How Reed Exhibitions is surfing the consumer IT wave

Interview: CIO Dominic Shine on how to make friends with gadgets and influence social media...

...a presence on one or more social networks, according to Shine - social networks including Twitter, LinkedIn groups and Facebook fan pages in many countries, along with less familiar social networks that might be more popular in particular geographies such as Asia.

For RX, social media offers a variety of business opportunities - with uses including marketing, customer engagement and even as a source of leads, as well as a way to learn more about its customers and help with key account management. The company has also integrated social media transactions and data with its Salesforce.com sales platform, and is increasingly joining up the dots to link social media efforts with its digital products, according to its CIO.

Social media: Comic Con's Twitter feed

The "vast majority" of RX events will have a presence on social media, says ShineImage: Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

"Where we provide our exhibitors with an ability to showcase their products and services on an online directory, we also provide them with the ability to provide links to their own social media pages," he said. "The visitors to our online directories can also Like on Facebook or retweet on Twitter information about an exhibitor or product they like, which then effectively is adding value to the exhibitor, to the ROI they've made in being on that online directory. It creates a viral effect that adds value to everyone involved in the marketplace."

On the mobile front, the company has been experimenting with iPhone and Android - and "occasionally" BlackBerry - apps in recent years, including apps that can tackle a common problem encountered by conference goers: locating a particular exhibitor.

Conference navigation may not be the sexiest of topics but no one likes to be late or lost. "We have solutions in a number of countries now that provide businesses with the capability to search for exhibitors at an event," noted Shine. "They have basic way-finding location-based functionality services to allow them to navigate a complex exhibition, [using] wi-fi data and GPS data if they're outside."

RX has also experimented with iPad apps but when it comes to the future of its mobile strategy, Shine says integration and thinking globally are once again key.

"We've done experimentation and that's gone very well. What we're now going to do is work with a partner to create a global mobile solution because, for us, we think it's extremely important that we can provide that great functionality on those various mobile platforms. But equally important is that this is totally integrated with our full [ebusiness] platform," he said.

"A lot of the things we've experimented with, as with lots of events organisers, have been flashy, sexy apps but they haven't had that really good integration so for us it's the balancing act between the bells and whistles and what people really want - which is a seamless extension of what they've done in preparation for the event."

Mobile ticketing is another area RX has experimented with - by offering barcode tickets, for instance - but Shine reckons near-field communications (NFC) tech, which underpins contactless ticketing, just isn't ready for its conference entrance yet.

"The challenge for us is...