There are so many reason to use social media in your career. From keeping up with industry news to landing your dream job, platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn can do too many positive things to count.
Something we don’t see enough of, however, (and I think this is slowly becoming more and more common) is people taking social to an actual social level and meeting tweeps in real life.
My favorite way to do this? Using Twitter hashtags at events to break the ice and put myself out there.
Attending industry events may be the traditional way to network, but Twitter takes this to the next level. Whether it’s a monthly drinks event, talk, course or conference, most organizers will create a designated Twitter hashtag (if you’re totally out of the loop on what a hashtag is, Google it).
If the organizers are on the ball, they’ll announce the hashtag multiple times; after all, it can only help promote their event and connect their community. If they’re not on top of it, you can figure out the hashtag attendees are using by searching the event name on Twitter.
For example, I recently went to an MSN mini-conference in Auckland, and the organizers hadn’t created a hashtag. But when I searched for MSN in New Zealand, a couple attendees had banded together and made up their own!
The three big reasons you want to use hashtags at events:
1. Pick up on points attendees find useful
People tend to tweet interesting quotes by speakers, statistics or basic event information. I can’t tell you how useful this has been in the past to go refer to later and use as “notes” – regardless of whether I attended the event.
These are especially helpful if you’re reporting back to a boss or writing an event recap on your blog.
2. Meet people
When you follow along with the event hashtag, it’s easy to figure out who else is at the event. And with the beauty of Twitter avatars, you can usually recognize these people when you run into them later on.
I like to use a tweet to start conversations with people I probably won’t have met otherwise. I’ll say something like, “I loved that tweet you sent out about there not being any vegetarian options! What gives?” Then you’ve started a conversation without awkwardly standing in the corner pretending to check your cell phone because you have no one to talk to.
3. Put yourself out there
When you’re regularly tweeting at an event, you’re seen as being involved without being that annoying conference-goer who throws business cards at anyone and everyone. And if your Twitter avatar is clear, you’ll be recognizable.
That means it’s likely people will come up to you and say something like, “Oh, hey, you’re @MarianSchembari, aren’t you?” Boom. You’ve made a new friend. Win-win.
Even if you’re not a huge tweeter before the event, no worries. Here are a few sure-fire topics you can post on the big day:
- Points from the event you’ve found interesting.
Example: Great stat from speaker @BobSmith “66% of statistics are made up.” #awesomeevent2011
- Questions to the speaker. He or she probably won’t respond during the event, but A. you never know and B. this is a great way to start a dialogue outside the event, which can be even more powerful.
Example: @BobSmith What do you mean 66% of statistics? Didn’t you mean 99%?
- Addressing other attendees. Suggest grabbing a drink at Bar X after the last talk or simply ask people’s thoughts on the last speaker.
Example: I’m heading to Awesome Bar after this, anyone want to join? We’re going to talk shop while throwing back tequila shots.
Don’t over-think this, though. Just share points you find interesting and connect with a few people you might not have met otherwise.
Finally, if you’re at a loss for the kind of event to go to, consider doing a search on Twitter for tweetups in your area, ask your co-workers or clients, and pay attention to industry bloggers and sites like Eventbrite. You also might consider joining something like Social Media Club, a network of people who meet up in cities around the world to discuss new technologies and how they effect business. It’s not just for digital folks, so regardless of whether you’re super familiar with social media, it’s a great way to learn new things and meet some pretty cool people. Plus, they always have a hashtag.
How many of you have been active on Twitter during an event? Meet anyone cool because of it?