is a great way to find interesting people to follow and hopefully pick up a few more followers yourself too.

People come together at a set time, generally for a set hour each week and communicate by using a specific hash tag in their tweets.  It may be an open discussion for people to chat freely and ask questions or it may be more structured with some set questions throughout the hour (which may or may not be publicised in advance).

Twitter SymbolThere are a number of Twitter hours we would recommend listed below – we hope to “see” you there in future!

#BlogHour is organised by the UK Blog Awards (@ukblogawards) and takes place every Tuesday between 9 and 10 pm GMT.  It is an opportunity for anyone that blogs to come together to share hints and tips, connect and network with bloggers and to promote your blog and latest posts.  New and experienced bloggers are welcome whatever your motivation for blogging and whether you blog as an individual or on behalf of an organisation.  Click here to find out more and read their handy #BlogHour Tweeting Guidelines.  It is aimed at UK bloggers nationally although people often join from further afield too!

#EventHour was launched by Event Industry News on the 29th of May 2013 via its Twitter handle @eventnewsblog.  It takes place every Wednesday between 9 and 10 pm GMT.  Read their step-by-step guide to #Eventhour.

#LancashireHour was established in July 2012 and is a weekly Twitter Networking forum where Lancashire based individuals and businesses can interact every Thursday 8 – 9 pm GMT.  Since its creation, many #LancashireHour members have said that they’ve picked up some real new business from the contacts they’ve made and all for the price of an hour per week on a laptop, PC or mobile device. At a time when most businesses are reviewing the effectiveness of their marketing budgets, it’s hard to find a better free way to promote your business and make leads that can generate sales so effectively.  (source: http://lancashirehour.co.uk/).

#NorthWestHour connects North West people & businesses Wednesdays 8 to 9 pm and Fridays 9 to 10 pm.

#SmallBizHour runs every Tuesday between 9 and 10 pm and every small business in the UK is welcome to join in.  Follow this link for more information about #SmallBizHour.  This clashes with #BlogHour but we try to keep our eye on it and contribute when we can!

You may find this blog post from North West Business Life useful in locating other Twitter Hours relevant to the North West Region: Directory of North West Twitter Hours.

Which Twitter Hours do you find worthwhile?  Any others you would recommend we join either nationally or for the North West region?  We would welcome your thoughts and comments below!

#BEDN Blog Every Day in November Introduction

Blog-Every-Day-in-November-with-RosaliliumEvents Northern Ltd is taking up the challenge to Blog Every Day in November (Twitter hashtag #BEDN).  This is a great initiative from Elizabeth of the Rosalilium Lifestyle Blog.  She has set the challenge to boost creativity, encourage people to get blogging, have some fun and be inspired (great idea by the way!).

This means that every day in the month of November I aim to blog every single day (30 whole posts!).  This will be no easy task, work is busy and there is lots going on during November, including my exciting first trip to EIBTM in Barcelona.  However we pledge to blog as often as we possibly can!

Elizabeth has put forward a suggested topic for each day and bloggers are encouraged to work on that theme if they can unless they have something more pressing they wish to cover.  The important thing is to blog every day if you can!

I am more than aware that our blog is often the first thing to get neglected when we are juggling multiple work projects and we appreciate this is the ultimate blogging sin in terms of SEO and engagement.  My posts can also be quite detailed and lengthy.  Hopefully #BEDN will help on both these counts though, making posts short, sweet and regular.  We hope this will inspire, influence and improve our blogging skills for the future.

So Elizabeth suggested that we should use this post to introduce ourselves.  I am Becki; MD of Events Northern Ltd, which is a conference and event management company based in Preston, Lancashire and established in 2004.  We are a SME and we blog about things that interest us – predominantly everything event related, social media, marketing, technology and business.

I am sure there is time for you to still sign up if you wish to join the challenge too!  Sign up to #BEDN here.

Social Media in 10 Minutes a Day

English: The face of a black windup alarm clock

I am a social media convert; I believe that social media is good for business and also often adds value to the conferences and events we organise.  I also appreciate however that it can take up a lot of time; time which can often be in very short supply when running a business and juggling numerous event projects!

I believe that you can effectively monitor and manage your social media presence in less than 10 minutes a day, IF you are disciplined and get into a daily routine.  In this blog post I share some of my tops tips to manage social media effectively.

