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Why Mobile + Big Data = The Future of Events

May 11, 2013

Mobile + Big Data = Future of Events

Introduction

Lindsey Rosenthal (@eventsforgood) and Liz King (@lizkingevents) host a fabulous online radio show called Event Alley Show. On a recent episode, Lindsey and Liz interviewed Joe English about the future of events. Joe is Creative Director, Intel Developer Forums (at Intel). I was captivated by Joe’s take on the future of events:

The future is about contextual tools that bring information sources together about the audience.

When I ponder the future of events, I tend to jump directly to mobile apps, location awareness and other features tied to the smartphone. Upon further reflection, it occurred to me that mobility is a feature: part of a larger picture. And the larger picture is about the impact that events can make. In other words, what Joe said (above).

The mobile technologies of today will morph into new forms (of technology) tomorrow. So technology is the tool that facilitates context about the audience. And the better events can deliver “attendee intelligence” to sponsors, the more effective sponsorships will be.

Let’s take a closer look.

Step 1: Mobile-enable Event Attendees

The Double Dutch mobile event app

Image via Double Dutch.

Historically, events have been an inefficient medium, as far as data capture goes. Think about all of the “micro transactions” that occur within an event and how we’ve existed all these years without capturing them. Baby steps were made with post-event web surveys, RFID and badge scans, but the game changer has been mobile apps.

So step 1 in the future of events is already here. Event planners can choose from a wealth of mobile event apps. Michelle Bruno published an excellent overview of the mobile app vendors at Event Tech Brief.

Mobile event apps provide a personal assistant to help event attendees find the right content, meet the right people and generally get the most out of their experience. Meanwhile, all of the activity enabled by the app creates a stream of data that can turn into actionable intelligence when aggregated and interpreted.

Step 2: Aggregate Data Sources into a Common Repository

Image via Grzegorz Łobiński on flickr.

There’s an opportunity for a new player to emerge in Step 2. And that’s a vendor-neutral “Switzerland,” who builds interfaces for the industry’s vendors to exchange data (from the vendor’s applications into Switzerland). Here are just some of the many data sources that exist at an event:

  1. Mobile event apps.
  2. Registration.
  3. Online/hybrid events platforms.
  4. Badge scanners.
  5. Twitter.
  6. Survey systems.
  7. Photo sharing services.
  8. Third party location apps (e.g. Foursquare).
  9. Other social network apps.

The role of Switzerland is to combine proprietary data (from vendor applications) with publicly available data (e.g. public check-ins, tweets and other social streams) into a common data repository. From here, the next step kicks in.

Step 3: Apply Big Data to Deliver Attendee Intelligence.

We now apply Big Data technology against this enormous pool of event-specific data. Let’s return to the vision of Joe English: “contextual tools that bring information sources together about the audience.” Let’s consider a few applications of this.

An eHarmony for Events

Photo source: User VideoVillain on flickr.

Amazon makes awesome product recommendations for you because it’s gotten to know you (via your mouse clicks) and it compares your “profile” to what similarly profiled people have purchased. Via our new data repository, we’ve now collected a wealth of event data.

So now we can apply some science (similar to what eHarmony does to pair couples) to pair attendees to attendees and sponsors to attendees. As an attendee, wouldn’t it be neat for Big Data to tell you, “here are the three sponsors you should go visit today.”

Intelligence to Make Sponsors Smarter

Imagine mining the Big Data repository to provide aggregated intelligence profiles to sponsors. Activity data could be sliced and diced across numerous dimensions, including topic and frequency.

For instance, at a healthcare event, the analysis identifies the particular healthcare sub-topics that are receiving the most interest. Throw in a little sentiment analysis on top of this (e.g. from profiling public data and event-specific chatter) and you have some interesting possibilities.

With this sort of data crunching, attendee intelligence could tell sponsors:

  1. The specific sub-topics to focus on.
  2. The probability that particular profiles of attendees will engage with you.
  3. Whether attendee sentiment positive, negative or neutral about your company.

While this technology won’t deliver more visitors to your booth, the intelligence gained can allow you to adjust tactics “on the fly,” resulting in a more organic uptick in attendee engagement with you.

Intelligence for The Event Planner

By aggregating activity and engagement data (from attendees) and marrying that with sentiment analysis, event planners can infer attendee satisfaction. The thinking goes: the more engaged and active you were, the more you enjoyed the event.

Throw in the sentiment analysis and you can validate this. So you’d now have this option: instead of surveying attendees about your event, you can use Big Data to give you the answer implicitly.

Conclusion

So that’s my take on how technology can be applied to generate the contextual tools needed for attendee intelligence. I’d like to thank Lindsey, Liz and Joe for inspiring this post!

