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10 Tips for Using Social Media to Gain an Edge at a Conference

How to use social networks to improve your business network

Are you looking to get more value out of your next trade show or conference?

Have you wondered if your social channels could connect more with real life events?

Whether you are with a big brand or just representing your own personal brand, these tips will help you use your social channels to make the most of your next conference or networking event.

Recently I attended the Social Media Marketing World Conference put on by Social Media Examiner. To get the most out of the conference, I decided to step up my networking game. I was determined not just to network while I was there, but to make sure that I was networking with the right people.

Since it was a social media conference, there was a lot of opportunity to network on social media, but it got me thinking about how easy it would be for anyone going to any conference to use the same tactics to amplify their impact while there. In the following tips I’ll show you how you can become a networking rock star.


1.   Look like your profile picture. If you’re going to use social networks to connect with people you are meeting in real life, you should be easily recognizable in both contexts. For example, If you have a beard in your picture on your profile, then you shouldn’t shave right before you go to the conference. It’s hard enough to find someone in a sea of people. Don’t make it harder.

Stand out from the crowd. My new friend, Mike Ambassador Bruny, is well known for his bow tie and his networking skills. He inspired me to wear a green hat all week, and I’m so glad I did. I mentioned to everyone I was planning on meeting that I would have a green hat on, and almost everyone I saw made a comment about it. Especially in a more professional environment, formal dress tends to blend together. A pop of color will not only make you recognizable, but also memorable.

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For you brands out there, this goes the same for your booth. Make your booth bold and iconic.  Then make sure your social media profiles match for the week. There is no rule against changing your profile picture, and sometimes it can even help revive an audience that hasn’t engaged with you in a while.


2.   Put hashtags in your profiles and posts. This is a simple one, but it really works. Not every event will necessarily have its own hashtag, but if it does, this can be your secret weapon. All you have to do is add it to your profile description like I did below.

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This allows you to show up in a Twitter search for that event. Anyone else that is planning on following the hashtag will do this search at least once, and you will pop up along with all the rest of posts about the event. If you are the first one to do this, you will show up higher before the event.


3.   Do your homework. If you have a particularly social crowd, this will be easy. Search the hashtag first to see if anyone else is using our tip from above. If so, you will get a sneak peek at the guest list for the event. If your event isn’t as savvy about hashtags, there will usually be some other way to see who is going. At our event we used an app called Bizzabo. Many events will have a similar app specifically for that event, which may have a list of attendees in it. Other options might be checking the event website or just sending out a post from your social account asking if any of your connections will be at the event. Learn all you can about the crowd you are about to walk into.


4.   Pre-network & set up meetings. Many people and brands wait until they get to the conference, tradeshow or event to start making connections. But you can get a head start. Once you’ve done your research, reach out to people individually, and plan a meeting. We all know that time is a precious commodity at business events, so maximize your time with appointments. If you are a brand, you can set up a landing page with a sign up form for appointments before the event; or if you are an individual, you can just set up a time to meet. If you’re wondering about the ROI of your event, this can help answer that question before you even leave your office.

Here’s an example of one of our social-savvy clients making use of that exact tactic.

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5.    Live tweet. Twitter was practically made for this tactic, and it allows you to look like a thought leader. It’s just too easy and beneficial not to do it. All you have to do is quote the presenters. Just make sure to give credit to the speaker and the event. If you do a great job at it, the speaker may even reach out to thank you personally.


6.   Say thank you.  Thank people you meet publicly via social media. They will appreciate it, and it’s an easy way to immediately follow up with the person.

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I bet those students were pumped to see themselves appear on such a huge brand’s page.


7.   Ask for help. Another tactic provided to me by my friend, Mike Ambassador Bruny, is to ask people to do something for you. If you are an attendee trying to see more than one speaker at a time, ask a new friend to take notes or ask questions for you in a presentation that you can’t attend. A lot of people say, “stay in touch,” and leave it at that, but asking for something specific gives you a great reason to meet again, and offer to do the same for them.

As far as brands go, you can ask just about anything. Especially at tradeshows, you are stuck in a booth somewhere, so ask people to be your eyes and ears for you. You could simply post something like, “We will be at booth 203 at #smmw14 until the 11am speech. Stop by afterward to let us know what you thought of it.“


8.   Include social media contacts on your business cards & takeaways. This one can be tough unless you are about to order new business cards, but it is hugely effective. Even at a digital marketing conference, people still exchange physical cards. I am definitely a social media advocate, but handing someone a card is always going to be faster than typing something into your smart phone. Business cards are your chance to follow up with and organize the contacts you make at an event, so make sure you don’t miss an opportunity to connect on another level like social media.


9.   Gimmicks & prizes work. If you really want someone to do something, I have one word for you: incentives. Whether you are giving away prizes for liking a Facebook page at your booth or offering a free download from a URL on the back of your business card, incentives work. Give the people what they want.


10.   Follow up. The tips above don’t mean a thing if you don’t make an effort to follow up with the people you met. One of my favorite ways to follow up is on LinkedIn because once they connect with you, then you have that connection forever. It’s also important to be timely about this. People might not remember you if you wait a month. Don’t lose out on all your hard work. Look for another event, group or cause that you can continue to connect with beyond the conference.

So there you go. You are now ready to be a social networking rock star at your next event. If you have any other tips that might help people out when networking at a conference or a tradeshow, please share them with us through social media or share this article with colleagues through the social share buttons above.