Use a Single Platform to Manage All of your Social Media Accounts

I highly recommend that you set up and manage your accounts for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn via a social media dashboard such as HootSuite, which is free for up to 5 social profiles.  I personally use SproutSocial which is a paid dashboard, however I find that it works well for me and so is definitely worth the small outlay each month (around £5, free to cancel at any time). I am often managing a few different accounts at any one time for my different businesses, individual event profiles/accounts and also for a regular client so a dashboard helps to keep everything organised and focused without having to log in and out every time I want to post something.  It will take a little time to set up and get right at the beginning but you will soon notice the time savings it can give you.

It is worth noting however that although social media platforms do allow you to post the exact same message to Facebook and Twitter I generally avoid doing this as hashtags and Twitter handles look lazy and messy posted into Facebook in my opinion.  Instead I will copy and repost the message separately to Facebook, often making use of the extra characters to write a longer post.  It only takes a few seconds longer but I think it is worthwhile.

Check and Respond to Mentions, Direct Messages and Comments Every Day

However busy I am I do endeavour to check my accounts every day specifically to respond to mentions, direct messages and comments, even if I don’t have time to do anything else.  People often expect immediate responses and I definitely like to acknowledge or respond within 24 hours.  Social media is all about the conversations so you don’t want to keep people waiting for too long – strike while the iron is hot!

If you are often office based it may be useful to set up sound alerts or emails to alert you  specifically of mentions, direct messages, comments and RTs.  You may prefer to be notified and quickly respond and then get back to work.  If this isn’t workable perhaps you will get into a routine checking social media at the start or end of the working day as I generally do, whatever works best for you.

Social Media Searches

Twitter in particular is a hub of information on every topic imaginable.  I recommend that you set up and save searches for your particular areas of interest.  I like to run one or more of my saved searches every day if possible to stay up to date with interesting news, content and developments in the events industry.  My essential hashtags include #eventprofs #eventprofsuk #meetings and #smallbusiness.  I can then share the most interesting content and news with my own followers and friends.

Schedule Tweets and Posts in Advance

I think that it is important to post interesting content regularly but I hardly ever have time to tweet or post in the course of a working day.  Instead I will often schedule content to be sent out the next day or sometimes up to 3 months in advance.  Scheduling send outs also makes it easier to repeat valuable content perhaps to go out the following week or month and to send out at different times of day to catch different audiences.  Having popular searches set up and saved, as described in the last post, makes it easy to find interesting content to share and to set for send out at an appropriate time.  We also send out links to our most recent and archived blog posts, recent event presentations and pictures, news, special offers and forthcoming events.

We also schedule tweets on event days to help create a buzz and excitement around the event at times when we know we will be too busy to post but want to engage with our audience.

Go Mobile

I detest having any downtime during the working day so having Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn apps on my phone means that I can stay up to date and post on the go whenever I happen to have a spare minute.  If I arrive for a meeting early, if I am travelling by train or on site at an event I will often turn to these free apps to fill the time available.  It is also often enlightening to read content at different times of the day to your normal social media routine!

To save time ensure that you have different social media apps for business and your personal accounts so you do not have to log in and out when on the move.  I personally use the free SproutSocial app to manage my business social media presence and then the individual apps for my personal social media accounts (which if I am honest are generally neglected anyway)!

Web Alerts

Via SproutSocial I have also set up web alerts for mentions of the company name across the web.  This is useful to keep track of any mentions of your business to give thanks or answer people accordingly on a daily basis.  Google Alerts is a free tool which will allow you to monitor and stay up to date in the same way.

cross platform social media management

I am sure you will agree that the above basic daily tasks are easily achievable within 10 minutes per day for most small businesses and will enable them to stay in touch and keep on top of their social media presence.  However whenever you do have more time to spend on social media I would recommend that you look at doing other tasks I have omitted from my daily routine such as returning/reviewing/finding new followers, keeping on top of your Twitter lists, looking at your social media stats and reports, searching for relevant business opportunities, getting involved in group discussions on LinkedIn and generally getting more involved in the conversations across all of the relevant platforms your business engages with.  Whether this may be once a week or once a month the extra time and effort whenever you can spare it is highly recommended – after all with social media the more you put in the more you seem to get back out from it.

People have often said to me that they are too busy to use social media for business, however for Events Northern Ltd it is a vital part of our marketing strategy.  For us we can’t afford not to engage and be a part of it, especially as so many of our clients large and small are a part of it.  Other than the regular time investment being active on social media channels doesn’t cost anything, which cannot be said for most other marketing activity.  Naturally it depends on what suits your organisation but for us it seems strange when small businesses are not embracing the opportunity the social media revolution offers!

