Spark! Networking is a case study about collaboration and partner relationship management that allows a number of corporate entities to team up and benefit from shared information, cross-over interest, indirect sales channels and integrated systems. Ultimately if you don’t have the skillset in house, find someone who does and create a partnership rather than just outsourcing. This case study is also about the successful use of social media in generating attention for an event and creating a community of followers and fans.
Situation and Challenge
A group of Philadelphia creative companies noticed a lack of unique networking events that attracted a new and varied group of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial-minded people in the Philadelphia area. The four companies decided to collaborate and create an interactive conference that included innovative networking and business development workshops to provided attendees with an experience designed to connect big ideas with real opportunities. In April of 2009, 300 attendees participated in the first annual Spark! Networking event at The HUB at the Cira Center.
Strategic Planning: The underlying success of this event was the planning, execution and cooperation between the four companies that created Spark!. The core team consisted of four companies that had similar entrepreneurial goals and complimentary services: Maven Communications (PR Firm), Brolik Productions (design firm), Ideablob Corporation (small business venture by Advanta) and The Hub (an interactive meeting venue).
Public Relations: Maven Communications helped generate buzz and excitement around the event through the use of social media and traditional media including:
- A Facebook “fan” and “event” page
- A twitter account that “tweeted” interesting entrepreneurial articles and provoked conversation among Spark! followers
- Media alerts were sent to bloggers, and local media outlets
- Postings about the event were made to Yelp, Basecamp, and Facebook
- Distributed Spark! invitations and reminders about the event to list of potential attendees.
Branding: After creating a name that encompassed the event concept of idea exchange, Brolik created a full identity package for Spark! including logo and supporting collateral including signage, brochures and nametags. Brolik also created an interactive web site that included registration through Ticketleap, a twitter feed, link to an event Facebook page, sponsorship information, speaker bios and a live feed for those who couldn’t attend but still wanted to be a part of the event.
Interactive: Brolik created an interactive web site that included registration through ticketleap, a twitter feed, link to Facebook page, sponsorship information, speaker bios and also a live feed where those that couldn’t attend could view the conference directly from the site.
Marketing: Ideablob created partnerships with local networking and entrepreneurial groups who communicated to each of their member list serves about the event and posted it to their web site. Additionally fliers were given out at several networking events and a raffle was held to give away free tickets to the event.
Over 300 people attended Spark! Attendees were a diverse group ranging from young entrepreneurs to those looking to start a new career, to venture capitalists in a wide variety of industries. The event featured six panels with 26 notable speakers on topics such as networking, marketing a start up, funding and legal matters. The Spark! team secured four sponsors including Drexel University, Rembrandts restaurant, R3 Networks and Springboard media. More than 40,000 people were reached with Spark! messaging through secured strategic marketing relationships and in less than six weeks the Spark! Twitter page, @sparknetworking, had 425 followers and the facebook fan page had 100 fans. The Hub was also a tremendous venue for the event as it provided flexibility, innovation and most importantly networking capabilities.
There are plans to hold a second Spark! event in the fall of 2009. Spark! networking will continue to be active on the web and at other smaller networking events in order to continue the momentum and encourage new ideas to spark. Photos and videos from the event can be found at Spark! Networking or www.sparknetworking.com