Social media, at its core, is about building and fostering relationships with other people. It keeps you connected, informed, and aware of what’s going on with your social circle and the world around you. Thus, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that social media now plays an enormous role at conferences.
While you can learn a lot from sessions at a conference, the main benefits are the connections that you make and the business relationships you develop. You should be utilizing social media during these events to keep informed and afterwards to stay connected. Here are four steps to successful social media use while at trade shows and conferences:
Step 1: Follow the Twitter Hashtag Trail
Twittering at conferences has gone from a novelty to an essential. If you are not following the Twitter conversation surrounding an event, you’re likely to miss out on key information, after-party information, or the location of valuable business contacts.
If you’re not using Twitter but want to follow the conversation, be sure to find out what Twitter hashtag the conference is using (a detailed explanation of hashtags can be found here) and to track it in Twitter Search. For example, attendees to the popular South by Southwest Conference added #SXSW09 to their tweets so others at the event could track the conversation.
Step 2: Promote Your Social Media Presence
Having your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and personal website on your business card is quickly becoming a standard practice. It’s an easier way to keep up with a potential business partner than email and provides more information as well. Be sure to have the networks you use most often on your business card.
Step 3: Add Those You Meet to the Appropriate Network (when you have time)
Either when you have downtime at the end of the day, or within a day after you get back home, you should friend your new friends and contacts. You want to stay in touch and you want to be sure to get in your friend requests while you’re still fresh in their minds. A small reminder saying where you met them is also smart.
Step 4: Always Follow Up
The “once-and-done” model does not work in business. You can’t meet someone and two years later ask them for a favor. You need to offer value to them. You need them to like you. You need to be someone that pops in their heads when thinking about who would be best to contact. So reply to them on Twitter, comment on their Facebook statuses, send them the occasional email, and most of all, be active on social media. Each interaction adds up.
Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Duckycards