Monday, January 17, 2011

How Do You Use Twitter As A Networking Tool At Conferences?

Planners and suppliers can benefit from social networking, just as you can benefit from networking at face to face events. Like face to face networking, social media is best used as conversation, not direct selling. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are three of the most commonly used platforms. Check out the January Intercom for my article on LinkedIn. This article will discuss Twitter and next month we will dive into Facebook.

At the MPI World Education Congress (WEC) in July 2009, we were asked for our Twitter name on the registration form for the event. I had been reluctant to join Twitter up until that point. When I saw that on the registration form, I didn’t want to miss out on any of the education at the event, so I signed up for Twitter, then signed up for WEC. They did a great job of providing one-on-one training in an area of the conference where you could go at any time. I started to get the hang of it and am very glad that I was given a good foundation on how to use Twitter to network and learn about topics important to my professional development. If your audience is multi-generational, you might want to consider providing this type of education to your attendees so your Gen Xers and Baby Boomers don’t get left behind.

On Twitter, I have connected to and become better acquainted with many people in the hospitality and events industry who live in different parts of the world. I found a few Twitter mentors whom I could emulate. I quickly found people who were tweeting interesting and educational things. In the beginning, I mostly re-tweeted things I liked sent out from people I was following. Then, I learned how to use a hashtag to see tweets from other event professionals (i.e. #eventprofs or #mpi). Most of them have their blog, Web Site or LinkedIn listed on their Twitter profile so you can click over to it to learn more about them. You can follow big brands and celebrities, but they won’t follow you back and you will quickly lose interest. If you follow real people who are tweeting good content and engaging with others on Twitter, you will have a much better experience. If you want more people to follow you, make sure you say something interesting in the bio section of your Twitter profile.

Lists are also a good way to find people quickly who are in the same industry or have the same interests as you. The people you have already found will have either created lists or will be listed, which you can see on their profiles. You can save a list and view tweets from the people the list is following at any time, or you can simply follow everyone on that list so you will always see their tweets.

By the time WEC 2010 came around, I had a year of Twitter under my belt. I had been using it at smaller conferences and other meetings on my laptop and smart phone. It takes some practice, but you can get the hang of taking a learning “nugget” from a speaker and quickly turning it into 140 characters. By doing this, you are sharing what you are learning with the people who are following you. At larger conferences, someone will inevitably organize a tweet-up and everyone that has been tweeting from the conference will then meet in person. This is an excellent way to extend your professional network. In addition to sharing content presented by the speakers, Twitter is an evaluation tool. Your attendees will comment on the food, technical difficulties, maybe even the temperature in the room. If you are monitoring the twitter feed from your conference (i.e. #wec10), there may be issues which you can remedy immediately. Otherwise, you may not hear about it until after the conference. The feedback you get from your evaluation forms is directly related to the questions you ask. Twitter feedback is exactly what your attendees are thinking, while they are thinking it – whether good or bad! Your audience will increasingly expect you to be paying attention to what they are tweeting.

Contact me with any questions you have on social media so I can help you bridge the gap between traditional networking and the brave new world of web 2.0. eglau@basicsocialmediatraining.com or www.twitter.com/elizabethglau If you have a specific question about Facebook, LinkedIn or social media for events, I would love to include it in an upcoming article.