Conferences are a really good way to meet new people, have conversations and learn how to grow your business, but sometimes the networking opportunities can be quite limiting, especially if there are a lot of people attending who are worth talking to but time is against you to speak to them all (after all you can’t possibly get to say hello to every single person face-to-face at a huge conference).
So how can you make sure your business is seen, conversations are had with as many people as possible and you make the most of the networking opportunities on offer at conferences? Believe it or not the answer is quite simple – get ahead of the game using digital marketing.
This is something I’ve given a lot of thought to recently as I prepare to attend Atomicon and Social Media Marketing World this month for my business. I’ve considered things like how do I find out more about 5,000 marketers? How do I say hello to as many people as possible? I created my own digital strategy to help me with this and want to share my thoughts with you. Here are 9 ways to build brand awareness online when attending conferences.
#1: Have a plan
This is a must. When I say plan, I don’t mean that you need to create pages and pages of in-depth information detailing every single little thing you’re going to do and say – that won’t come across as natural and quite frankly it won’t be a good return on investment for you. When I say have a plan I mean that you need to be very clear on:
- Your goals i.e. what you want to achieve online pre and post conference
- Who you’re talking to – speakers? Attendees? Who will help you grow your business?
- What your key messages are – in other words what you and your business are about and how best to relay that to speakers and attendees to help them form positive perceptions of you and your brand.
- Your tactics – the channels you’ll be focusing on to get the most out of your activity
- How you’ll measure your interactions – followers, replies etc
If you’re clear on these things then you’ll be able to really work on building your digital presence with the right audiences ahead of, during and after the conference.
#2: Announce that you’re actually going
Simple and effective, but it’s surprising how many people forget to actually do this. So why is this important? Well it gets you involved in the conversation online from the outset, will most likely get some engagement from organisers, speakers and attendees, and it tells your existing followers what you’re up to.
#3: Do your research
In other words, it’s time to do some research. After all it’s good to know who you’re going to meet isn’t it? This is the part of the process when you can identify key people at the event who you’d like to talk to. For me it helps relieve the pressure at the event and keeps me focused.
My advice to you will be to look at:
- The speaker line up
- The attendee list (if one is available). Sometimes lists are easy to find if the event organisers use apps like Whova, host online forums or own a Facebook group dedicated to the event.
- The event hashtag on social media to see who is speaking about it
This information will give you a good idea of who is attending, who will be of interest to you to connect with online and meet in person when you’re there. You can then check out their websites and follow connect with them via social media. Once you’ve done your stalking (sorry I mean research) you’re in a good position to really start getting your business known.
#4: Use Twitter to dominate
Twitter is not my favourite social media channel, but it is (in my opinion) by far the best one to use for building momentum and having conversations before, during and after conferences.
The fact you’re speaking in real time, have high level engagement and are able to be part of the conference buzz works really well for building awareness of your brand. I always find that my interactions are high and my follower numbers increase a huge amount when I attend conferences, use the right hashtags and tweet live from the event.
So how can maximise Twitter to build brand awareness at conferences? Here are a few ideas:
- Subscribe to or create a speakers / attendees list
- Use the event hashtag
- Tweet quotes, slides and photos from speakers live at the event
- Ask questions before, during and after the conference
- Tweet selfies, photos and videos from the event
- Share takeaways from each talk
- Create and share content after the event
Doing any or all of these will really help you dominate Twitter at the conference!
#5: Join the relevant Facebook groups
Facebook groups are really useful for conferences, especially before it takes place because everyone in the group has easy access to upload videos and photos to fully introduce themselves, their business and what they do.
I’ve noticed this in particular before Atomicon, where the Facebook group has been very active not only with members sharing photo and video introductions, but also with conference organisers Andrew and Pete offering updates on the event every step of the way.
They’ve asked for input from attendees on aspects of the event, given international attendees tips on ‘what to do’ In Newcastle upon Tyne and have even shared details of additional meet ups. This has worked really well in terms of engagement, but also from an attendee’s perspective it has created a buzz and made us feel included.
#6: Get involved in conversations on social using the event hashtag
This can really boost your brand and get you seen by everyone involved in the conversation. My advice here would be to save and monitor the hashtag on your social media management system so you can pick tweets that standout to you that you can like, comment, retweet to reply to. You can save save it as a search in Twitter itself if you prefer.
#7: Post post post when you’re there
Before the conference, on the day(s) of the conference and after the conference you need to post, tweet, share your story on Instagram or snap away on Snapchat – whatever channel you use, use it to the max.
Doing this will not only raise your profile as an attendee at the event, it will also give your audience a behind the scenes look at the conference from your unique perspective. It help them get to know you, the conference itself also much so that they’ll feel like they’re there with you.
#8: Interview speakers and attendees before or during conference
Do you have a podcast or YouTube channel or do you blog? If you do any of these for your business, it may be worth approaching speakers and select attendees ahead of the conference to ask if they have time to be interviewed by you for your channels.
Prepare some questions that will give the interviewee the opportunity to share their insight with your audience in a way that adds value to them, positions you as a connector and builds your credibility as a connect creator.
#9: Create content post-conference to share what your top takeaways
This is a great way to keep the momentum going after the conference. Share what you’ve learned, how the conference went, who your favourite speaker was and why. Give your audience an insight into the inner workings of the conference from your perspective.
This will help you build awareness of your brand, get noticed by the conference organisers and speakers (make sure you tag and mention them on social) and position you as a credible source for learning. Win win if you ask me!
These are my thoughts on how to build brand awareness when attending conferences. I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to take the time to get involved in online conversations and conference buzz. It will help you reach audiences that may be difficult to get to during the event itself will really enhance your experience of the conference as a whole.
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