Social media works—more than 600 attend conference with less than 8 weeks' notice

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By Barbara Bix -

A lot of the work I do is at the intersection of health care and technology. Yet, I didn’t hear about last Thursday’s conference on Transforming Health Care until a few weeks ago. No else did either.

In fact, organizer Steve Wardell only began publicizing the event in the last 6-8 weeks. Yet, more than 600 people attended—including many local luminaries who not only follow, but make health care news in Boston.

So what attracted the crowd? I believe that in this case the medium was the message.

Strong offer is just the beginning

Certainly, the topic—Impact and Opportunity in the Obama Plan--was compelling. Yet, with the ink still wet on the Obama plan, no one really has enough information to assess the specific implications of the plan for health care providers, health care payers, or health care software developers. And, the speakers said as much.

The speakers were also remarkable. Two, Charlie Baker and James Roosevelt, lead major Boston-based health plans and have been influential in shaping state and national health care policy. John Glaser is the CIO at Partners Health Care, the largest health care provider in Massachusetts. Jonathan Bush is the CEO of a successful health care technology provider and a cousin of former President Bush. Moderator Scott Kirsner, known for his sharp wit and incisive observations writes about innovation for The Boston Globe and other leading news publications.

Nevertheless, I don’t think the speakers can account for the record-breaking crowd either. Despite the fact that all of them are important thought leaders, each works locally and there are other opportunities to hear their views. In my experience, none of these other occasions have drawn the crowds that flocked to Thursday’s event—even though many of these events had months of publicity.

Blogs, Linked in, Twitter--event organizers pull out all the stops

My theory is that most people came because of the savvy way in which event organizers leveraged social media. Event organizers and sponsors reached out to local bloggers, many of whom wrote about the event encouraging attendance. The volunteer coordinators suggested that volunteers use Linked In to let colleagues know that they were attending. And, both volunteers and bloggers were invited to extend discounts to their friends and colleagues. Finally, everyone was asked to tweet about the event before—and during the event—using Twitter.

Social marketing is more than social media

The social orientation, however, went far beyond promotion. When participants registered, they were invited to submit questions—and vote on others’ submissions. Perhaps, most important, everyone could see who else was planning to come—before they, themselves, registered.

And, it worked. It was amazing to watch. I logged into the registration page each day and watched registrations grow geometrically from one day to the next. Moreover, many of those that signed up for this after-work event were mid-level, and even senior managers.

Based on the registration pattern, it’s clear to me that most people came largely because they knew that others they respect planned to attend. This conclusion was borne out by the fact that most people arrived early to network—and a large number stayed late to do more of the same. In short, this event was a poster child for social media.

So what can we learn from this experience? How can social media increase your business' success?


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