Long gone are the days when networking had to be done via telephone, email or in person. Social media provides great ways to meet people, gather information and keep in touch, that were not previously possible. With careful planning and effective use of social media tools, networking can even be easier and more valuable than traditional methods.
In my previous post, I spoke about networking and suggested a number of nonprofit and fundraising conferences taking place throughout this fall. Inspired by Eric Holtzclaw’s article on Inc.com, here are five ways to benefit from social media if you attend:
Prepare for the event.
Social media can be a useful tool even before the conference begins. Many events have a LinkedIn group, Twitter hashtag or a discussion group to help attendees get a feel for the conference, see who will be there and come prepared to interact with others. Reach out to anyone who seems interesting or try to connect with speakers. These tools also allow you to join the conversation beforehand by seeing what topics will be most prevalent in discussions, and how much attention the conference is getting.
Find relevant information.
You want to take as much information away from a conference as you can, but can’t be everywhere at once. Use social media tools like Twitter or Facebook, which now also uses hashtags, to get information about the sessions you were not able to attend. Sitting in a dull lecture? Check social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook to see if there are conversations going on elsewhere that are more relevant to your organization’s needs.
Create meaningful connections.
A great perk of attending a conference is the incredible networking opportunities you will find there. Many professional conferences have networking events, but there are several ways to supplement or enhance these connections. Keep in touch with the contacts you made before the event via direct messages or in-app messaging (like Facebook messaging), to arrange in-person meetings. You can also check Twitter for tweets using the event hashtag and contact people who seem interesting or are discussing topics relevant to you. Finally, you can use social media sites like LinkedIn to research the interests and backgrounds of people you are meeting up with, which hopefully results in a more productive conversation.
Take helpful notes.
Conferences can be great learning experiences, but only if you are able to take the information back to your organization and put it to use. Share the information you gather on social media outlets so you can not only keep track of what you have learned, but also inspire others. Interesting or useful facts can spark thoughtful conversations if shared on a discussion group, forum, Facebook or Twitter. It also shows your volunteers, donors and the general public you are putting effort into enhancing the innovation and knowledge base of your organization, which is always a positive. Finally, by reading others’ posts about the conference, you can gain insights you may not have had otherwise.
Keep in touch.
Use social media after a conference to maintain contact with people you met. It can be much more effective and personal than if you simply exchange business cards. Interacting with contacts via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc, allows you to connect with them on a regular basis without much effort or time out of your schedule to meet face-to-face. Plus, follow-up is extremely important; it shows connections you are interested in maintaining a mutually beneficial relationship.
The idea of using social media may intimidate you if you have not had much experience using it. However, the tips I mentioned, combined with plenty of practice, should have you familiar with the tools in no time! Because while using social media to network can be work, it is certainly worth your while.