So the LinkedIn events function has been discontinued? In all honesty, it probably doesn’t matter because it’s unlikely that it ever helped to attract any attendees to any conference or exhibition. In that respect it was no different to the events function in Facebook.
There will be some who are probably already composing their rebuttal of that statement but the reality lies in the fact that Facebook is a social medium, not a professional medium. For example, the English Civil War re-enactment group, Fairfax Battalia, uses Facebook very successfully. They will create a page in FB for an event at which they are appearing. The person who creates these pages will invite all the members who are on FB. Some will go to the page and click to say they will or they won’t attend. As the event gets closer, people (and bear in mind, all of these people, are friends) start discussing aspects of the event through the FB page: there’s going to be a party on Saturday night or has anybody got space in their authentic tent for the herbalist or is all the kit for the kitchen on the van and so on. It works but this isn’t a conference. It’s a social group.
In another case, somebody may be organising a triathlon or a fun run and they send out invitations to as many people as they can think of. The people who sign up for the event will have friends who will also be taking part so they send the link on and they, in turn, pass the link on to other people. Some of them will start discussing aspects of the event but the key point is that, like the Fairfax event page, this page will provide something that is not obtainable easily anywhere else.
The upshot of all of this is that pages like these, within the limitations of the membership, will be successful because the participants are friends and have a restricted, but shared interest. It’s the easiest way for them to get more information.
So what does this mean for exhibition or conference event pages, whether on FB or LinkedIn? The reality is that they offer nothing of value that cannot be found on the organiser’s promotional webpage. Have you looked at a page on FB promoting a trade show or a conference? It’s highly unlikely that there will be anything of value in it, no matter how hard the organiser has tried to promote it. Pretty much everything on the FB page will be available on the event website.
Promoters of social media talk about ‘engaging’ people through social media. It only works in a social context. On LinkedIn, even if a thread is in one of the specialist groups such as MPI, interest is so low that it looks successful if half a dozen people get involved. Facebook is even less likely to get a result.
Fortunately there is a growing realisation among organisers that this is the case. On just one recent thread in LinkedIn, comments included ‘Our experience is that B2B doesn’t work on Facebook.’, ‘I work with primarily B2B clients who have yet to find a way of getting any benefit out of Facebook and Twitter’ and ‘we have not yet reaped the benefits of B2B on Facebook’.
I suspect that most organisers will heave a sigh of relief on hearing that LinkedIn is discontinuing its events function because it’s something they don’t have to bother with anymore.
(This article originally appeared as a blog on the Conference News website in January 2013)