How to Use the Power of Social Influencers at Conferences

Find out how the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's annual conference is engaging nontraditional media to reach new audiences.

By Mitra Sorrells February 25, 2014, 7:15 AM EST

There are more than 300 education sessions and more than 1,200 trade show exhibitors at this year's Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference. The social media ambassadors are sharing content from the event on their blogs and through their Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus accounts.

Photo: Oscar Einzig

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society is testing a new strategy to generate buzz for its annual conference, which takes place through Thursday at the Orange County Convention Center. Organizers selected 13 people from the health information technology industry who are active on social media to serve as social media ambassadors for the event. In exchange for perks such as complimentary registration, organizers are hoping these people will extend the reach of the conference beyond the more than 35,000 attendees and the organization's existing online community.

“These people are highly visible, respected, and recognized in the industry. This helps us build an audience that maybe we’re not always reaching through our vehicles and advance what we are trying to do from a social perspective,” says Cari McLean, social media manager for H.I.M.S.S.

McLean says the idea developed after last year’s conference as they reevaluated the criteria necessary for someone to qualify for free media registration. What they found was that many people who are actively engaged on social media related to the health IT industry are not employed by traditional media outlets and therefore were having to pay for their registrations. Starting in October, the organization invited applicants to fill out an online form with information such as whether they write a blog and how many page views its receives, the number of Twitter followers they have, and the frequency of posts on networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus, and Twitter.

“What we really tried to examine was what is their social reach. It wasn’t required that you have a presence on every platform, but we wanted you to have multiple platforms that you engage with and that you regularly produce content for your audience,” McLean says.

The organization received 25 applications through February 17 and selected 13 for the inaugural program this year, choosing people that reach a variety of audiences and cover a range of topics. In addition to complimentary conference registration, the ambassadors receive access to work space in the press room, lunch and refreshments daily, a social media ambassador ribbon for their badges, and recognition through the organization’s social media channels.

Organizers are following the ambassadors' posts but are not dictating the content or frequency of coverage. “We really thought the value comes in empowering these individuals because they are authentic. They are thought leaders in the industry and they offer a unique perspective. So we don’t want to control that,” McLean says. “We trusted they would be active, understanding their normal activity. I think we’ve been surprised how proactive and engaged they’ve been thus far.”

Along with sharing their experiences at the conference through their networks, the ambassadors are also serving as online hosts for the event’s “Blog Carnival.” Starting two weeks prior to the conference and continuing for one week after it ends, H.I.M.S.S. is inviting people to submit blog posts on designated topics. The ambassadors are contributing posts and also publishing weekly recaps of other meaningful submissions.

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