Although so much focus these days is on digital networking, there is still a tremendous opportunity to get face to face with live networking events.
But what works even better is when you have a strategy in place to follow up afterwards using digital channels.
Before social media, you had to collect business cards or contact information through prize draws and then follow up with awkward calls and impersonal emails.
Social media has significantly changed this.
Here are five ways you can improve the effectiveness of your networking and social media strategy at live networking events:
1. Update your social media profiles
Before you begin any activities leading up to a networking event, it is vital that you ensure that your social media profiles are up-to-date and represent your personal brand in a compelling and client-focused manner.
You have only seven seconds to impress someone viewing your social media profiles before they click away.
Regardless who your target market is, it is important to have a powerful personal brand. And it starts with professional, branded social profiles.
2. Do your home work
Before attending a live networking event, be sure to do your research in advance. This will allow you to get more value from the event without having to scramble to be ready on the day of.
How early you start this research and how much time you invest will depend on the size and scope of the event and what goals you hope to achieve by attending.
A great place to start is by deciding what your goals are for attending this event. If it is an industry tradeshow, perhaps your goal is to meet and start relationships with new vendors or prospects. At a conference you might be looking to meet influencers in your industry or fellow attendees who could be a good strategic alliance or joint venture partner.
Next you will want to determine which social platforms are being used to promote the event and are most used by the attendees. This will give you an idea of which platforms you will want to invest the most time on, before, during and after the networking event.
You should also look up what the event hashtags and topics are, and the language being used by the event promoters, attending influencers and general attendees. It is important to use this language when posting or engaging on social media for the event, as this will help your posts to resonate with the attendees.
3. Connect with influencers and attendees
Once you have done your homework, you are ready to start reaching out and start having some conversations.
Begin by looking up who will be attending or speaking at the event. Find out what influencers, sponsors or other well-known individuals will be attending. You can usually find this information easily on the website of the event or in the event social media posts. If there are influencers you want to connect with, look them up on the different social media channels. You can then follow them on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram as well as their Facebook business page.
When appropriate, engage with the updates and content they are sharing. Doing this can get you on their radar and help you begin conversations with them.
Connect with Influencers on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is the perfect place to connect with influencers through a personalized connection request. In your personalized message, mention that you will also be attending the event, are looking forward to hearing them present and would love to connect with them before the event.
You can also find out who will be attending the event by searching the event hashtags on each of the social platforms, to see who is using them and who is engaging with the posts of the event promoters. Follow or a make list of these individuals that you can easily access (such as a Twitter list).
You can then engage these the individuals in each list when relevant.
4. Meet attendees in person
With most of the work done beforehand, you can focus your time and energy on building relationships at the networking event.
While you may have begun the process with some attendees before the event, there may still be many people who have not engaged on social media prior to the event. Look for opportunities to meet and connect with these people at the event.
Twitter and Instagram are excellent social platforms to use during the event. Take and share pics of influencers on stage sharing some of their best tips. Be sure to tag them, include the event hashtag and share something you like or learned during their talk.
Take the time to follow or connect with other attendees on social platforms while you are chatting with them, as it can be easy to forget all the people you met as the day goes on.
Utilize LinkedIn’s Find Nearby Feature
If you are at an event, such as a conference or a trade show, try using the Find Nearby feature on the LinkedIn’s mobile app.
This feature shows you other LinkedIn members in close proximity who have it enabled. It is also a great ice-breaking technique and a way for you to engage with others at an event you are attending.
With this feature, you can find, connect and communicate with attendees who are within 100 feet (30 meters) of you. To access this feature, you must have the LinkedIn app on your device.
To enable it:
- turn on your Bluetooth
- accept permissions required by LinkedIn
- enable the feature.
After you enable the Bluetooth sharing, you will see a list of other LinkedIn members nearby who are also using the Find Nearby feature. Simply tap the name of the member you want to review.
If the person is a 1st degree connection, you can send them a message. If you are not yet connected, you can send them a personalized connection request.
You’ll only be discoverable when you are on the Find Nearby page. LinkedIn doesn’t track, monitor or store your precise location data.
5. Follow up with influencers and attendees
Keep your relationship building momentum going after the event.
Head over to LinkedIn after the event to send personalized connection requests to anyone you met and would like to connect with, but didn’t have a chance to during the event.
Help the attendee remember who you are by reminding them that you met at the event and would like to connect. The sooner you do this after the event, the more likely people will remember you and the easier it will be to keep momentum going.
In the days and weeks to follow the event, go through all of your social profiles and continue to engage with those you are interested in building a relationship with.
Consider also creating a blog post, montage or other content based on your experience at the event. Be sure to share it on all your social channels, tagging anyone appropriate and including the event hashtags. By sharing what you most enjoyed or learned from the event, you create important opportunities for others to engage with you.
Make the most of live networking events with social media
Following up via social media after live networking events presents an amazing opportunity to build mutually beneficial relationships with those you’ve met in person.