Wiley Gets Social at the Society for General Microbiology Conference

As a 207-year-old American company, Wiley faced the challenge of transforming from a traditional publisher to an engaged, real-time, customer-centric knowledge provider. Participating in more than 1,000 industry conferences across the globe, Wiley found that they were missing important social conversations due to a lack of digital presence at these events. Further, because of the manual approach to social monitoring and engagement, it was difficult to identify trends and nearly impossible to engage with users in a timely manner. To that end, the publisher sought to get digital by engaging participants, driving sales, and increasing engagements before, during and after key conferences.

As such, Wiley used Salesforce Marketing Cloud to transform their presence at the Society for General Microbiology (SGM) annual conference, a major industry event targeted to the brand’s Life Sciences division and one of the largest conferences in this subject area. While the event is now past, the brand is continuing to see increased social engagement and solid ROI.

Wiley Social Media

The challenge
Wiley was challenged with reaching and engaging people studying or teaching microbiology, while driving sales of microbiology textbooks. Despite attending conferences for many years, Wiley did not historically have a digital presence and 2012 was the brand’s first foray into using social media for event engagement. Previously, with a siloed and manual approach, the brand was missing important sales, thought leadership, and engagement opportunities. It was key to establish an authoritative, engaging voice at this conference, in addition to staying abreast of the key trends, conversations, and influencers. That said, a social marketing program doesn’t run on its own and some research and planning was needed prior to (and during) the event.


In addition to establishing a foundation for their social media interactions and conducting deep research, it was imperative they learn about their audience/competitors, set-up a tracking method to capture the conversation, and ensure they were ready to engage in a seamless and real-time manner. The brand began by examining past conferences and historical data to identify best practices, extract critical data and help make important decisions on how they approach future conferences for microbiology. Additionally, Wiley examined their social presence, their competitor’s, and identified what they were missing in the online conversation.

The goals/objectives
In addition to tracking the digital discussion and establishing an industry and thought leading social presence, Wiley sought out to create a community, propel the brand to the forefront of conversation, and drive sales and leads for books. Some key goals and objectives included:

  • Establish, maximize and promote Wiley’s digital presence at the SGM Conference
  • Grow database via an opt-in dedicated, mobile-friendly conference tab on the Facebook microbiology page
  • Identify key influencers and engage on a 1:1 basis
  • Engage attendees via text-based and visual storytelling
  • Deliver tailored content to specific SGM workshops
  • Grow revenue and drive bulk sales through the event
  • Build post-conference strategic relationships

The approach
twitter-advertising-wileyWiley conducted deep research on past, industry conferences, established a process and protocol, and set up best practices for engagement and social media management. From the research, the brand learned that preparing content around the scientific programming would be key in driving engagement through Twitter.

Beginning well before the conference, the team at Wiley started using Salesforce Marketing Cloud to track important metrics, top performing content, and create ads based on real-time conversations happening around conferences they had a vested interest in. Further, to complete the set-up, they organized a conference dashboard on Salesforce Radian6, which was then used throughout the entire week to monitor trends and engage with delegates in real-time.

Promoted Accounts and Tweets were used to maximize reach and engagement during the conference. To build a bigger audience within the microbiology community, Wiley used it’s @microbiology handle to launch a Promoted Accounts campaign, geo-targeting UK users (where the conference was based) interested in science and biology. Wiley also targeted influential users in the subject area to connect with people interested in science. Finally they targeted users similar to its followers.


Recognizing its target audience would be particularly receptive during key conferences (like those organized by the Society of General Microbiology), Wiley used these as an opportunity to join and influence the conversation. During conferences, Wiley used Promoted Tweets in search to engage users actively looking for the event hashtag (#sgmman) and information on relevant topics. They also used Promoted Tweets in timeline targeting users with the relevant life science interests. Promoted Tweets drove awareness of exclusive offers, such as 20% discounts and giveaways.

