Innovate, Evolve, Tweet - BIBA conference thrives, but social media neglected


BIBA conference thrives, but social media neglected

The annual BIBA conference is behind us for another year, but I’m not ready to forget all about #BIBA18 just yet. Reason being, I work in social media. Much of my trade happens at a pace and is very immediate - digital conversations happening in ‘real time’ as they do - but when people’s attention quickly moves on, that activity remains, and can be a rich source of insight.

While a fortnight ago many of my DAS UK Group colleagues were coming down with a case of #BIBAfever, I was kept in deskbound quarantine, with a serious job to do. My task was monitoring the social media activity around the event, to work out what was happening. By that I mean the key topics, the best speakers, the company who created the most interest – excitement even, and of course the fundamental question in my world, which hashtag would rise to the top. As well as monitoring the event at the time, I’ve also now been able to revisit it in almost forensic detail thanks to our social listening capability.    

This year DAS began using the social listening platform Pulsar as part of our digital transformation, to improve our strategic approach to social media. Broadly speaking we use it to support thought leadership activity, carry out market and competitor research and brand monitoring, and to assist us in winning new business. I used it to monitor the BIBA conversation, and below are my high-level observations, by way of an outsider's view on BIBA 2018.

Overall volumes

During the two main conference days, there were an impressive 3,700 posts by over 1,100 unique authors. This is in addition to almost 2,000 social posts in the run-up to BIBA (from 1st May) where people really seem to jostle for position ahead of the big day.

As a social media marketer, you would normally expect to see social conversations for events like this increase year on year, but I found to my surprise that this wasn’t the case. The numbers showed that BIBA2017 had almost a thousand more posts than this year’s event. Looking in from the outside you might be forgiven for thinking that this was due to the keynote speakers - with 2017’s line-up ‘boasting’ both Nigel Farage and David Cameron. Mentions for keynote and seminar speakers were, however, almost identical in 2018 and 2017.

So what was the main difference between the two events?

During 2017’s conference, one tweet from Tokio Marine Kiln stood out, attracting over 400 retweets. The tweet invited people to 'visit stand C38' or 'retweet' for a chance to win a drone. Another post in 2017 invited participants to tweet using #partnerships to win a technology hamper.

These posts were by far the most engaging of the 2017 conference so you might have expected to see similar approaches to be rolled out during this year’s conference. Neither company, however, embraced the same tactic this year; in fact, you'll struggle to find a single reference to a competition you could enter by simply 'retweeting' during the two conference day. Why? I’m speculating, but perhaps a temporary rise in social media traffic had no tangible business benefit for these companies so they dropped the tactic.

Networking focus

With the insurance industry favouring traditional face-to-face networking, the perceived key to success is getting traffic to your stand - by any means possible. This was reflected in the social media activity. All in all over a 3rd (39%) of all mentions made reference to a stand.

This might go some way to explaining why stand-based competitions remain a key theme of events like BIBA, with 8% of all BIBA tweets featuring a reference to competition and prizes. It might also explain why food and drink was a more popular topic than GDPR and Brexit combined!

Free Stuff

Having a gimmick, some decent freebies, a giveaway, special guests, and of course an offer of sustenance (liquid or otherwise) are all a sure-fire way to raise your visibility at the conference.

But while the freebies and frothy drinks are clearly excellent for the attendees, for those of us watching from the outside, the nature of the tweets make it hard to gauge key topics or get a feel for where insurer’s heads are at. Whilst we all enjoy the colourful stands and comedy photos we also want to know what is going on, and social media has an unrivalled potential to carry messages well beyond the walls and timescales of an event. So what was everyone talking about? A good place to seek out such information is normally the conference speakers.

Conference speakers

I found that social media mentions during the keynotes were relatively few. Both this year and in 2017, the keynotes and main session speakers accounted for less than 500 mentions - which might sound like a lot, but given the high standing the likes of Inga Beale and Martha Lane Fox have in the insurance world, and the fascination with Astronaut Chris Hadfield, you could be forgiven for expecting more.

Maybe BIBA delegates were just engrossed in their conversations, perhaps they aren’t nimble-fingered enough to live-tweet and operate a selfie stick simultaneously, or perhaps it was due to the scarcity of members holding a ‘golden ticket’ allowing them full access to the speeches. The most likely reason I think is that the need to have a stand presence, and the real determination to network, network, network, outweighed the desire to attend the addresses and talks.

