How Cisco Live Is Tapping Into the Power of Social Influencers

Find out how the event is generating millions of online impressions through a new program to engage social media specialists.

By Mitra Sorrells May 22, 2014, 7:00 AM EDT

Cisco Live's event management team shared behind-the-scenes details about the production of the event with members of the influencers group.

Photo: Steve Maller Photography

Cisco Live wraps up today at the Moscone Center, with a record crowd of more than 26,000 attendees. That’s a 30 percent increase over 2013 for the company’s annual education and training event. Among those attending for the first time this year are 22 people who are part of the new “Event Influencer” program, a strategic effort to cultivate relationships with people who are both interested in technology and have a broad reach on social networks.

“We wanted to invite people from different parts of experiential marketing—that spans social media, content marketing, event marketing—to share the Cisco Live experience and to gain some insights and start conversations to understand more about what’s happening in those fields that we should be aware of,” said Staci Clark, global marketing manager for Cisco Live.

The group includes social media marketing strategist Ted Rubin; Shel Israel, co-author of Age of Context; Robin Fray Carey, C.E.O. of Social Media Today; and author and speaker Joel Comm. The group has a total of nine million followers across all social networks, according to Bryan Kramer, C.E.O. of PureMatter, the social agency for the influencer program.

“It’s about how do you build a community of people that can learn about who you are, become really excited about what they see, go home and shout it from the rooftops because they’re just excited to talk about it, and then they want to be a part of it moving forward,” he said.

To develop a sense of community among participants in the weeks leading up to Cisco Live, organizers created a private Facebook group where they shared previews of event activities. At the conference, Cisco provided free press passes and reserved seating at the keynote sessions. Organizers also created several activities exclusively for the group, including a panel presentation Tuesday from the event leadership team followed by a walking tour. During both the panel and tour, the event team provided insights into the various production elements of Cisco Live, such as how they develop content and how they manage the event’s complex wireless network. On Wednesday, Cisco chief marketing officer Blair Christie hosted a roundtable discussion for program participants.

“One of the shifts for us as an event is that we have to be very transparent in everything we do, because our attendees are going to call us on it if we’re not. That’s the double-edged sword of social media,” Clark said. “So one of the things we wanted to do with this program is to be very authentic and transparent and peel back the curtain to say this is what we do and this is how we do it.”

To maintain that authenticity, organizers did not dictate any expectations for coverage. Instead, they focused on providing what Kramer called the “tools and assets for influencers to influence,” such as access to executives and statistics about the show. “We’re not asking them to do anything. That’s the magic. We say if something moves you, do something with it,” he said. Many of the participants posted multiple tweets during Monday’s opening keynote from Cisco C.E.O. John Chambers, and within the first few hours those posts had made nine million impressions, according to Kramer. As of Wednesday morning, he said the influencers have generated 24 million impressions on Twitter alone. Following the conference, organizers said they intend to solicit feedback from participants regarding the experience and to maintain communication with them in the future.

Disclosure: The author of this article was invited by Cisco to participate in the Event Influencer program.

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