How to Measure the Social Success of Your Event in Real Time

By looking at social data, C2MTL planners could see the speakers and topics that resonated with attendees.

By Beth Kormanik June 3, 2014, 7:00 AM EDT

The top concepts mentioned on social platforms were "business" and "creativity," which showed that the main message behind the event resonated with attendees.

Photo: Agnieszka Stalkoper

Social media offers the possibility of instant feedback—if event and meeting planners have a strategy for how to use the data. At C2MTL Commerce & Creativity Conference, held May 27 to 29 in Montreal, real-time analytics revealed the top tweeters, most influential speakers, trending concepts, and other insights.

Exploring what it called the event's “digital ecosystem,” C2MTL worked with data firm Nexalogy to analyze what its attendees were posting on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and other platforms. The results were shared on the conference's website as well as displayed on screens at the event. In a fun twist on data visualization, toy company Mega Bloks created a colorful chart showing the volume and type of posts by each hour of the conference.

As of late Monday afternoon, the event's website showed 10,315 total tweets that used the hashtag #C2MTL, with an average of about 3,000 tweets a day during the conference, which was held at Arsenal, a contemporary art space. The top concepts attendees mentioned were “business,” “creativity,” “conference,” “creative,” and “innovation.”

“It seems on message to what the conference is supposed to be about,” says Craig Silverman, a journalist who worked with Nexalogy on the project. “People are getting it.”

Twitter was by far the dominant platform, and Nexalogy used a tool called a “lexical map” to show how the concepts related to each other. They showed common words that attendees used to describe speakers and which parts of the presentations resonated with attendees. For instance, attendees who tweeted about Zappos C.E.O. Tony Hsieh also tweeted about “culture,” an appropriate response to Hsieh, who has spoken on numerous occasions about the value of building a strong company culture.

Silverman calls the data “instant feedback” on who and what resonated with audiences, asking: “Were the people expected to be big generating the most conversation?”

Attendees reacted differently to each speaker. The most talked-about speaker was Muhammad Yunus, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who pioneered the concepts of microcredit and microfinance. Attendees tweeted a constant stream of quotes from Yunus, while other speakers saw just one idea take off with the crowd. “There are different ways to engage an audience,” Silverman says.

A “sleeper hit” of the conference, according to Silverman, was Jonathan Becher, chief marketing officer of SAP. Becher began his talk by tweeting: “On stage at #C2MTL. Looking forward to connecting with crowd. RT if you’re watching & will follow you afterwards.” And he did, becoming one of the top Twitter users interacting with other attendees.

The nature of the social interactions changed over the course of the event as well. As the rainy weather cleared and people explored the outdoor area known as the garage, tweets about the space increased. On the final day of the conference, “inspire” popped up as a commonly used term.

“As we get toward the need, this is the emotion created by C2,” Silverman says. “As we get to the end of the event, people are evaluating the event and their experience.”

Planners can use the data to influence future programming, and Will Travis, a partner at conference producer Sid Lee, says the data also will be used as feedback for speakers.

“It's healthy to know how you're doing and understand what's happening in the conference and listen to the tweets,” Travis says. “It's rather ignorant if we do a conference and say, 'That was fantastic, that was great,' but there was a whole stream of input that can affect us going forwards. I want to know what people think and value.”

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