Referencing speakers and quoting from the conference is a brilliant way to increase your exposure, and as not everyone at the conference is able to attend the talks – your followers need you. It is also a great way to find like-minded connections on Twitter with whom you can continue to talk to after BIBA2018 (imagine that).

These speakers are often inspirational and their chosen topics of interest to a broader audience. Go get inspired - and share it on social!

Keynote themes – legislation

This year’s opening addresses went in hard on legislation, and, with both Brexit and GDPR looming this is probably inevitable. Steve White, Chief Executive of BIBA talked of a 'burden of regulation', whilst Lord Hunt and Natasha Kaplinksy both talked about a 'busy legislative agenda'. And not to be outdone, the FCA’s Andrew Bailey discussed compliance and GDPR in his speech.

Boy, topics like this really get you in the mood for the rest of my conference coverage, don't they?!

Keynote themes - innovation and insurtech

Spending the whole conference talking about forthcoming legislation was, thankfully, not the only thing on the menu for BIBA delegates, who would have been pleased to see the conversation turning to innovation and technology. And that was the theme that resonated throughout all of the keynote speeches, fringe sessions and stand conversations; there seems to be a genuine desire to innovate - or at least talk about it.

Steve White shared the news that BIBA was setting up a 'dating agency' to connect brokers with insurtechs. He also talked about the need to demystify tech.

Then on Wednesday afternoon it was Inga Beale’s turn to talk about technology in the industry, highlighting a need to diversify talent in the insurance sector.

She also shared her view that there was an ‘innovation gap’ between insurance products being offered and the risks faced by customers. This was a sentiment echoed by Martha Lane Fox on Thursday who called for a 'focus on the end user' and the need to be 'digital by default'.

And during the final keynote of the day, Commander Hadfield talked about an 'audacity of vision' and also the need for 'planning and adaptability' – for him this was an unscheduled spacewalk, for BIBA delegates it might be adapting social media outputs to engage in the topics coming out of the conference talks. None of this, of course, is surprising given the ‘innovate, evolve, thrive’ theme of the conference.


With everyone apparently innovating and the love-in for insurtechs at BIBA, that noise carried over into social media. In addition to the messages coming out of the keynote speeches, throughout the conference there were a plethora of tweeters using #Insurtech - but for no obvious reason and using no specific examples.

Despite the lack of specifics, the social media data suggests that the most prominent innovation and tech topics at BIBA were big data, cyber insurance, blockchain, and IoT.

Final thoughts

With BIBA being one of, if not the biggest event on the UK insurance calendar, companies spend a lot of time and money planning for the event, and their stand is intended as a representation of their brand; who they are, what they offer, what the future holds for them and their customers. And BIBA does offers a great platform to get a message out. The tricky thing is that exhibitors are competing for attention with over 200 other stands, and even with the best cocktails and competitions, it’s unrealistic to expect to be able to speak to everyone on your wish list.    

I believe that if your focus is about getting footfall to a stand, by under-using social media you are missing a trick. Think about the people who didn’t make it to your stand; and more than that, people who weren’t able to attend the conference; the #BIBA2018 hashtag is a brilliant place to start and to reach these people. Be active, be visual, be engaging, be specific, have an opinion and even have some fun. But most importantly of all, be sure to look outside of the BIBA bubble and don’t miss this chance to share your story.

A few take-outs for next year:

  • Networking might be king but using social media for BIBA is a worthwhile investment and can create memorable content which can help you to stand out from the crowd.
  • Ensure you have feet on the ground - getting out and about at BIBA leads to increased engagements.
  • Do some ‘heavy lifting’ before the event, using scheduling tools like Hootsuite to free up your busy team.
  • It doesn't take much to be a top tweeter at BIBA and 20-30 posts per day should see you in the top ten. This should be easily achievable if you combine networking with commentary from seminars and talks.
  • Be specific, tell your story – tweeting ‘#insurtech’ does not make you an innovator, and it could even end up undermining you.
  • Keynote speakers are a good yardstick to measure likely topics and themes.
  • And if you want to get traffic to your stand – bring refreshments!

See you later innovators. #BIBA19

Josh Gater's picture

Josh Gater is a social media analyst of 10 years’ experience, joining DAS in September 2017 as part of their ongoing digital transformation and investment in new technology. Previously with global marketing agency Harte Hanks - where he designed, implemented, and managed large-scale social media programmes for major tech companies including IBM - he is tasked with leading DAS’ efforts to better understand and communicate with their audiences and marketplace via their various social channels.

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