To grow the database via an opt-in dedicated, mobile-friendly conference tab on the Facebook microbiology page, Wiley created a custom RSVP function – using Salesforce Buddy Media – and also allowed delegates to be kept updated with email alerts. Not only did this strengthen the brand’s presence and relevance, but it also allowed Wiley to capture important information such as names, Twitter handles, email addresses and occupation (student or academic). This allowed the brand to build their database, enable greater direct marketing and CRM. One important feature was the mobile optimization, designed for users at the conference that carry smartphones, as opposed to desktops/laptops. Wiley put the customer experience first and focused efforts on driving conversations via mobile.

And further, Wiley implemented mini-campaigns and contests using Radian6 and Buddy Media. One was focused on images and the first three people to take a photo at the Wiley stand and hashtag it on Twitter won a free book. The biggest success story related to that initiative comes from a single tweet that happened during that campaign. The SGM president and conference organizer saw the promotion, took a photo and uploaded it. This turned into a real-time conversation between Wiley and the SGM president and not only was a significant relationship built, but there was a major spike in new followers.

The results
Wiley’s digital presence at SGM was a great success and set the bar for the brand’s social engagement at key conferences. The success underlies the importance of making Wiley discoverable through social media platforms and having a strong presence during priority conferences. As a result of this successful implementation, Wiley is in a very strong position for future microbiology conferences and can replicate this approach to other conferences as well. Some key measures of success included:

  • facebook-tab-wileyEstablished, maximized, and promoted Wiley’s digital presence at the SGM annual conference – In addition to broad and focused listening, Wiley successfully established a digital and social presence at SGM through a targeted program via a series of promoted tweets. The brand successfully dominated the conversation with delegates, while their competitor’s tweets were minimal and received little to no engagements. While Wiley added to the discussion with a conversational approach, other publishers focused on pushing books and broadcasting sales pitches. Further, the brand was promoted via Facebook and Twitter and the audience grew exponentially. In fact, Wiley obtained 14K new followers during and after the conference. Additionally, mentions increased by 516%.
  • From October - July, @microbiology had an overall engagement rate of more than double the Twitter average – 2.89%. (Twitter cites the average level at about 1.14%)
  • Grew revenue and drove bulk sales through the event – Importantly, the social presence at the SGM helped to drive sales. The brand socially promoted a 20% discount and these generated 17x more sales.
  • Utilized visual storytelling – From Wiley’s research on past conferences, they learned about the passion biology students have for their subject and the desire to share this visually. This approach was put to work with the SGM conference and several image-based campaigns were executed to allow attendees to express themselves during the week of the conference. To boost engagement, Wiley included strong calls to action in the tweets, embedding rich media content Like links, images, and Vines.
  • Grew database – Through the custom, mobile-friendly Facebook tab, delegates were able to input their personal data for continued email updates and also RSVP for events. This helped Wiley to realize an increase of 2,000 Likes.
  • Delivered tailored content – In order to maximize engagement, Wiley created tailored content that matched the specific discussions, workshops and programs and timed these posts to run concurrently with these mini-events, thus eliciting conversation and maintaining Wiley’s thought-leadership position.
  • Identified key influencers and engaged on a 1:1 basis – Radian6 allowed Wiley to extract SGM influencers and tag them by subdivision such as molecular biology, cell biology, biochemistry, student, professional and lecturer. Not only were they easily identified, but engaged with on a one-to-one basis. As a result, universities purchased bulk deals of textbooks.
  • Built post-conference relationships – To keep the conversation going after the event, Wiley asked users to share their experience, while giving them access to more exclusive deals.

“Harnessing the potential to engage deeply with our key stakeholders, Marketing Cloud was integral in connecting the dots between the offline and online conversation at this key event. Through social listening, engaging and publishing, we were able to propel our brand and messaging to the forefront of the conversation. Not only were we able to spark conversation and excitement at SGM, we were able to connect with our customers, identify new opportunities, and drive sales,” said Clay Stobaugh, SVP Corporate Marketing at Wiley. Tour.png
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