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IMEX survey reveals buyers opinions
For the first time this year, IMEX in Frankfurt surveyed over 1,000 hosted buyers immediately after the show for their views on social media, industry blogs and Smartphone usage.

The survey quizzed buyers on their use of social media, both as a professional meetings and event management tool and as a networking channel. 625 respondents answered the social media questions and confirmed their preference for LinkedIn as an online networking site. LinkedIn was used by 64 per cent of respondents, and Facebook by 60 per cent of buyers. Twitter is currently used by 27 per cent and YouTube by 23 per cent.

46 per cent of respondents also confirmed an increase in the use of social media for networking over the past 6 months, although 32 per cent felt it had remained about the same. At the same time, 44 per cent of respondents agreed that 'there are too many social media and networking sites to keep up to date with.' Surprisingly given the proliferation of blogs within the wider business world, and increasingly within the international meetings industry, 83 per cent of respondents still do not regularly follow an industry blog.

Also in line with wider business trends, Blackberry is currently the Smartphone of choice in the global meetings industry, with 57 per cent of respondents saying they use one. Of these, 47 per cent are using Blackberries as opposed to 31 per cent using Apple iPhones and 24 per cent using Nokia devices.

In November 2009 an IMEX Global Insights Poll of 45 senior international meetings industry professionals revealed a certain degree of frustration with social media. That poll showed that 22 per cent agreed with the statement: 'my company wants to use every social media channel - but with no extra resource to support the added work.' At that time a similar number - 22 per cent - used social media in a limited way for professional and networking purposes, preferring to use it just for personal communication.

However, the findings of the 2010 IMEX Post-Show survey suggest that the uptake of social media for professional and corporate use has now accelerated significantly. They also show that YouTube especially is making its mark as a credible and viable channel for corporate marketing and communications within the international meetings industry.

Says Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group, "As a truly international show with a good cross-section of buyers from across Europe, the USA plus the 'BRICs' countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China, it is interesting to observe the rapid growth of marketing channels such as YouTube and realise quite how far it has come as a credible, global communications channel that's open to all. Further into the future, once more African countries move from 2G to 3G technology, for example, and mobile penetration really accelerates, this could create yet another step change. Current trends suggest that mobile payment systems, environmental monitoring and even intelligent sensors embedded into mobiles are all just around the corner and these will have huge implications for the meetings and events industry.

"The growth of social media in different world markets creates both enormous pressures and provides international businesses such as ours with fantastic opportunities. The discipline for all of us is to pay careful attention to where the value truly lies for each of our different audiences and never to assume that a 'one size solution fits all."

Some of these issues have already been raised and are being explored by UK research company, Fast Future Research through its ongoing Convention 2020 research study. IMEX is one of the study's founding sponsors and encourages all meetings industry professionals to share their views and get involved in Phase 2 workshops. For more information - http://convention2020.meetingsreview.com/