Company and industry events are a great way spark online community interaction.
Professionals with common interests and goals regularly invest time and money to attend B2B events where they can network with others in their trade.
And they’re all in the same place, listening to the same speakers and visiting the same exhibitors.
They’re all on the same page.
What better place to launch a digital initiative that extends the excitement and the knowledge shared via social media?
After the carpet’s rolled up, and the staging’s been struck, and the keynote speakers have all gone home, what do you have to show for your efforts but a stack of business cards? But if you could capture and archive what happened online, it could be discovered through search, shared on Facebook and Twitter and pay dividends in perpetuity.
Earlier this week, I conducted a B2B social media workshop for event planners at the Event Marketing Summit in Chicago (#emschi) organized by Dan Hanover. I showed plenty of examples of how B2B marketers can use social media to generate excitement before, during and after business-to-business events like trade shows, conferences and strategic corporate training events.
Here are some of the take-aways from my workshop:
Socialize Your Event Website – Make your hashtags easy to find. Include them in your logo, or in the banner of your event website. Don’t gang all of your sessions up on one page, or one page per day. Put each session at its own permalink, so people can tweet links to specific sessions. Include each speaker’s Twitter ID in their bio and make it clickable. Use Linkedin “Share” and Twitter “Tweet” buttons. Never mind that Facebook isn’t distinctly B2B. People spend time there, and there’s nothing more powerful the a personal recommendations from a friend. Install a Facebook “Like” button as well. And include an “add to calendar” widget that makes it easy to add sessions to your Outlook, iCal or Google Calendar with one click. Make sure the calendar item has all the pertinent info about the session including the Twitter IDs of the presenters and the hastag for the conference or session. For some ideas on event website best practices, check out the Event Bright and Cvent webpage templates.
Offer Social Sync on Your Website – How many times have you registered for a conference and wondered who you might know that’s attending? At SXSW 2011, Janrain built this feature into the SXSW website, so you could cross reference registered attendees list with your Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter contacts. This was an awesome feature, because it gave you the chance to schedule more meetings and network smarter.
Promote Your Call for Speakers – If you want to generate excitement before an event, promote your call for speakers harder than the event itself. Email market a call for speakers with a deadline and send two reminders as the date approaches. People are more responsive when there’s something in it for them. Blog your call for speakers as well. And share a link to your blog post on relevant Linkedin Groups and via Twitter.
Post Your Event to Linkedin and Facebook – Go to Linkedin > More > Events and select the “Add an Event” tab on Linkedin Events. Post your event and send out notifications to your Linkedin contacts who might genuinely be interested. You can also advertise your event on Linkedin, and the targeting options are very precise. Post the event to the Events area on your Facebook page. Ask an easy to answer question and rewrite your meta data to encourage engagement in the stream. The more “Likes” and comments you get, the higher the post will rank and the more people who will see it.
Post the Speaker PowerPoint Decks to SlideShare – Set up a channel and post the PowerPoint presentations directly following each session. Velocity here is key, because tyou want the session attendees to retweet the link, and they’ll be more inclined to do so right after the session, then a day of two later. Use your momentum wisely. Tweet out a link to the deck with the conference hashtag and the Twitter ID of the speaker and watch the ReTweets come in.
Register Your Event on Foursquare – Take the time register your event in advance, and ask your sponsors NOT to register the event themselves on Foursquare, so you don’t wind up with multiple registrations for the same event, which confuses attendees. If it’s an annual event, start the name of the event with the year, so people will be able to check in at the next event regardless of the location. If you can get your hashtag into the name that you register on Foursquare, all the better. And ask each speaker before the start of their session to remind everyone to check in on Foursquare.
Podcast Your Sessions – At this point, the cost to record the audio from your sessions and make it available after the fact is pretty much just the cost of labor. Bottle up the knowledge and insights your speakers share on stage and make them available immediately. Draft a search engine optimized transcript, give the final MP3 file name that’s search friendly, upload it your blog, park your RSS feed at iTunes, social media optimize your feed and count the downloads. If you have the dates and location for next year’s event, include a brief, soft-sell announcement at the beginning of each recording to generate excitement for next year’s event. Don’t worry about losing registered attendees because you’re giving away the session recordings for free. People go to events to network and press the flesh. You can’t do that on a podcast.
Offer a Branded Mobile App – DoubleDutch, a San Francisco start-up that recently secured VC-funding, offers a ready to go, skinnable mobile app with all the features you’d want at a B2B event. Users can create profiles, connect with other profiles, use social sync to find Twitter and Facebook friends, share status updates, photos and links to an activity stream, like and comment on items, publish out to Facebook and Twitter, check in on the app and on Foursquare, unlock badges and watch video. Cisco Events is using the app very effectively to sustain the buzz they generate at their corporate events. They’ve even built in QR Code reader right into the app, which can be used for check-ins. Now you can use incentives to drive foot traffic to exhibitors and sessions by offering unique QR codes at different destinations.
How do you use social media for B2B events? Share your best tips for applying social to B2B events here as well. And if you attended the session, what you think of it, and how are you applying social media to B2B event marketing?