Meeting the Future: Dragon*Con

This article is part of an interview series currently running on Conferize called ‘Meeting the Future’ about conference organizers’ present and future involvement with social media.


When Dan Caroll first volunteered at the helpdesk at Dragon*Con four years ago he was met by a confused Darth Vader who was looking for his friend Chubaka. Since then, he has become acquainted with heaps of weird creatures as Media Relations Director at the Atlanta-based fantasy convention, expected to host approximately 55.000 delegates this year. Throughout the past decade, the event has grown steadily in bulk and popularity in part because of the explosion in and outreach of social media.

A brief chat with Dan revealed some insights into how Dragon*Con exploits social media and measures return on investment; a well-known challenge for conference organizers.

How do you use the internet and social platforms to promote Dragon*Con?
“We use a number of different social media channels to promote Dragon*Con, including LifeJournal, over 75 individual Facebook pages, Twitter and our own app, DragonCon. The app is only in its second year, but has already been an overwhelming success among both organizers and delegates.”

What is your best and worst experience with social media and apps? Share a secret!
“I think the funniest or “worst” aspect of my use of social media in relation to Dragon*Con is the fact that our Twitter profile has been successful and grown in leaps and bounds with 40 followers the first year and a four digit number now – but at the same time our Facebook profile has turned into nothing but my friends asking me about Dragon*Con. I don’t have any reporters following me on Facebook.

The best thing is probably the amazing growth we have experienced coming from the inside of the organization from volunteers and fans spreading the word about Dragon*Con to friends and family. We’ve seen a growth of about 20 % each year for the past decade.”

How do you measure and evaluate the impact and performance of Dragon*Con overall?
“We measure return on investment (ROI) in three primary ways:

  1. Annual media audit –quality and quantity of online and offline media coverage. The last four years have seen a dramatic improvement in quantity and quality. Social media have played a great role in this.

  2. Badge sales is the biggest indication on ROI for the whole organization. The fact that pre-badge sales have gone up indicate how expansive word-of-mouth and social media are.
  3. Analytics from the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau. We are today considered a vital part of the cultural experience of Atlanta and that increase in reputation is a great indication of how the word about Dragon*Con is getting out there.”

Do you have a digital content distribution strategy around videos, papers, presentations etc.?
“We have a lot of workshops and actually not so many presentations as such. The photos, videos or whatever might occur from the workshops and are often shared on the individual websites of the speakers.”

Dragon*Conis the largest multi-media, popular culture convention focusing on science fiction and fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, and film in the universe. This year, Dragon*Con was held August 31 – September 3, 2012 in Atlanta, GA. Catch up on what happened at Dragon*Con on Conferize.

by Christel Laerkholm Hansen