Most Innovative Meetings 2012: #12 I.B.M. Information on Demand

As an additional layer of on-site interaction, the tech giant implemented a comprehensive social media strategy into its biggest customer conference.

By Anna Sekula July 19, 2012, 2:55 AM EDT

Photo: Tom Donogue/Drury Design Dynamics

As one of the largest globally recognized makers of computer hardware and software, and an organizer of several annual conferences, International Business Machines Corporation is always looking for new ways to meld technology with social interaction in the context of business. Driven by the idea of culling feedback from clients—senior business executives, I.T. professionals, and developers—and partners, I.B.M. has already implemented online versions of yearly gatherings like Pulse and added a social media aggregator and QR codes into last year’s run of Lotusphere.

To add to this strategy, the tech giant sought to build a fully integrated social media program for the October run of its Information on Demand event at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. With the help of business communications company Drury Design Dynamics, the initiative was also designed to leverage the participation of on-site conference attendees to engage those in the virtual realm.

Central to the plan was the use of “social concierges” to provide information on the various activities and teach late adopters of social networks how to use the platforms. These staffers roamed the show floor equipped with iPads and took daily polls, gathering answers to questions such as “What’s your organization’s top business objective?” and recording observations on video.

Other factors included 22 touch-screen displays set up around the venue, which gave guests the chance to take the surveys as well as access to the social media aggregator that linked to Twitter, blog feeds, photos, and videos. A crew, known as “Team Social,” filmed various aspects of the conference, while a dedicated lounge was designed as the main hub for social users.

In total, Information on Demand’s social media activation saw 7,127 tweets (calculated to have a reach of 2.4 million people), 228 check-ins on Foursquare at 12 locations, 1,453 images posted to Flickr, and 22,645 touches recorded at the touch-screen displays. The daily polls had 7,500 responses, a 362 percent increase over 2010.

Based on this success, I.B.M. opted to fashion a similar initiative for the Pulse conference in March. This included using a social host to share the results of daily polls and Twitter topics of the day, creating a series of classes to instruct attendees how to use Twitter, LinkedIn, mobile apps, and Facebook, and encouraging 11,000 tweets from 1,400 unique users during the event’s three-day run.

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