Conferences and trade shows are a great way to get face time with potential clients, suppliers and partners. In the past these events were all about pressing palms and cramming as many meetings into the day as possible. Social media changes all that.
We’ve found that we can massively improve the ROI of events by integrating social media with our real world activities… in fact in some cases you don’t even need to be there in person!
Here are our top tips for using social media at conferences and shows.
Before the event
- Help the organizer promote the event
Find the hashtag and official Twitter account for the event and use social media to let everyone know that you’re going. Retweet announcements from the official event account. Include a status update in your LinkedIn account, with a link to the official event details. Send @messages to your online contacts suggesting the conference might be a good place to catch-up face to face. Remember to include the hashtag in all your Tweets. This will get your face and company name recognized by the show organizers and demonstrate real value to them. Smart organizers will want to encourage this behaviour. As a result of our efforts we’ve been offered massive discounts on show pricing, free upgrades and the chance to speak at future events.
- Build relationships
Look at the speaker and attendee list. Speakers will often have Twitter accounts listed. Make note of anyone you want to meet in person. If you use CubeSocial, create a contact card for each person and tag them appropriately. Tweet about the speakers you’re looking forward to hearing and the people you’re meeting up with. Make sure to use the speaker/attendee Twitter usernames so that conversation can grow. Cast yourself in the role of the jovial party host. Do not sell!
- Schedule meetings
Those speakers you’ve just been chatting to… the online contacts you invited to the show… now’s the time to casually arrange a coffee at the event itself.
- Arrange a side event
If you can’t afford the entrance fee, or the show organizers say you don’t match their criteria for entrance, arrange your own side event. Professional marketers call this ambush marketing, and we (initially unintentionally) pulled this off earlier this year when we were told we couldn’t attend a show. We arranged a Tweetup to coincide with the conference that grew to the point that the conference organizers asked us asked how they could get involved in our event!
During the event
- Live Tweet conference sessions
If you are in a conference session, live Tweet it. There are always plenty of people who for whatever reason are unable to attend. Followers who are interested in the event will appreciate the real-time insights and may add to the conversation, widen your perspective of the event, and the reach of your tweets. Their retweets will provide an interesting insight into what resonates. Remember to always use the conference hashtag. Journalists often follow the hashtags during conferences on the lookout for interesting stories. In our case, our very first piece of media coverage came from a journalist quoting Tweets we had sent during a live Tweeting session.
- Make use of otherwise dead time
During the show you’ll likely be busy with all the meetings you set up beforehand, but be sure to make use of otherwise dead time: The journey to and from the event and during breaks for example. Follow the conference hashtag to discover the important news and themes of the show, and contribute to the conversation.
- Tag team it
Ask your colleagues back at the office to engage in conversation with you and selectively retweet your posts. Your goal should be to put yourself at the centre of online activity, expanding your influence and awareness of your brand.
After the event
- Follow up on the leads you missed
Review the hashtag stream for the conference. Regular Twitter search just goes back a couple of days, so you’ll need to be quick. If you use CubeSocial you can set up a Social Search to record the entire stream for the duration of the show. You can then review the stream at your leisure and reach out to people who might be new contacts, leads or opportunities.
- Share photos
It doesn’t matter whether it is on Twitter, Flickr or Facebook. Share your photos of the event, especially of people you met there. People love photos, especially if they give an insight into something they may have missed out on. Photos are some of the most frequently shared material on the web, and will help broaden the reach of your brand.
- Write a review of the event
Use your blog to write a review of the event. Write about the interesting people you met there, including photos and links to websites and Twitter accounts of people you mention. When you’re done, tell everyone you’ve mentioned that they are featured in your blog. Your aim is to make it easy for people to join the dots, make new connections, find the interesting content and build on their experience. When we took part in Seedcamp earlier this year, our Seedcamp write-up proved so popular that the event organizers mistakenly thought we were spamming them. We had to react quickly on that one and explained that no, it was simply the community at large picking up on it and sharing it.
The best thing about all this is that in many cases you don’t even need to be there in person to benefit from the buzz a conference or show generates. If you find yourself in that situation, try curating the Twitter stream instead, as we did here for a recent event.
What techniques have you found successful for maximising the value of real-world events with social media?