I definitely felt alive at Cisco Live last month. How could I not, with a record-breaking crowd of more than 26,000 attendees from all over the world? (That's a 30 percent increase above 2013 for the company's annual IT education and training event.) I sat in on an excellent presentation by Rowan Trollope about collaboration, which as many of you may know, is a big theme of our upcoming conference, The Social Shake-Up. But being part of an intimate group of handpicked influencers to experience it made the big event seem smaller. I was able to connect with people I know and with whom I've followed with a great deal interest through social media.
"At its heart, Cisco Live is about building deeper connections between Cisco and its partners and customers," said Kathleen Mudge, Cisco's Marketing Manager. "As a team, our charge is to create an event experience that our attendees will never forget, and our approach to engaging with attendees and influencers through the social channels that are relevant to them is one of the most important drivers of that objective."
I have to say Cisco met that goal. I also found that, having attended many big tech events; it was better managed for influencers than most. That's impressive considering the keynotes from Cisco's leaders, technical sessions, IT management sessions, networking events, and a highly anticipated customer appreciation event all rolled into five days. Cisco can thank PureMatter and Bryan Kramer's crew for keeping a tsunami of content to a digestible stream. Now add to all that monitoring more than 60,000 social media conversations and real-time engagement with nearly 160,000 in-person and online attendees.
Command Center Components
"After blowing our goals out of the water at Cisco Live 2013, we brought back our Cisco Live Social Media Hub approach to fuel the heartbeat of Cisco Live 2014," Mudge said. "Although it's a really impressive physical space, it most importantly represents our focus on turning insights into actionable engagement and content creation opportunities that further bolsters the experience for our attendees."
Along with all the attendees, my tight-knit influencer group could enjoy the 7,200-square-foot physical command center to lounge and share content. And while doing so, social conversations about the event were brought to life on large monitors being manned at workstations by the real-time engagement team. By team I mean a small army, including Cisco digital experts and GolinHarris, Cisco's social media agency who staffed the hub with digital engagement experts, graphic designers, analytics and insights specialists, and logistics personnel.
"With a fully staffed and integrated Social Media Hub, the team quickly captured conversation opportunities and responded in real-time with targeted content, key insights, or through visual storytelling," said Chuck Hemann, GolinHarris' Executive Director, Digital Analytics. "The Hub team recognized the attendees were the best eyes and ears into event sessions. They provided incredible insights and feedback utilizing the #CLUS hashtag, which the team amplified from the Hub to further the social conversation. The team further extended the Hub through mobile engagement from after-hours events such as the Customer Appreciation Event."
Something that really stuck out for me from one of the keynotes is how seriously Cisco considers its mission to be one of translating technology into societal value. We can actually improve our responses to climate change or spend less time waiting in lines with insights gathered from data. Search the hashtag #internetofeverything to learn more examples.
At Cisco Live, Hermann said, "Daily and intermittent social analytics reports kept members at all levels of the organization informed about performance, and emerging trends. The data points, brand created social content, and curated user generated content gathered by our team even guided keynote content for Cisco CMO Blair Christie."
The volume of conversation during an event like Cisco Live meant the Hub team had to leverage technology as much as possible to aggregate the conversations, and read, tag, assign, and respond to them. Alex Tan, GolinHarris' Executive Director, said both Radian6 for listening and Sprinklr for engagement were integral partners in their success during the event.
Command Center Customizations
Since the focus for the command center was primarily on creating a better experience for attendees, "All of our command center customizations tied back to that core idea," Tan said. "For example, we featured a leader board on one of our screens that highlighted the most active content-creating attendees at the event. We gave daily prizes away to the attendee that shared the most content about their experience at Cisco Live."
I can attest that the command center itself was designed in a way that it gave my small group of social influencers a place to hang out and network, and a place where we could see the content that we were creating featured on a big screen TV.
"We learned last year that our attendees like to watch the keynote presentations at the hub so they can see what other attendees are saying on the social visualization screens and share their own perspective," Tan said. "This year we made sure to stream the keynotes, provide ample sound, and have staff members prepared to engage with them offline in order to encourage online sharing."
On top of being attentive to attendees' basic and important needs, the Hub ran four different contests throughout the event to award attendees who provided the most value to the online community. Even online attendees were rewarded for participation.
"A big focus for us is also our online attendees," said Tan. "More than four times the amount of in-person attendees join online and follow #CLUS, so we created a host of content just for them." (My emphasis added.)
Calculating Command Center ROI
If these numbers don't show the value of the Cisco Live Social Media Hub, I don't know what would. Two of the keynote sessions trended nationally on Twitter. As a result of the insights-based engagement approach coupled with the 2,480 pieces of social content the Hub team created, the overall number of Cisco Live mentions totaled more than 62,000 conversations, which is nearly a 40 percent increase year-over-year in total conversation volume, according to Hermann. Additionally, the #CLUS hashtag was used 35,500 times in 2013, and 51,068 times in 2014. That's almost 40 percent more.
"Because our command center efforts were intertwined with almost every aspect of the event, from the keynotes to the technical sessions to networking events, we had the opportunity to measure our effectiveness in a variety of ways," Hermann said. "We correlate the amount of buzz or conversations generated at the event directly to our activities. For example, in the keynote sessions we track how we support the amplification of key messages shared by attendees by tying that back to the content we create to support what attendees are willing to share driving further amplification."
Measuring and Moderating Social Streams
Pretty much, if people were talking about Cisco Live in a public forum, Cisco was capturing that content, Hermann told me. Most of the conversations took place on Twitter, but they were also capturing blogs, forums, news, video, and image content throughout the week. Cisco's owned social media properties were also monitored for attendees' questions, issues, and positive feedback. This truly took a team effort to monitor the volume of conversation taking place on such a diverse set of streams.
"Thankfully, the tools we were using for Cisco Live made the gathering and moderation process seamless," Hermann said. "A post would be collected by our tools, and a designated person would review the post, tag it, and then assign it to one of our community managers for response. The community manager would then coordinate with our team leaders on an appropriate response. Similarly, our listening specialists would be monitoring the social stream for any sort of real-time content development opportunities. Once an opportunity was spotted, it would be flagged for the team leader who would then go about a similar process of reading, tagging, and assigning the post for response. All of this took place in a matter of minutes."
Continuing the Command Center
For an event like Cisco Live, the most important thing you can do is properly prepare.
"We boil all of the preparation work we do into an event playbook, which truly serves as our north star for everything you can think of on the ground," said Tan. "With a fully integrated team of specialists, its also important to run simulations or mock events. This allows you to really hit the ground running. With that said, being nimble is just as important. At an event as large as Cisco Live, you never know what is going to go wrong or what is going to be a huge hit that you never expected."
Tan shared how this year attendees completely geeked out about the Cisco networking technology that powered the event and shared tons of photos of the equipment throughout the event center on Instagram and Twitter. "We used that to our advantage by engaging with them and re-sharing their content," he said. "We are very focused on creating relevancy for the brand as it engages with attendees and keeping a pulse on the types of topics that have velocity informs our approach."
Next year, Cisco plans to continue creating deeper integration within all aspects of the event, including lead generation. Surely it will be a social media pulse to be reckoned with.