Google Wave, Twitter and the Transformation of Event Marketing

Google Wave is an exciting new collaborative tool and in their suggestions about how it could be used, organizing events is first on Google’s list.

I think Wave and Twitter will combine to transform event marketing by taking social media to the next level because Wave finally gives people an essentially social media subject about which to tweet.

In many ways, tweets are currently a social media extension of the old style of marketing.  Although there’s some editorial content in what gets tweeted about and whether the tweeter thinks it’s cool or not, the essential subject is the event and its content, not what peers are thinking about the event(and peer to peer interaction is the crux of social media.)

Wave will release Twitter from that constraint and integrate it into a complete social media marketing solution because waves can reveal what attendees and potential attendees are actually thinking both when they’re making their purchasing decision and when they’re at the event.

It lets the event producers shape a conversation and then open it up to prospects and attendees to fill with their thoughts, which statistics have shown their peers find so much more valuable for purchase decisions than agendas, speakers’ bios and other company generated material.

Combining Wave and Twitter to effectively help prospects learn what their peers are thinking requires understanding how they differ as learning tools. There are essentially two ways to learn: Learning from (instruction) is what Twitter’s great for and learning with (construction) is Wave’s strong suit.

We all know what a potent tool Twitter is for letting people know what’s going on.  Its brief alerts are hooks that grab our attention.  The follower model is a great recipient driven distribution list and retweeting can create powerful viral effects.

However, it’s not a good environment in which to share thoughts because:

It’s linear, which makes it hard to connect and integrate thoughts in various tweets,

Its organizing capabilities are very limited, so there’s no shared body of knowledge or perspectives on which to base any sort of conversation,

There’s a lot of redundancy because multiple people are tweeting about the same topic to different audiences,

You can’t get very reflective or thoughtful in 140 characters,

It’s all text, and

Tweets have a limited lifespan.  If you’re putting together an event over a period of more than a few weeks, you won’t even be able to find everything.

Google Wave, on the other hand, is great for revealing what a group of people are thinking on a substantial level:

Like a document, you can put thoughts wherever they belong.  You can even modify a post,

Subtopics let you group thoughts,

Since it’s a collective document, there’s no need for people to repeat each other,

You can post whatever length comment you want,

You can include images, videos, maps, polls and all sorts of media in your wave.  There’ s also a wide and growing variety of extensions and gadgets (e.g. a translator for international events), and

It has an unlimited lifespan.

Wave is not that good for announcements:

The updates to a wave can be to any part of it (a strength) but that makes it more difficult to identify what’s new,

There is no follower relationship.  For someone to see the wave, they currently need to be able to modify it, and

The only way a wave could be “retweeted” would be by adding all your followers to it.  Then to retweet another wave, you’d have to add your followers to that as well.

If you harnessed their collective strengths for an event, here’s what you might see.

Imagine planning your next event in public!  You could start a wave with topics about the physical location, the education tracks et al and invite attendees from previous events, potential speakers and others to join your planning wave.

As you figure out what you’re going to do, your customers will be able to chime in and if you forgot to include a topic they think is important, they’ll add it. You’ll have a chance to see what everyone thinks and either accept their ideas or explain why you won’t.

Other than being frightening (giving up the control social media demands usually is,) this is a way to plan the event that people want and have them take ownership of it.

Twitter would be a great way to let people know what you’re doing and to give them periodic updates/reminders of what’s happening.  Everyone who participates will tweet about the things they find interesting and, if there’s a point of disagreement, rally people to their side in a form of crowdsourcing.

At the event, the Wave, which already contains a lot of information about the speeches and panels, becomes a collaborative set of notes (as well a way of seeing how well the presentations matched their intentions.)  A wave can even include a real time poll in the midst of a talk if someone’s really brave.

Some people will want to keep tweeting, others will prefer putting their comments into a collective wave and some will do both. Combining Wave and Twitter gives people more options about how to participate and that’s only good for the event.

When the event is over, you’ll have a fundamentally different kind of public record.  Instead of records of the event like videos or speech transcripts, you’ll have a record of the attendee experience that both highlights what they found useful and testifies to how engaged and stimulated they were.

The attendee vetted usefulness of the content will be a valuable inbound marketing resource that will bring you traffic if the wave is hosted on your website (not possible now, but Google promises this for the future.)

The intimate revelation of how you responded to their peers’ suggestions for the event as well as what their peers were actually getting from the event while they were there will be a powerful marketing tool for your next event because it tells prospects what their peers think.

Google and Twitter are two of the Marquee Brands in social media and some people will inevitably get into a debate about which is better.  The main thing that debate will reveal is that some people prefer one and some the other, so our jobs as event professionals is to provide opportunities for people to use both.

I think Wave is the best thing to happen to Twitter since the hashtag.  How about you?

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