CES 2011: How Social Media Transformed The Trade Show

Las Vegas

Sin City has long been the ultimate venue for a weekend of “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”. Well it seems as that party might just be over.

The 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas ended Sunday, and in doing so, set several new records. This included the 30,000 international attendees descending on Vegas last week, and the 2,700 technology companies exhibiting both record numbers according to the organizers, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).

However, the trade show also is the first such event to generate such a widespread buzz in social spaces around the world. What made 2011 the year social media hit the tipping point at CES?

First, a huge fleet of bloggers were employed by exhibitors looking to capture the public’s imagination, reporting back from the show floor. This reportage took many forms: from hosting discussions with company executives; creating video and audio content using Flip Cams and iPhones or posting content to brand’s Twitter and Facebook platforms to activate communities outside of the event.

An event such as CES lends itself naturally to location based services. Savvy brands created locations to drive attendee check-ins, such as blogger lounges created by NBC and Intel, or hosted events including Kodak’s cupcake Tweetup (disclosure: NBC, Intel and Kodak are Ogilvy clients).

2010 CES attendees may note brand blogger reporters, lounges and location based check-ins were popping up all over the event last year; some attendees remarked on Twitter that some Foursquare check-ins from 2010 were still available on their arrival this year.

‘Tis true. However, the tipping point for social at this year’s show could well be the amount of devices on display with integrated social media capabilities. From televisions to the 80 (yes 80) tablets launched at the event, all the talkable consumer electronics devices can now, well, talk.

Well placed brand amassadors holding connected devices that attendees could use drove content outside of show hours. Blackberry’s PlayBooks were popular at the Mashable party, a room full of the most hyper connected people on the Strip.

Added to this, CES exhibitors continue to move the content of their show displays outside of the living room. Smart appliances and even smarter cars are now a regular appearance at the event, with the first ever. Ford unveiled the company’s first electric car at CES a far cry from the more traditional motor show launch (client).

The CEA even partnered with Pxyl to create a prominently displayed Social Circle application on its website – a visual depiction of the online buzz surrounding the event. And proof, if needed, of just how integral social media has become to the world’s largest consumer electronics trade show.

CES 2011 illustrates how the use of social media at the event has reached the perfect storm. The combination of empowered influencers and activated grassroots communities, creating sharable content around remarkable experiences, has always been a formula for success.

Add a whole new generation of connected devices to this mix, both those on display and already being used by attendees, and you have the explosive 24/7 stream of content that was the show this year. With Mobile World Congress around the corner in February, 2011 certainly promises to be the year the socially-powered tradeshow goes mainstream.

Photo by Photozou.jp, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license (CC By-SA 2.0)