Event Marketing: 2013 ISPA Conference & Expo

As we learned this week, some people refer to trade shows and conventions as the “original social media platform.” It’s true these types of events lend well to social media marketing and reaching a mass amount of people in different ways. Just recently, Oct. 21 through Oct. 23, the International Spa Association‘s annual conference and expo was held in Las Vegas.

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On top of creating a separate website for the event, ISPA utilized social media before, during, and after the expo to help market it. The association’s social networks include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, and blogs.

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Before the conference even got underway, the association created a hashtag, #ISPA2013, to group all of its related content on social networks together. Having this specific hashtag also helped attendees and vendors contribute to content surrounding the event. On Facebook, the association’s page was full of content surrounding the event, including information about speakers, vendors, and tips for attendees.

The organization also tried to hype the event in the hours before it kicked off. I think this is a great way to give attendees a “behind-the-scenes” look at an event they’ll be attending and it can also showcase a staff that is excited for an event to be successful. Screen Shot 2013-10-27 at 5.25.39 PMAnother benefit, the event can give a nod to the venue where its being held. In this case, it makes sense to show off the Mandalay Bay Resort and Las Vegas, since for many people this would be a destination-type conference.

On Twitter, ISPA also made use of #ISPA2013, but also #GrowYourWorld which was the theme of this year’s event. Prior to the show, many of the tweets were similar to the ones that were posted on Facebook. I’m sure the staff had the accounts connected. Most included links about the conference schedule, speakers, and vendors.

On Instagram, ISPA did a great job of creating hype before the conference, by highlighting images for a countdown to the conference. It also included images of items that would be included in a silent auction and goodie bags for attendees. These types of visuals can definitely generate buzz around an event.

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On Pinterest, ISPA created a specific board just for this annual event. Some pins highlighted general event information, but others included:


Screen Shot 2013-10-27 at 5.57.00 PMOnce the conference and expo got underway, the amount of social media posts increased dramatically. This was especially true on Twitter (probably because of the real-time nature of the social network).

Screen Shot 2013-10-27 at 5.57.10 PMThere were updates from the moment the event began. Many including information about what was happening at that moment and what attendees (or anyone following) had to look forward to in the hours and days to come. Twitter was also an outlet for ISPA to thank the speakers and vendors for making it a success.

I was kind of hoping once the event got underway, ISPA would start blowing up Instagram with a lot of image-based updates. While it did post pictures of things like book signings, silent auction items, and different booths, I think that real-time effect of Instagram was sort of lost. However, many people attending did take advantage of the specialized hashtag and documented their own comings and goings at the event. And ISPA did a great job of featuring this stream on its website. Many of these posts came from vendors, highlighting their products or booths. It’s important to remember, even if you’re not the one putting on the event, if you’re there you want to make it easy for attendees to find you or to be attracted to your products.

Screen Shot 2013-10-27 at 6.13.36 PMOn Facebook, ISPA did a great job of keeping content fresh during the event. Organizers not only posted important scheduling information, but also posted reminders for attendees and promoted specific events, such as the silent auction and booking an appointment in the “relaxation area.” ISPA also did a great job of encouraging others to engage over it’s social networks. When it comes to social media, sometimes it’s nice to get someone else’s perspective of an event. As an organizer, it’s important to take note of what attendees like and maybe what suggestions they offer through posts.


Once the event concluded, ISPA used its social networks to gage attendees experiences and also thank those involved. It also encouraged attendees to keep the conversation going and continue to share their conference experiences.

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On Facebook, ISPA stuck with the events theme and asked those who attended to share how their grew from the event. Those posts would then be featured in an upcoming blog, which I think is a great idea for generating quality and beneficial content.

IMC Highlights and Lowlights

When it comes to an integrated marketing strategy, I think ISPA did a great job of having a presence on many social platforms, but also creating a specific website for the event, and highlighting it in the organization’s magazine publication, Pulse. ISPA also promotes a newsletter on its website, so I’m sure that newsletter featured information about the event prior, and will do so afterward as well. Like with many conferences nowadays, ISPA also created a mobile app for attendees, which I think is smart. This can help attendees navigate the event, but also stay updated on any announcements, changes, or special offers. The organization did promote the event on other industry sites and Las Vegas tourism sites which can broaden interest for an event and reach an audience that may not be familiar with the annual event, but interested in attending.

The branding was consistent across all platforms and the use of the special hashtag were beneficial. But overall, I was kind of disappointed. I’m not sure what kind of staffing they had, but I thought all of the social networks could have been utilized more and each could have been cross promoted. Instagram was really the only social network highlighted on the event’s website. There should have been multiple social streams for constant updates. The website should have been the hub for those interested for anything about the event. I also didn’t see one video posted during the event. With the integration of video on Instagram, this could have been easily accomplished. And even since the event ended, not one new video has been posted to the organization’s YouTube page. I think this is a missed opportunity. It should at least pull together a video that highlights the event, so it could be used to promote next year’s event to potential vendors and attendees.

I did notice ISPA already has the dates posted for next year’s event, which is great. Hopefully, it can continue to grow its IMC and social media efforts in the years to come! It looks like a great event. I mean who doesn’t love a good spa?!


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