Janina Benz: Hi Anja, could you briefly introduce yourself to our readers?
Anja Gnest: Of course! In 2004, I started working in re-launch support for the Internet department at Deutsche Messe. Initially, this was on a short-term project contract, but I quickly became passionate about the interim work that I was doing. At the time, I was preparing for the examination to become a licensed accountant. Although I passed the exam, I never started a career in accounting. I learned a great deal through my work on the CeBIT website. Unlike other exhibitions, CeBIT target groups have a much higher affinity for all things online, so I was constantly confronted with the latest topics related to the Web. For example, in 2007, I worked on the first search engine campaign; in 2010, the first Facebook page. I am currently heavily involved with SEO, and, for the past year, I have been supporting the mobile phone team with the development and marketing of apps. At the moment, I am actively engaged in extending our social media activities and am contributing to a very exciting project on “Enterprise 2.0.”
JB: CODE_n was one of the most discussed topics on Twitter during CeBIT, under the hashtag #CODE_n. What were the preparations like on your end? How big is your social media team? How much traffic do your website, blog, etc. receive?
AG: Our social media team currently only consists of two people – my colleague Matthias Venzke and me. We’ve been responsible for social media communication for 12 different events now. Agencies support us with editorial work and campaign planning. Other highly motivated colleagues from our sales and PR teams are also active on our behalf in the social Web. CeBIT is our most talked about exhibition, followed by the trade show HANNOVER MESSE.
This year, our followers on Facebook and Twitter have doubled in numbers compared to 2011. During the exhibition, we were answering questions on a minute-by-minute basis; questions regarding our apps, how to get to the trade show grounds, about hotel accommodations, etc. 2012 was an incredibly exciting event year. The upward trend in use of the social Web is distinct. As a result, we have decided to vigorously continue working on our strategy for 2013. We plan to establish ourselves even more within social networks and offer our customers the very best in services and exclusive information.
The CeBIT website welcomes approximately 4 million visitors from around the world. Our guests primarily look for exhibitors, plan their trade show visit, or register for and purchase tickets. This year, people from 130 countries talked about our exhibition via the social Web. Other impressive participation numbers can be attributed to our Social Media Command Center, powered by salesforce.com. Check out the German CeBIT blog for a graph highlighting other Web activity results.
The CeBIT blog moved in a new direction this year. Through our “blog scholarship,” we were able to welcome 4 wonderfully diverse bloggers to the team. Even professional bloggers like Sascha Lobo continue to support us with fascinating posts, and exhibition staff has contributed background information relating to interesting projects. However, the blog is currently only available in German.
JB: What are the plans for Hanover after CeBIT? How will CeBIT’s social media activities move forward?
AG: Our strategy for 2013 presents us with two great challenges. On one hand, we plan to support the sales department in acquiring young and innovative businesses – enterprises that CeBIT can offer particularly unique opportunities. On the other hand, we would like to offer our followers and fans more exclusive content. Working with them, we hope to extend our services so that they are fully prepared and have all the information they need to make the next exhibition a success.
AG: Like CODE_n, most CeBIT-related discussions were tweeted. In terms of quantity, this isn’t all that surprising. The limited number of characters, inherent speed, and up-to-the-minute nature of Twitter means post and comments will naturally be more frequent and numerous.
I think the main difference is the context. Whereas I mainly use Twitter to inform my followers about news, interesting facts and other unique information, I use Facebook primarily to communicate with friends, people with the same interests, business partners and my family. The benefits of Twitter are clear: There are advantages to quickly sharing knowledge and opinions. I find that Facebook, and now Google+, are excellent discussion and service platforms. What I really like about Facebook is that our fans help each other and answers each others’ questions, more than our Twitter followers do.
JB: Many of our CODE_n finalists primarily used social media to market themselves. The time and effort invested into these activities is often underestimated. Would you say there is a golden rule for success in the social Web?
AG: Yes and no. There isn’t a golden rule that can be applied to every company. Businesses need to strategically develop their own success criteria.
But as far as I’m concerned, there’s one criterion for success that applies universally: authenticity. That must come through, explicitly and implicitly. This is easier for young companies like your finalists than large businesses with a long history. But every company can and should face the changes in communication techniques, to be successful in the social Web and beyond.
JB: The advertising tools in Facebook and Twitter are becoming more and more popular, and social media marketing spends are growing rapidly. How would you most efficiently work with a restricted startup budget?
AG: We don’t have any experience with Twitter ads yet. Our budget primarily goes to editorial services, monitoring, and promotions.
We draw attention to our promotions with Facebook ads. Facebook offers unparalleled targeting opportunities, and I know to appreciate their value. Coupled with targeted user interests, regional and demographic control reduces redundant spend. The actual CPC of our advertisements is generally below the price suggested by Facebook, and the budget can generally be based on a daily or contract period. If money is an issue for a recent startup, Facebook presents wonderful options in terms of marketing investment.
Some tips based on our experience: appealing visuals, animated text, various ads in rotation – these all give good indications of how to best reach desired target groups. Linking to internal Facebook content (fan page, event, app) can be a recipe for success, since Facebook users tend to want to stay on the Facebook site.