You've decided to attend a conference. Whether it’s a professional, industry-based conference or more of a local event, the opportunities for social engagement and increasing your brand’s reach are endless. However, without the right preparation and focus on social media, your efforts are likely to fall flat.
Follow the tips below to make the most of social media at the next conference you attend.
Get Your Accounts Straight
Setting up accounts right before or during a conference won’t exactly help in increasing your brand’s reach. Instead, social media should be a priority at all times. If it’s new to you, try to start at least a few weeks out.
Get to know your target market and where they spend their time. Likewise, pay attention to others in your industry and look at what they’re up to online. Start accounts on these networks or revive old accounts. Follow potential customers and other businesses. Engage on a daily basis through posts, shares, likes and discussions. Be as active as possible. This should be a daily endeavor but is especially important leading up to a conference.
If it helps, just focus on one or two accounts. It’s better to have one or two active accounts where you can build your audience rather than spreading yourself thin across many social platforms.
Make Sure Your Business Cards are Ready
While there may be many uncertainties about what will be happening at your conference, one thing is for sure. It will be networking central. Everyone will have business cards on hand, and if you play your cards right, you’re likely to end up with hundreds. At the same time, you should be able to give out just as many.
This is why having a unique business card is critical. Be sure that your design stands out and that your social media accounts are prominently displayed. While other attendees may not have time to reach out directly, they may be interested in following your social activity after the conference.
Know the Hashtags
Most conferences set up hashtags prior to the start of the conference to build hype and allow attendees to connect. Don’t wait for the conference to find out what they are. Check out the conference’s website or make contact with an organizer to learn the hashtag as early as possible. You want to be sure that your posts, before, during and after the conference, are noticed by other attendees.
Build Some Advanced Hype and Connections
Here’s a secret you should be in on: You don’t have to be at the conference to start networking. It can start from the day you sign up.
Taking this approach puts you at the front of the game. Those looking to sign up may run a few searches to find out who else will be in attendance. Because of this you can stand out before the rush of the conference itself. Take the time to post an announcement that you’ll be attending, to invite others to do the same, and to post regular countdowns, all with the conference hashtags. Run regular searches for others using the same hashtag and make a connection, pointing out that you are both attending. In no time, you’ll have an established social media presence relating to your attendance, along with a network of individuals with whom you can skip the small talk once the conference starts.
Along these same lines, you can generate a lot of buzz if you do something a little off the wall before the conference starts. For example, when one company mailed attendees pineapples before a trade show, they received more foot traffic to their booth than ever before. Instead of potential contacts passing their booth by, they got tons of compliments on the pineapples and the funny notes that accompanied them.
Related Article: What to Tweet & When for Killer Trade Show Marketing
Are you an event sponsor or for some reason setting up a display at the conference? Take advantage of the social media marketing potential of people who walk right up to you. Make sure to prominently display your social handles on your booth and marketing materials, along with QR codes that visitors can use to quickly scan and follow.
Consider offering swag to attendees who stop at your booth and take the time to follow you on your social accounts.
Take Video and Share
One of the best ways to get noticed on most social networks is video. Take the time to search out certain attendees, especially those considered industry leaders. Ask for a quick video interview, think 1 to 3 questions, or for a comment on the conference itself. Most will be happy to oblige.
From there, share the video. Be sure to tag the prominent individual featured on your interview and to use the conference hashtag. Not only will the subject of the video be happy to share most of the time, you’ll also pick up some added attention from his or her followers. This is a win-win.
Just because the conference is over doesn’t mean your social media efforts have to end. Take the time to follow and mention those whose business cards you collected. Share memories and photos. Keep discussions flowing. The follow-up phase is just as important as the planning phase and the actual conference.
As soon as you decide to attend a conference, think about the ways you can incorporate social media into your efforts before, during, and after the event. By putting thought and effort into it from day one, you’re likely to enjoy a huge burst of engagement on your social accounts. Follow the steps above to get started.