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article imageOp-Ed: Making good use of a conference hashtag on social media

By Anne Marie Marais     Feb 6, 2014 in Business
Years ago when you attended a conference or event, your networking was limited to your confidence level, the number of hands you shook and business cards you exchanged. Not the case anymore with the use of hashtags.
As a small business owner you want to get out there as much as possible - networking events, conferences, meet and greets, special events and other opportunities to connect with the right audience. With your smartphone in hand and a Twitter account, you can maximize your experience at these events using the pre-determined hashtags that most conferences and events are putting in place these days.
But, before we go any further, are you asking, what's a hashtag? Dictionary.com gives this good definition - on social-networking platforms it is a word or phrase preceded by a hash mark (#), used within a message (tweet/post) to identify a keyword or topic of interest and facilitate a search for it.
So when you sign up for the event or conference there is a good chance that you will see a hashtag already in use. This is a great way to start getting engaged before you even attend the event. You can see who is already using that hashtag by searching it on Twitter. At that point it would be smart to start following those people/brands. Generally the conference/event organizers will use this hashtag as you get closer to the dates. You may be able to get inside information about speakers, specials, the surround area (if traveling to conference) and elements of the upcoming conference.
By seeing who else is attending, you can start to engage with them on Twitter and potentially set up face to face meetings during the conference. This can be the easiest way to meet up with new potential clients, investors or experts. With the people who are attending from out of town or those with very busy schedules it may be your only opportunity to get in front of them. With the use of the hashtag others will see you as someone that they want to follow for all the same reasons that you followed them. This will help grow your social media following and network. All very good for your growing small business.
Once you're at the conference/event, the hashtag becomes a great way to share information. During any session people can pick up on varying points, which might be ones that others miss. When you monitor the hashtag during or after a session, it becomes a useful tool to gather information that you might have missed or want to remember. Also, it's a handy way to learn what was presented in sessions that you could not attend or even to audit entire conferences/events that you were not able to get to.
One of my best experiences of the use and monitoring of an event hashtag, was at the Canada 3.0 conference in May of 2013. Just by using the hashtag, I was able to connect with an old friend/colleague at the conference. Neither of us were aware that the other was in attendance. This lead to a lunch meeting and a reconnection that can potentially help both our small businesses.
At some conferences the hashtag has also been used as a method to put forth questions to the speakers during the presentation or for the Q&A. Many of the speakers will continue to connect with those that direct questions at them using their Twitter handles and the hashtag. Therefore, it can be a useful tool to connect even after a session or conference.
That hashtag will continue to see a life after the conference and can be a great resource for you as look back on information you may have missed, want to reference or people you want to connect with. There are so many great uses of that conference/event hashtag that can be very advantageous for you and your small business.
Here are a few tips to remember:
- Make sure that you have the hashtag correct. It can make a big difference if the hashtag is #CDA30 and you mistakenly put #CDA 30 (as the hashtag cannot have spaces) or #CDA03. Just a small error can make that hashtag and your tweets useless.
- Most of the time a hashtag is put at the end of a tweet. However, it is acceptable to put it in the body of the text to save on characters if it fits into your tweet. Make sure that it's there somewhere.
- Ensure that your Twitter profile is professional and represents you and your business well, as you only get one first impression.
- Keep your tweets thoughtful, engaging and don't overdue the number of tweets that you send out in a period of time. You don't want to over do it. A few compelling tweets per session is sufficient. Additionally, engage and retweet others that you find interesting based on following that hashtag. This is a highly effective way to engage, make connections and network.
Remember, that hashtag can serve many purposes and benefits for you and your small business.
Anne-Marie, owner of Long Leg Productions, is a seasoned social media marketer. Clients such as the Toronto Star and Summerhill, work with Anne-Marie to increase their social presence in order to develop and retain community. You can follow Anne-Marie on Twitter @atmarais.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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