100 Years of Advancing Destinations

Unlocking the Power of Social Media: A Conversation with Rob Higgins

Posted: September 23, 2013
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The explosion of social media marketing in the meetings & events industry has led to a fever pitch of organizations trying to get a grasp of what these tools are and how best to use them. 

The Tampa Bay Sports Commission is one of a handful of destination marketing organizations that are helping pioneer the use of social media and digital tools to further their message and goal of generating room nights for their community. Executive Director Rob Higgins, was kind enough to sit down with us and chat about some of the recent success he and his team have seen.

What are some of the things that have made the Tampa Bay Sports Commission so successful in its use of Digital & Social Media Marketing Tools?

Social media allows us to provide a greater level of customer service to clients in real time and have enhanced insight as to what their current needs are. It's a very important touch point for us with our key stakeholders and it allows us to cut through the clutter in servicing our relationships. The value we get from social media through our content marketing strategies is phenomenal and our favorite aspect is that our entire team is active on social media, so every team member shares in the content creation for the organization regularly. No matter what the traditional role is for each person, we’re all responsible for sharing our organization’s and events’ messages socially, so our entire team is engaged instead of just one individual. If someone offers you the choice of a social media department or a single individual which would you pick? With the proper training and culture, we’ve developed an entire department that creates and amplifies our messaging on a daily basis.

You said that your team shares responsibility for the distribution of your message. Do you police that or train them in any way as to what to say or push out? 

When it comes to sharing content we ask our team to remember three important questions:

  • Is it meaningful? (Does the post inform, entertain or enhance our audience’s engagement with us?)
  • Is it relevant? (Is the post timely to our current digital discussion and is it on topic with our mission?)
  • Is it bulletproof? (Would each and every one of our stakeholders approve of and like the individual message?)

It’s ultra important for us to analyze each social media post from as many different lenses as possible to make sure we are maximizing the unique opportunity associated with every single message we share.

What's one tactic in particular that you feel has been beneficial to your cause?

We’ve had strong success recently with conducting interviews during live events with organizers and creating video montages that are posted to YouTube. The goal behind this is to convert event organizers into brand ambassadors and these types of testimonials create mutual additional buzz for the events and our destination. We've also seen success with using social media to crowdsource and generate leads for potential events that we may be able to pursue hosting. It never ceases to amaze us how social media can help us uncover relationships with specific individuals and organizations locally, regionally and nationally.

Do you envision a time when event planners and groups will expect the types of services that you and your team provide from a social perspective during and after the bid process?

Absolutely, with the work that we have done in recent times with events/groups from college athletics to national governing bodies to private enterprises and others, the foundation has been laid for us to provide these services to all of the groups that we have the privilege of hosting. Our digital platforms help us make our Tampa Bay community an even more attractive option during the bid process. A multi-layered approach with both digital and traditional ad strategies offers our clients a prime opportunity to be successful with their goals and in the end, if they win, we win. 

Any advice for others looking to implement a digital & social strategy similar to what you guys have created? 

For starters, we would say when it comes down to it, always take a proactive approach to social media and try to get in front of any potential issues that may arise by “social listening” first. Secondly, don’t put yourself on a “social island”…they’re your teammates for a reason.  Make sure everyone is empowered to share their expertise and socially interact with your stakeholders. Whether its sales, marketing, multimedia, event management, have your team members posting and reporting from the perspective they know and do best, which will allow you to create content from several different angles.  Lastly and most importantly, having a system in place to set goals and track social analytics is what will allow you to prove to your clients (and if you’re a “social doubter”…to yourself) how powerful social media can be. The additional value that your “social stats” will create for your stakeholders will have your destination “trending” on the list of places where event organizers would like to bring their event to!

Follow along with Rob and the rest of the team at www.TampaBaySports.org. Also feel free to interact with Rob and his staff at the following social profiles and digital directory: