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European Convention Bureaus Embrace Web 2.0 Marketing Tools

Research conducted by Rob Davidson of the University of Greenwich and Mady Keup of Skema Business School shows that YouTube, followed by Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are the Web 2.0 tools most frequently used by European convention bureaus to market their destinations and win new events business. But their research also concludes that despite the fast-growing use of these tools by convention bureaus, many have little real idea of the return on their investment in these techniques.

These are the key findings of new research into how European convention bureaus are utilizing Web 2.0 techniques in their marketing communications strategies as a means of building relationships with the meeting planners and others who choose destinations for conferences.

The second generation of internet communications, widely known as Web 2.0, consists of an extensive set of tools that allow people to build social and business connections and share information online. These include blogs, wikis, social-networking sites and other online communities. For marketers, Web 2.0 offers a remarkable new opportunity to engage consumers and win business. Marketing these days is all about building a two-way relationship with customers, and Web 2.0 tools offer a powerful new way to do that.

The research conducted by Davidson and Keup takes a first step towards achieving an understanding of how European convention bureaus are experimenting with and exploiting the opportunities created by Web 2.0 applications, and how they are measuring the effectiveness of their use of these tools. It highlights the various objectives that convention bureaus have for their use of Web 2.0, and provides evidence suggesting that the effectiveness of these tools is in many cases untested

Key findings

  • The use of Web 2.0 as a marketing tool by convention bureaus is a relatively recent phenomenon. Less than a quarter of the 22 European convention bureaus who participated in the survey have been using Web 2.0 applications in their marketing for more than 2 years. The greatest proportion (41%) had been using these for between 1 and 2 years only.
  • YouTube, followed by Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are the applications most commonly used by convention bureaus. Blogs, Flickr and Slideshare featured to a lesser extent in their marketing communications strategies. Those convention bureaus with a longer experience of Web 2.0 use were using a greater number of applications – 4 or more, as against later adopters’ 2 or 3.
  • In terms of matching specific Web 2.0 tools to specific marketing objectives, there was plentiful evidence to suggest that convention bureau marketing managers were harnessing the particular strengths of each tool. For example, Facebook and Twitter’s power as instant, simple two-way communication forums would explain why, between them both they accounted for 72% of the convention bureaus’ use of Web 2.0 for the purpose of stimulating dialogue about their destinations. The same two tools accounted for 62% of the use of Web 2.0 in connection with convention bureaus’ objective of communicating with their suppliers/members; and 60% for the purpose of monitoring and responding to comments about their destinations. Nine of the 22 convention bureaus in our sample reported finding Facebook to be the most effective tool overall in their marketing communications.
  • On the other hand, Linkedin, which offers detailed biographies of registered users, was found to be the Web 2.0 tool most commonly used by convention bureaus for the purpose of profiling potential clients for sales purposes. And for creating awareness and enhancing brand reputation, YouTube emerged as the leading Web 2.0 tool, reflecting that application’s proven effectiveness in connecting the emotions of consumers to individual brands.
  • Regarding the techniques used by convention bureaus to evaluate the performance of their Web 2.0 tools, a variety of quantitative systems of measurement were found to be in use. These ranged from Google Analytics to systems such as Klout, Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, as well as the technique of counting Facebook ‘friends’, Twitter ‘followers’ and so on. However, a significant proportion of convention bureaus were found to have no system in place for measuring the return on investment from their use of Web 2.0 applications. The most common explanation provided for this was lack of experience with Web 2.0 tools - convention bureaus reported using these too little or too recently to have considered measuring their performance. There was also an element of skepticism concerning the extent to which the quantitative measurement of certain tools (such as the number of viewings on YouTube) was even meaningful.
  • The participating convention bureaus’ advice for other destination marketing organisations regarding their use of Web 2.0 focused on two principal topics: the importance of proper management of convention bureaus’ use of Web 2.0; and the need to offer relevant content. In terms of management, emphasis was placed upon the need to allocate adequate resources to the use of these tools (notably human resources) and the need to have Web 2.0 techniques properly integrated into the marketing plan, with a specific budget. In terms of content, respondents stressed the need to offer useful, relevant information, and to engage customers in a dialogue, rather than simply broadcasting information aimed at them.