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Top 10 Tips for Social Media Time Management

August 17, 2012

Introduction

Whether you use social media for work, pleasure, personal branding or all of the above, one of the trickier questions is, “How do I manage my time on social media?” Like New York, social media is the “city that never sleeps” and there seems to be a new social network emerging every week. So how do you keep up? Consider these ten tips.

1) Understand that you have a fixed amount of time.

Time (in the day) is a zero sum game, at least for those of us who require sleep. The 20 minutes I spend fixing the kitchen sink is 20 minutes I won’t have to do something else. So think of your social media activities as a continual give and take. Give the effort that you’re comfortable with, but don’t let it take over your life.

2) Let automated tools assist you.

On social media, you can find a tool (or app) for just about anything. A good number of tools are absolutely free, while others are paid (or freemium) tools. The Next Web published an excellent list of “50 (mostly) free social media tools you can’t live without in 2012.”

One tool that I like to use is Buffer, which allows me to schedule certain tweets at specific times. If I have an article to share late one night (on the West Coast of the U.S.), it won’t be seen on the East Coast, as most everyone has gone to bed. So I’ll use Buffer to schedule it to be posted (automatically) the next morning.

3) Know what you’re good at.

Figure out what you’re good at, along with what you enjoy the most (they’re very often one and the same). Then, schedule your activities such that you’re focusing 60% (or more) of your time on that very thing. My primary focus is Twitter. Other social networks may come and go, but I’ve enjoyed Twitter the most. And that’s where I spend most of my social media time.

4) Get into a routine.

Just like the morning coffee, the afternoon walk or the after-dinner dish cleaning, social media is incorporated into my daily routine. I have social media with my morning coffee, in fact. As I’m checking the morning headlines, I’ll tweet some interesting articles. As I see what’s written about my favorite sports teams, I’ll check whether any images are worth pinning on Pinterest.

5) Find the right blend.

Don’t stick to one sort of activity (e.g. tweeting links). Find a good blend of activities, which include publishing, sharing and interacting. Jenise Fryatt (@JeniseFryatt) coined the term “EIR” (Engage, Inform, Retweet) and routinely lists (and thanks) Twitter users with the hash tag #EIR.

When I started with Twitter, my activities were all about publishing. These days, I find roughly 25% of my tweets are interactions (e.g. at replies, retweets, etc.).

6) Use social networks’ mobile apps.

On my iPhone, I’ve downloaded mobile apps for Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest (to name a few). The mobile apps have been tremendous for time efficiency.

Now, when I’m stuck on a 30 minute security line at the airport, that’s 25 minutes I get to check in with friends on Facebook, see what’s happening on Twitter, etc. (the other 5 minutes is consumed by fumbling for my driver’s license and untying my shoe laces).

7) Use email notifications to alert you.

While some have declared a death to email (partially due to social networks), I find it to be the “glue” that connects all of your social media activities. In particular, email is great for notifying you to take action.

For instance, I get an email when someone mentions me on Twitter. I can read the details (in the email) and if I’m on mobile, I can tweet back to the user right away. Similarly, I receive emails when someone comments on my Google+ post, so I know to reply back when I get a chance.

8) Spend 15% of your time experimenting.

Craft a 15% budget towards R&D (or, trying out new things). When Google+ first came out, I didn’t jump on board right away. But when I did, I spent a good chunk of my time on it, to learn about Circles, Hangouts and more. While Twitter rules the roost for me, that may not be the case forever. And it’s this experimentation that may identify whatever comes next.

9) Use aggregation and recommendation services.

The best example I can give is Summify – their service is so neat that they were recently acquired by Twitter. Summify creates a “daily summary of the most relevant news from your social networks.” In a given hour, you may have 7,000 tweets in your stream. You need to skim through a lot of text to find content that interests you.

Summify finds the particularly popular links that people you’re following have shared. It’s now incorporated into the daily email (sent by Twitter). The recommendations are so good that I click on more than half of the links.

Related services include LinkedIn Today and Twitter Stories.

10) Take a break.

You shouldn’t be on social media all the time. It may be hard to do, but allocate periods of time where you go completely offline. Trust me, you’ll enjoy the break and you’ll return with a fresh perspective on things. I took a break from social media to go camping – and it was fabulous.

Conclusion

So in closing, I’ll reiterate a few of the key points:

  1. Find what you’re good at (and enjoy) and spend most of your time doing it.
  2. Technology (tools, emails, aggregation services) will aid in time efficiency.
  3. Find the right blend of publishing, sharing and interacting.
  4. Use email notifications to alert you to take action.
  5. Take a break and go offline.

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


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