Ideas fresh off the wire

Making a Social Media Splash at a Conference (When You’re Not the One Attending)

CalebAs we kickoff 2016, many of our clients here at Highwire are already thinking about the major industry events of the year. Our consumer teams have just finished up an exciting Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the digital health practice is preparing for Healthcare and Information Management Society conference (HIMSS) and the security practice is already starting preparations for about the biggest security conference of the year—RSA.

With social media now such an integral part of the corporate identity, it has become an increasingly important tool for making an impact at a trade conference. However, often times those running these social channels aren’t actually ATTENDING the show.

So, how can you make a social splash at a conference when you aren’t physically present?

Before the conference

Do your research

Before anyone steps foot on the conference floor, there is a good amount of groundwork to be done ahead of time to ensure on-site time is well spent. For instance, as the social media manager, your first responsibility is to identify any hashtags that are tied to the show. If you are attending RSA, you’ll want to know which hashtag will be the most popular—will it be #RSA2016 #RSAConf or #2016RSA? Are different target audiences using a particular  one? Make sure you keep an eye out for any shifts  in hashtag usage throughout the show. To do this, there are great social media tools like Hashtagify that can help you monitor for what is trending.

In order to make the show a success, you’ll also need ambassadors on the ground feeding you information and images. Find out which of your team members will be on the conference floor and who will be attending which sessions and connect with them ahead of time. Ask that they send you content throughout the conference—photos, videos, interesting conversation topics—that will help you stay in the conversation although you aren’t physically there. Be sure you have their direct contact information, and give them yours! Remember that these team members are likely busy running around the expo floor, so don’t be afraid to remind them to send you content throughout the event.

If your team is looking to connect with media who are attending the conference, you’ll want to investigate who will be there before the conference starts. Additionally, be sure to follow them on Twitter and other relevant social channels. This will make it easier for you to monitor Twitter and other feeds to see if a reporter is focusing on an area of mutual interest, attending one of your talks, or is looking for commentary from vendors.

Tease out your participation

Make sure you let your followers know that you plan to be at the show, and let them know where they can find you. Share your booth number and the dates and times of any talks your executives may be giving. Are you planning to give away any swag? Hosting a contest? Share this with your followers in a timely manner so that they know what to expect. If you have a regularly scheduled email newsletter that goes out to customers and prospects, make sure to include a mention of your participation in the editions preceding the event.

Social media can also help you make an impact beyond traditional PR and gain you new followers. Find out from your team what your key target verticals are and do some research to see if any potential customers may be at the show. If your sales team is looking to make a connection you can help by engaging with potential customers over social media. Be sure to check the list of conference sponsors before the show begins and connect with your team to see if there is anyone on their target list that you can start to monitor.

BlackHatClientsDuring the conference

Monitor for any changing trends. Keep a close eye on the conference hashtags and make sure you adjust your social posts according to what is trending. For example, perhaps #BlackHat2015 started out with the most traction, but by the end of the conference conversations may have switched to #BHUSA. Your social content should also make that switch.

Keep your eyes peeled for any breaking news or especially popular conference hashtags. If Twitter is suddenly talking about the researcher who hacked into a satellite, a keynote talk by Alec Baldwin or the Stagefright exploit that rocked Android phones, you don’t want to miss out on chiming in. .

It’s important to engage in social media conversations, not just push out promotional messages. Work with your team on the ground to share interesting topics or their opinions about interesting talks, and connect with reporters who are looking for commentary on any new stories. If your company is giving away free gear, promote to attendees using social media to encourage them to come talk to your team.

Since you are not at the show, staying in close communication with those who are on the ground is extremely important. Be sure to ask the team early and often for photos, quotes and videos that can be shared across your social channels. Visuals can add variety and extra personality to your feed. Remember, don’t be afraid to share photos of your team having fun! Photos of employees sharing a drink, talking with other influencers, or speaking on a stage at industry events frequently outperform your typical corporate content.

Social sharing shouldn’t stop at the official corporate channels either. Encourage members of the team to share, retweet and repost your content! With each share, the life of your content—and its reach—is extended.

After the conference

The booth may go down and the conference hashtags may be dormant, but your work as social media manager is not done. Be sure to share any potential leads you may have uncovered with your team. Most importantly, think about ways that you can extend the life of the great experiences, photos and quotes that you received during the event. Consider whether you may be able to craft a blog post surrounding key findings from the event or develop a series of visual quote cards with interesting takeaways to publish over time.

While it may seem daunting to be tasked with managing social media for an event you’re not attending, it is possible to do so successfully. All it takes is some pre-planning, and lots of team collaboration and communication.