Social Media, Networking, and Conferences: It’s a New Ballgame

Social media has been embraced by the majority of conferences and events happening in education, blogging, and technology. Social media has become both a resources for networking with peers and a source of backchannel communication to hear more, see more, and learn more.

Here are a few tips and ideas for both event coordinators and attendees to increase your ability to network and learn from conferences through social media.

Hashtags

hashtagsHashtags are typically the easiest way to keep a flow of information relative to an event or conference in a single place and make it easy to search. It’s always important to make your hashtag unique and to triple check if anyone else is using it. Twitter seems to be the synonymous social media tool in using hashtags to make conversations easier to follow.  Event coordinators need to promote the hashtags well in advance to start a conversation early and keep it going beyond the event to make sure it’s successful.

The greatest thing about a hashtag is that you can easily add it to your saved searches or just click on the hashtag link on Twitter to see the rest of tweets from those who are using it. You don’t have to be following the users to see what they are saying on the hashtag but it’s a great place to start a conversation or reach out to someone with similar interest. Hashtags for conference are a great way to both find new people to follow and get new followers. The esstential is to not just tweet using the hashtag but respond to others using the hashtag to provide authentic communication.

A good example of a hashtag that is being used before, during, and after the conference is for the upcoming #CFLBlogCon Central Florida Bloggers Conference. This is the same hashtag used at the event last year and has been used as a way for local bloggers to communicate between conference on topics that other bloggers might be interested in learning more about.

If you are presenting make sure to give our your social media information before starting to talk and encourage participates to use the hashtag while you are presenting. If you have multiple people presenting or have the opportunity to have an extra feed from the hashtag to be posting while presenting. SAP Web 2.0 is a tool to show live tweets that can easily add into a presentation. Just remember it’s important not to “tweckle” speakers by heckling them on the Twitter.

Hashtags are not just for Twitter. Hashtags are a great way to communicate on Google+, by making it a lot easier to search for other in that same conversation. Another place to utilize hashtags is within your photos on Instagram. Instagram hashtags can be an easy way for participate to share photos of the event as they happen and utilizing the same hashtag used on Twitter to make them easy to Tweet at the same time. It might be useful for event organizers to make an posting was several of their favorite photos and tag the instagrammer in the posting to share to everyone.

Facebook Groups

Facebook GroupsFacebook groups have improved a lot of the last year and event/conference organizers can use them to their advantage. Facebook groups can provide a space for participates to network, ask questions, and continue their involvement with peers after the conference has ended. Facebook groups can provide a forum for event planners to disseminate information, gather feedback, and get ideas on what is needed.

Groups can be a great way to connect with those on Facebook who don’t use Twitter too. Facebook Groups have a ton of different features and you don’t have to be friends with those in the group to see all the posting within the group. I enjoy the option to choose your notification settings within a group.

Contests

Contests can be a great way to get participants involved and active in the event via social media. Utilizing social media to ask trivia questions, get participants interacting with sponsors, or drum up interest prior to an conference with free tickets or special VIP treatment.

Meetups

TweetupMeetups and Tweetups are a great way to get together a group of people who might connect mainly through social media at a conference or after an event has happened. These events are usually organized over tweeter by either the event coordinator or just groups that have a common interest to get together.

Primarily you want to organize your Tweetups around Twitter. But you need to set up various outposts to make it as successful as possible. Make a landing page for your Tweetup. Your landing page can be a blog, website or event site. Eventbrite and Twitvite are just two examples of Event sites you can utilize. Facebook event pages can make a great way to get various people to meetup too.

Connect

It’s important to connect before, during, and after the event with people from the conference you are interested in maintaining contact with long afterwards. Connecting in person can be important step to go beyond that virtual connection. Add your Twitter user name to your name tag or have another way for people to recognize you, especially if your username is different than your name tag. Your avatar should be a recent picture of you that someone can recognize you easily in a crowd, unless you are just a brand.

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