TEDxSydney taps into real-time social to fuel engagement

Cloud software company Salesforce partners with TEDxSydney to increase global social and community engagement using a social media command centre

Annual ideas festival, TEDxSydney, found an innovative, digitally-led way to expand its audience and drive community engagement this year: Through social media.

The event’s operations team partnered with enterprise cloud company, Salesforce, to support both a Satellite Events Program as well as create its first social media command centre. Salesforce Marketing Cloud APAC head of product marketing, Derek Laney, told CMO the challenge was to increase engagement and share ideas beyond this one event and its physical walls.

“The venue itself was limited by space, so this year we decided to partner with TEDx to try and take the message out to the online community and we did that in a couple of ways,” he said.

The first of these was linking the online community with the physical community and the Opera House. Salesforce created its first ever social media command centre at TEDx, showing visualisations of online conversations in real-time. Using Salesforce Social Studio, a single app for social marketing, engagement and analytics, the onsite centre allowed TEDxSydney to bring conversations happening online across Australia back into the main event.

“We used the social media tools to link online conversations with physical conversations and grow the event in ways we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do with the physical limitations of the venue,” Laney said. “This year, we also saw a massive lift in online conversation. We saw three times as much conversation as there was last year, so it really has been accelerating. Half of the conversations came from outside of Australia and the online community was very active in the UK, the US and Canada.”

Secondly, Laney said Salesforce empowered the Satellite Program to enable those that wanted to independently host their own smaller TEDx events at offices and community groups and educational institutions to be involved. These Satellite Events ran parallel to the main event, which ran at the Sydney Opera House earlier this month.

Using a livestream link-up, the Satellite Events program brought together a network of local, self-organised events for attendees to share these TED-like experiences via livestream technology and social media.

Since launching in 2013, the TEDxSydney Satellite Events program has reached more than 16,000 Australians. More than 30 satellite hosts were pre-registered this year, including a major event with the University of Sydney that attracted in excess of 5000 people.

“In Australia, rather than there being a fear of disruption, there is a huge hunger for innovation. So at the event last Thursday [14 May], we saw St George, 3M, Optus and ourselves all being involved,” Laney said. “The Satellites program was hugely successful, with 120 or more satellite events including at Westpac, News Limited and the University of Sydney.”

For organisations wanting to embrace new ways of audience engagement, Laney suggested looking for social platforms to springboard off in order to create that intimacy with events.

“The tools available right now in terms of online video, social media conversations and also social media visualisations mean it is possible to create something that a location will allow,” Laney said. “The Tedx community has long been an exemplar in terms of valuing creativity, innovation and connectedness to the community.”

Laney also believed the TEDx model of simplicity and brevity is something more organisations and events should adopt within their own idea-sharing strategies to be successful.

“Whether it be Vivid or the Sydney Writer’s Festival, taking the model TEDx has created and using it to create innovative ways of sharing ideas in your own organisation is excellent advice,” he said. “I think if you do that, it’s worthwhile creating something that is shareable. Create a website, create something that is shareable and create a community. That’s definitely what TEDx has shown us.”

Laney also pointed to an increasing number of organisations in Australia are now looking for multi-disciplinary approaches to encourage creativity in their own organisations, by bringing in ideas together from the arts, business, science and technology communities to create a culture of innovation.

“We’re seeing many large organisations start to open up the walls of their premises and set up collaborations with co-working spaces and arts communities to try and take an ‘outside in’ approach,” he said. “Whether that be from taking the perspective of the customer, taking the perspective of different employees, or looking at some of these external community groups, to be able to take a different angle on their business and encourage more creativity and innovation.”

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