Meetings industry professionals are being swept up in the social media current, with almost half (46 percent) reporting an increase in the use of social media over the past six months.

That statistic comes from a post-show survey of hosted buyers who attended IMEX, the worldwide exhibition for incentive travel, meetings, and events, in Frankfurt in May. When the 625 respondents were asked which social networking sites they use, both for networking and as meetings and event management tools, LinkedIn came out on top:
LinkedIn: 64 percent
Facebook: 60 percent
Twitter: 27 percent
YouTube: 23 percent

While social media sites are gaining meeting planner followers, 44 percent of respondents agreed with the statement “there are too many social media and networking sites to keep up to date with.” That may help to explain respondents’ relative lack of enthusiasm over industry blogs. Only 17 percent of the hosted buyers surveyed say they regularly follow an industry blog.

It’ll be no surprise that the IMEX survey also revealed smartphone use has taken hold in the global meetings industry, with 57 percent of respondents saying they have one. Of those, 47 percent use BlackBerries, 31 percent use Apple iPhones, and 24 percent use Nokia devices.

“It is interesting to observe the rapid growth of marketing channels such as YouTube and realize quite how far it has come as a credible, global communications channel that's open to all,” said Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group in a release. "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."