Monday, June 23, 2014

Going to a Networking Event or Tradeshow? How Social Media Can Be Used to Connect

Image courtesy of jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net"

For individuals looking for work or businesses looking for new opportunities, the idea of networking has been around for ages.  As the Thornhill Employment Hub and St. Lawrence College Employment Centre would probably agree, most job opportunities are now found through networking and not publicly posted by employers.  Businesses as well will find a lot of opportunities through networking at different events or trade shows. Networking may probably be more effective for some businesses than traditional mail or newspaper advertising. 

Social Media can assist you with networking events in several ways from finding an event, notifying others you are at the event and following up with possible sales leads after the event. 


Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Finding an event:

Networking opportunities don't necessarily have to be formal business events.  The whole idea is to get out and meet people.  These opportunities can be everything from a charitable golf tournament, chamber of commerce event, industry trade show or a group with a common interest like inline skating.   

Social media provides a variety of databases to find an event whether it be for networking purposes or to find something entertaining to do on the weekend.  

Facebook Events: Great spot to see what events are going on that others you are friends with are going to. As well, using the mobile app version, Facebook Events allows you to see upcoming events around your current location and add them to your own events calendar. 

Meetup.com: Have a specific interest in baking, cycling or something else?  Check out Meetup.com where you can search by interest, date or even city to find something may be of interest to you.  Many of the groups meet on a regular basis either weekly or monthly with a common interest.  A great resource to find join a group of people with a common interest. 

Twitter: Be sure to follow your favourite event venue or hosting company.  These key contacts will keep you up to date on upcoming events you may be interested in.

As well, be sure to check out the more conventional methods of finding network events like local economic development offices (e.g. Invest Ottawa, etc.) and Chambers of Commerce (e.g. Ottawa Chamber of Commerce, Aurora Chamber of Commerce, etc.)

Finally, before going to the event, check out to see who might be there.  This can be done by checking to see who has confirmed on Facebook Events or the event website sometimes.  Once known who is going to be there do some research on Linkedin personal profiles, Twitter and company websites to see which attendees you may wish to target to interact with in hopes of making a connection.

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

At the Event:

At the event social media is probably best described as being "the fly on the wall" with a real time feed of the happenings.  The most popular social media platform at events is Twitter.

Twitter is popular because the most a single posting can be is 140 characters which limits the amount for each specific post.  This is excellent as networkers are there to meet others and enjoy the event instead of reviewing how tasty the 2013 Jackon Triggs Savignon Blanc being served is.

To follow an event on Twitter, find the event's hashtag and follow it for the latest.  A hashtag is a word with a number sign ("#") in front of it.  A hashtag is basically like a physical file folder in an office to file messages and other items under that subject to make it easier to find for those that need it.  If your at an event, inquire with either the event literature, the organizers, the event's Twitter account or via an internet search to see what the hashtag being used is.  An example of an event hashtag successfully being used for an event is this year's World Cup (#worldcup) and Ottawa's recent Glow Fair (#glowfair).

After finding the event's hashtag, there are two main uses.  To follow developments or what others are finding interesting and to contribute to the feed yourself.

The event's hashtag may announce upcoming start times for certain key items like workshops, presentations or when a meal is about to served.  Gradually follow this feed as well to see if there are other interesting contacts posting that you may not have had on your initial networking list created before the event.

Posting into the event stream is pretty easy to do.  Simply create a message on Twitter that is 140 characters long including the hashtag.   For example recently the Glow Fair occurred on Ottawa's Bank Street.  Some of the street performers were mentioned on the hashtag.  We contributed this tweet to point out what was going on at this particular intersection:


From this tweet we had to include in the 140 character limit the: message, event hashtag (#GlowFair) and the link to the photo we took.  

Event photos are also interesting as those that follow both the hashtag and your own Twitter account may be interested in a visual to see what is going on and who is at the event.  For businesses, it helps to advertise their presence at the event and possibly, in the case of a tradeshow, where their table might be. 


Image courtesy of vegadsl / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

After an Event

After the streamers and dirty dishes have been removed from the venue and your back at your office it is time to follow up.  Take a look at the business cards you gathered from the event.  For the key contacts you wish to keep in connect with: ask them to be a connection on Linkedin, follow them on Twitter or other social media.  Remember though, not everyone has an account on all social media platforms so don't be disappointed if some contacts are not there. Why connect on social media after an event? Your name or business brand will be part of the contact's stream over time which will help you and your business to remain top of mind on a frequent basis.

As well, many use Linkedin as an easy to update rolodex of contacts to refer people to because good Linkedin users keep their current employment status, skills and contact information up to date.  This is important as perhaps a contact you met two years before may finally need or know someone who needs your product or services.  So make sure you keep your Linkedin profile as up to date as possible. 

Social media is great to use before, during and after an event for individuals looking for employment and  businesses looking for prospective sales leads. It helps to market yourself and business to prospective contacts through gaining followers and maintaining an online database.  So make sure to avail yourself of all the opportunities it provides!