Last week, our local MPI Chapter produced its own version of the Learning Lounge developed for PCMA by our friends at Velvet Chainsaw. We called the program “Thinking Outside the Room: New Technologies for a Changing Industry.” It was orchestrated by the magical people at CornerstoneAV and I was invited to speak in one of the theaters about social media in the meetings industry. The audience consisted of both meeting planners and suppliers–mostly hoteliers. I don’t profess to be a social media expert myself. Like most everyone else, my knowledge on the subject is the culmination of many many hours of reading, listening and experimenting with social platforms. I do know about the mechanics of the meetings and trade show industry and how to apply social media principles to the marketing and promotion of event industry brands. Here are the “20 Tips in (Less Than) 20 Minutes” that I offered to session attendees last week.
- Develop a social media strategy. Even if all you do is scratch out a few bullet points onto a cocktail napkin, you need to decide ahead of time what your message is, what your goals are, who your audience is, and where your audience is.
- Follow your clients and prospects on social media channels. Create a list of the top 25 or 50 accounts (people) you want to have or keep as customers and follow them on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, or their blogs. The content they create will give you an idea about their needs and preferences so that you can be the person or company to come to the rescue when the time is right.
- Follow your competitors online. If they are doing nothing—you already have an immediate advantage. If they are doing something mediocre—you can do better. If they are doing a great job—you can do something equally brilliant or at least not anything like what they are doing.
- Look for someone needing help online and help them. It creates an impression among your followers that you are resourceful and builds “social capital.”
- Make sure your online profile is complete. Make it easy for your clients and prospects to reach you (include your telephone number and real email) and avoid being too clever or cryptic. I’d rather know that you can help me solve a problem than the fact that you love Maltese puppies and Good and Plenty candy.
- Select the best channels for your audience. Your customers may only be on Facebook or LinkedIn. Wherever they go, you should go.
- Spend two hours a day on social media tasks. Read your Alerts. Connect with 5 (valuable) people on LinkedIn. Read/send tweets. Jot down some bullet points for your blog. Post on your Facebook wall. Answer a question on Quora.
- Develop content continuously. Social media platforms don’t run themselves, your content powers them. Always be thinking about and/or working on your checklists, articles, blog posts, case studies, customer reviews/testimonials, and whatever else you can produce on a regular basis.
- Add social contact information for your clients and prospects to your sales and marketing database. Twitter handles, LinkedIn profile links, and Facebook company page URLs should be in the database alongside your customers’ names, addresses, and emails.
- Make yourself available to customers on social media channels. Let them know that they can tweet you, send you a message on Facebook, or mail you through LinkedIn.
- Put your social media contact information on your business cards. If you or your company are on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or a blog site, let your clients know.
- Make sure your content is shareable. Put share buttons on your Website, emails, blog posts, and any content your produce to increase readership.
- Share. Don’t sell. This is the mantra of social media content. If you want friends, respect, followers, and clients don’t be the person always hawking your product. Instead, solve a problem, share a resource, or provide assistance.
- Place different content on each channel. Use Twitter for short quips and to share links. Use Facebook for contests. Use LinkedIn to demonstrate your thought leadership. Use your blog for informative how-to information.
- Create your own personal brand on social media channels (with a disclaimer..”these ideas are my own and not my employer’s…) if your company chooses not to pursue social media marketing. Your brand is portable. Your following can land you another job some day.
- Find the new water coolers online and hang out there. The meetings industry has plenty: Engage365, Eventpeeps, #Eventprofs and #Meetingprofs on Twitter and tons of other groups on LinkedIn.
- Develop a personality online. I’m not saying find a gimmick. I’m just saying try to be memorable.
- Be deliberate about building your community. In addition to following your clients and prospects, try to be selective about the people you would like to have following you.
- Listen more than you “speak” online. This is solid Chris Brogan advice and it works. Spend a lot of time reading and thinking about the implications of what you read and hear.
- Blend your social media efforts with traditional media if that works for you. The two channels–social and traditional–are not mutually exclusive.
The Takeaway: The platforms are changing constantly but the strategy is the same. Find your voice. Go where your clients and prospects are. Ask them to follow you. Dazzle them with your generosity and brilliance.
Chris Requena says
Excellent info, Michelle! Thank you! We offer Plug, an events platform with mobile apps for networking and sharing on social media. Follow @PlugIntoEvents