I do believe however that “little and often” is the best way to engage with social media and spending 10 minutes each day is definitely preferable (and probably more achievable) to spending an hour online once a week.  I hope sharing this blog post of my own top tips and daily routine has been useful to you.  We would love to hear your social media top time-saving tips and hope you will comment and share them with us below.

UPDATE 23/09/2013:sm4w13

Becki Cross, MD of Events Northern Ltd, will be running a workshop on “Social Media in 10 Minutes a Day” at the Social Media for Women Conference 2013, taking place in Preston, Lancashire on 26th November.

For more information please follow the link:
SMW413 Press Release

P.S. Men are very welcome by the way, it is just the speakers who are female!

Our search for a generic and recognisable blog logo

Recently we launched our new Events Northern Ltd website.  It was important to us that the new site linked through to our blog, both via the website and also via social media buttons on our email footers.

Becki Cross, MD, Events Northern Ltd

New Events Northern website

Our web design company automatically suggested using the Blogger logo alongside our other social media buttons to click through to our blog.  As we have a WordPress blog though we were resistant to this.  Although we realise that the Blogger logo is widely recognisable to many people as a blog link, we have a WordPress blog and so it seemed wrong to us to use in essence a competitor logo to click through to our blog.  However we discovered that the WordPress logo seemed to be less identifiable to people.  After a quick straw poll we found that some did not recognise and relate the WordPress logo to a blog at all and others viewed it more as a content management system or website builder platform and so it seemed to confuse those that we questioned about it.  This came as a surprise to me as I was familiar with WordPress as a blog publishing platform long before we started our own company blog and anticipated that others would also recognise it most strongly with blog content.

This led to a debate in the office about the best solution and we turned to the READY2SPARK LinkedIn Group (marketing communications for event planning) for some guidance as we didn’t want to hold up the launch of our website.

Lara McCulloch-Carter (@ready2spark) and Jim Spellos (@jspellos) were particularly helpful responding to my post.  If we decided against using the WordPress icon Lara suggested having a blog header or creating our own custom blog icon that signified a blog.

Jim advised that the B Blogger logo, technically, is the Blogger logo from Google. He advised that although many people appear to be using it as a generic blogging icon this is not accurate.  It is a trademarked icon so people should tread carefully and definitely avoid using it incorrectly as this is infringement.  He explained that

“It would be like using the Facebook logo to redirect your users to MySpace or another social networking service.”

He also flagged up Google’s terms of use which prohibit the use of the logo outside of their terms.

Generic blog logo

Universal blog icon

We were in agreement with this advice and luckily we then stumbled across a solution in the form of a blog post by Brendan Mitchell from March 2009.  Brendan had come up against the same problem years earlier and couldn’t believe that with the prevalence of blogging there was no standard icon for blogs.  He therefore tasked himself with creating a universally recognised, standard blog icon in the hope that in years to come everyone would be using it.  He based the icon design on the standard RSS feed icon and through his website (www.theblogicon.com) he provides various formats and colour variations of the logo for free and without any restrictions, including various sizes of the logos in PNG, GIF formats, plus Photoshop & Illustrator vector files.

We were delighted to find a universal and recognisable Blog logo which we are comfortable and happy to use.  Brendan’s orange version of the universal blog icon now has pride of place both on our website and on our email footers.

I hope others can benefit from using the logos too.  To show our gratitude to Brendan and to save other businesses the time searching and deliberating over this issue we hope that our blog post will further spread the word!

We would love to hear your thoughts and comments!

To share your support for the universal blog icon please follow the links below:

www.theblogicon.com

http://www.twitter.com/brendanmitchell

http://www.facebook.com/brendanmitchell

http://www.linkedin.com/in/brendanmitchell

Events Northern dive into the blogging world

All of the team at Events Northern Headquarters are so excited to introduce our new addition to the family – our lovely blog!

Why not follow us and enjoy our blogging posts. We hope to provide interesting articles and discussions about the events industry and all other things related.

As detailed in our companies description, Events Northern primarily specialises in conference management. At the moment we are busy developing our new website which will be live very soon. Once published we would love to hear your thoughts.

We are also involved in tweeting on a daily basis via the @eventsnorthern Twitter account and posting comments via Facebook. Please click on the hyperlinks to be directed to the Events Northern pages. 
Facebook
and Twitter

We will be in touch again soon – happy blogging!