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How to use social media to maximise opportunities at industry events

Charlie Sanchez
Charlie Sanchez

So the big annual conference in your industry is coming up and you’re desperate to make the most of it but are not sure where to start.

As you would with any other marketing campaign, you should treat events with a great deal of care. Social media can and should be a vital part of your event strategy. Before donning your lanyard, take time to ensure you’re crystal clear on how to:

  • Build a strategy in the lead-up to an event
  • Maximise networking opportunities and find the big stories
  • Follow up after the event.

BEFORE THE EVENT: BUILDING A STRATEGY

Why you are going and why should other people care?

This should be the easiest to answer, but all too often the mission statement for why a business is attending an event is unclear. Social media gives you an opportunity to condense what’s interesting about your company in a short space of time.

It is not enough to just let people know you’ll be there, tell them why they should come and see you. Are you launching a product? Are you sharing some new research? Think of what up-front value you could provide for visitors.

Make this mission statement the heart of your social media activity in the lead up to the event.

How can you cut through the noise?

Don’t expect other people to find your generic marketing material interesting, chances are it’s not. Think of some creative ways that you can make your presence at that specific event know. It should be timely, relevant and engaging.

Using a tool like BuzzSumo, will give you an idea about what content is resonating well in your industry. Don’t fall into the “me too” trap though, make sure you put your own spin on it.

Spend some time thinking about what event specific collateral you can use for social media in the run up to the event.

AT THE EVENT: MAXIMIZING OPPORTUNITIES

Do your homework

Events are always busy affairs. Whether you’re running from session to session, or walking the show floor, there’s never enough time in the day. You need to network like you mean it and nothing can be left to chance.

Social media can help though. Research influencers, keynote speakers, competitors, you name it. Build a Twitter list and track their updates. What are they talking about, what are they doing at the conference. Also keep a search of the event hashtag running. This will show you what the people you care about are discussing, and who is talking about the topics you care about.

Set up a listening stream for your Twitter list and add one for the event hashtag.

Discover the conversations that matter

Just like on the show floor, there’s always a lot of chatter on social media surrounding big industry events. Unfortunately, most of the messages are “We’re at stand #253! Come see us!” so it can be difficult, if not impossible, to see what interesting conversations are being had online. Especially true when you are the event and don’t have time to be glued to your phone for updates.

Plan ahead by adding a Twitter search like #SXSW16 into your listening engine, and refine it using engagement filters. This can be as specific as ‘Only show me Tweets about #SXSW16 with more than 10 likes’. By cutting out the noise, it directs you to the amazing points being delivered by key note speakers and other leaders.

Cut to the most important topics by applying a filter to your news feed.

AFTER THE EVENT: THE JOB’S NOT OVER!

Follow up

Similar to any other campaign, maximising event opportunities doesn’t stop when the doors finally close. Social media’s can be a powerful tool to help you follow up with new contacts.

Pull out your wad of newly acquired business cards and get to work learning more about their business. Much like you did in the research phase, collect your new contacts in a Twitter list so that you can keep an eye on them at a glance.

Create a Twitter list to stay up to date with your new contacts, and help you refine your engagement plans.

Write up

Major industry events can be a great opportunity to meet fellow professionals and to share your own news. What they are even better for though, is tapping into the direction and interests of your industry as a whole. What were the major talking points at the show, what do you now know that you didn’t before?

Create content around these elements and publicise them across social media, remembering to loop in any new contacts. If relevant, consider name drop influencers that you may be quoting. This positions your article within the industry and they might respond to your comment.

Use insights from the event to create contact that puts you back on the radar of the important influencers or prospects you met at the show.

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