BIBA 2019: Did it lead the way on social?

29th May 2019

The biggest event in the insurance broker diary is over again for another year. At a glance it seemed bigger and better than ever – but did the social media stats back that up?

Here at DAS, we use the social listening platform Pulsar to help drive our strategic approach to social media. Using this I was able to analyse the BIBA social media data with a fine tooth comb, looking at the key topics, the most talked about speakers, and simple but telling basics such as how many times the #BIBA2019 hashtag was used.

So without further ado, it’s time to share my findings from this year’s conference…

Overall Volumes

First up, across the main two conference days this year, there were nearly 4,000 BIBA posts made, just topping 2018’s 3,700. So not much to choose between them, but as you can see in the graph below, what did make a slight difference this year was increased social noise in the lead-up to the event – and the week or so following the conference.

2018 vs 2019 BIBA mentions on social media

2018 vs 2019 BIBA mentions on social media

With 28% (2,500) of all tweets this year making reference to exhibitor stands, 1,129 of those before the event itself, it seems that companies were making healthy use of social media prior to the event. And in terms of that all-important conference goal of getting people to their stands, the perennially popular tactic of giving away freebies was back, with 112 tweets dedicated to coffee alone!

Competitions, goodie bags and refreshments once again proved popular, with a 2% increase on tweets promoting ‘free stuff’ than in 2018. Having a gimmick, some decent freebies, a giveaway, special guests, and of course an offer of sustenance (liquid or otherwise) remains a sure-fire way to raise your visibility at conference.

Of course, whether that converts to footfall and people actually turning up is another question – one that social media analysis can’t assist us with.

Whilst the promise of things like award-winning wine is great for attendees, for those of us who watched from the side-lines, the mesmerising stand videos – acknowledging that AXA’s balls were indeed impressive – and comedy pics can make it hard to gauge the key topics of the event.

So with social media’s unrivalled ability to carry messages well beyond the walls and timescales of an event, what did everyone choose to talk about? A good place to start is normally the conference speakers and keynote themes…

Conference Speakers

I found that social media mentions for the conference speakers were relatively low compared to the rest of the BIBA conversation. As with last year, 2019 saw nearly 500 mentions of the speakers. This may sound like a lot, but when you consider that Boris Johnson gave the keynote on day two, which he also used to announce that he was running for the Conservative Party leadership, you could be forgiven for expecting more – I certainly did.

Mentions for conference speakers

Mentions for conference speakers

One reason that mentions for Johnson were quite low was that a lot of news outlets didn’t reference BIBA when announcing his leadership intentions, so while (to the presumed delight of the good people at BIBA) Huw Edwards did use the hashtag, the many others who picked up this highly newsworthy announcement did not.

It may also have been muted by businesses wanting to appear politically neutral on their social channels, and were therefore tentative to share any tweets about this high profile but distinctly ‘marmite’ of speakers.

The most mentioned speaker was actually rapper and activist Professor Green, who was part of the hugely commendable mental health awareness talks on day two. Why? Probably because he was one of the only guests who was tweeting, talking about and tagging the conference – everyone else stayed pretty silent.

To me this reflects really well on him, and seems to indicate that he wasn’t just in it for the appearance money, that he strongly believes in mental health and what he was discussing at BIBA, and that he was and was happy to connect his personal brand to the cause.

And as inspiring as his message was, it may also have been the case that people were using his BIBA audience and interactions to their advantage. After all, he has 1.86 million twitter followers, meaning a simple retweet from him got you an easy 15,000 twitter impressions per tweet. That’s pretty exciting in my world. Thanks Pro Green!

Key Themes

This year BIBA actually took place during Mental Health Awareness Week, and, as we’ve seen, ‘mental health’ was one of the most talked about topics during the conference with 114 tweets – really pleasing to see given that it’s such an important topic both in the insurance work and ‘outside’ world.

It was great to see such a full room for this session, and even better to see this number translated into noise online, especially as it can often be a taboo subject.

The Hackathon also featured heavily, with lots of people participating, spreading the word and hustling for votes so it’s no surprise that it was at the forefront of the BIBA social conversation. But as soon as the conference started, this conversation dropped by over 50% – which is probably explained by teams who didn’t make it to the finals losing their enthusiasm for it!

Popular discussion topics before and during BIBA

Popular discussion topics before and during BIBA

Types of media used

So what types of posts were people putting out? As you’d expect, pictures, video, a few boomerangs here and there, and text only (nooo!) were all used. But how did that break down? Well the BIBA crowd seemingly have a good grasp of the universal social media truth – that posts are more effective with media than without – and 68% of posts incorporated media of some kind.

Types of media used in the BIBA conversation

Types of media used in the BIBA conversation

Photos came in top, with images featuring in just over 40% of posts, and link sharing was popular at 23.5%. But to my surprise the least utilised was video, making up only 3.4% of tweets. I say surprised, because if it’s done right, video can be a really strong, effective way of communicating with your audience in an engaging, personal way.

For example, a short end of the day ‘talking head’ overview is a great way to deliver your thoughts and insight succinctly, and also plays to the statistic that visual content featuring a person’s face can achieve 38% more interactions compared to those without. Here is a good example from 2018.

Having seen them work well, we’ll be making use of these next year.

Final Thoughts

With BIBA being one of, if not the biggest event on the UK insurance calendar, companies spend so much time and money on their presence at the event, their stand being a representation of their brand; who they are, what they offer, what the future holds for them and their customers. And BIBA really does offer a great platform to get a message out.

The tricky thing is that exhibitors are competing for attention with over 200 other stands, and even with the best coffees and competitions, it’s unrealistic to expect to be able to speak to everyone on your wish list. And don’t just think about the people who didn’t make it to your stand; remember those who weren’t able to attend the conference.

What if there was a way to potentially reach all these people… wait, there is!

So do I think social media was well used at BIBA this year? Based on my analysis, it’s a tentative yes from me; I believe that it was. But was it used to its full advantage? Not quite. Each year the volume of posts for BIBA increases, and as far as I can see so does the quality of content, with a lot of companies opting for professional imagery and photography, particularly for pre-event posts, which really sets a tone.

But is there room for improvement? Of course there is – and that underuse of video is just one thing that stood out to me.

So be, be visual, be engaging, be specific, have an opinion and even have some fun if you can. But most importantly of all, be sure to look outside of the bubble and don’t miss a chance to share your story and connect as widely as possible – conferences like this are a huge opportunity!

My Tips for #BIBA2020

  • If you want to stand out – use video, your contemporaries aren’t…yet.
  • Ensure you have feet on the ground – getting out and about at BIBA leads to increased engagements.
  • Do some ‘heavy lifting’ before the event, using scheduling tools like Buffer or Hootsuite to free up your busy team.
  • It doesn’t take much to be a top tweeter at BIBA around ten posts per day should see you in the top ten. But make sure the tweets are useful; after all, it’s your online audience that isn’t BIBA that are going to be seeing your tweets the most.
  • Keynote speakers are a good yardstick to measure likely topics and themes – and make sure you tag them. You never know, you may get a retweet!
  • And if you want to use social to drive traffic to your stand – bring refreshments.
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