Finding People with Trade Show Social Media

Having been using tradeshow social media for the past few years, I wanted to expand my Post Tradeshow Checklist 401 and detail some of my thoughts.

I have to lead this with the idea that people and businesses follow some of the same rules in both the online world and real world.

If we apply search engine ideas to the real world, how people and conversations identify themselves, we can see some interesting connection points. This concept is a fundamental requirement in applying tactical use of tradeshow social media. Each type of person uses different terminology (keywords) to speak, every business has a different product pitch (the excerpt), and the primary goal of most attendees is the find the nugget of wisdom in the clutter (the search.)

Tradeshow Social Media 101
the basic math

The reality of effective tradeshow social media is research and strategy. Knowing your audience saves time and increases opportunity frequency.

Just think: if you attend two events each year, you have a handful of days to sift through hundreds of people and blindly figure out if you should be chatting to guy waiting in line or having another conversation.

If the average person you meet requires ten minutes to prospect, you can arguably go through fifty to sixty introductions in a day. A two day conference allows you to have 100 to 120 conversations if you spend a majority of your day networking (often hard to do.) If you have 500+ people at a conference to sift through, you have a slim chance of finding the handful of high-priority people.

Tradeshow Social Media 201
the basic reasons to attend

Think about how people migrate to events. We tend to “glob on” to the most popular or interesting people. The basis for most tradeshows is to have a handful of expert speakers on niche topics and to sell the collective brand of those experts to generate attendee tickets and demonstrator sponsorships.

Nearly every attendee will have a  primary reason to be at the event. These reasons often sound like:

  • I really want to meet X, they are a genius
  • Company ABC is releasing a nifty new product
  • My friend is going, so I will go
  • I went to every other one, so here I go again

Tradeshow Social Media 301
the value of sterotypes

While these may seem a little obvious, these primary categories of attendees define some interesting behaviors that reveal information in an online investigation.

I really want to meet X, they are a genius
Review the speaker list and select the two or three that are most likely attracting an audience you want to engage with. Go back a few steps and take a look if they have a blog or are using Linkedin/Twitter. Many times popular speakers will be engaged in conversation with fans that are planning to attend the show. These engaged fans often lead to clusters of attendees that can be pre-screened and categorized for your own personal networking efforts.

Company ABC is releasing a nifty new product
The release of a new product at an event gives you a chance to gather a tremendous amount of competitive information. This tactic may make some folk uneasy, but watching the crowd of interested attendees gather allows you to see how they react to the release, potentially question them about what they find most interesting, and pin-point decision makers who could be great business prospects.

My friend is going, so I will go
Groups, tribes, clans, associations… call them whatever you want, but realize that people LOVE to travel in groups. When discovering individuals, keep in mind that most of them represent tribes of people who are similar to them. Look for details about the tribe they represent, and ask questions about WHY they are attending.

I went to every other one, so here I go again
The “addicted attendee” is a virtual goldmine. The more frequently they have attended the easier it is to identify them online. If they fit within your target profile, you have a diamond. If they don’t fit within your target profile, they are the easiest way to find people who are. A quick phone call or email to these attendees can result in a coffee meeting before the event that can layout the roadmap to who you need to meet at the event.

Tradeshow Social Media 401
the metrics of conversation

With an idea of what types of people are attending and why, we can now get into the detail of finding a few of them.

Examine the event you are planning to attend.

  • Look at the speakers and sponsors.
  • Identify two or three keywords for each one that is relevant to you.
  • Use keyword research tools if you need to
    (some free ones SEObook, KWmap, Wordtracker)

Go to Google, Linkedin, and Twitter

Do a search for

  • the name of the conference
  • the name of the speakers
  • the name of the sponsors
  • any event hash tags or

Sift and prioritize the information

  • Create a spreadsheet of people talking about the conference.
  • Grade them in order of importance and relevancy to you.
  • Cluster like-minded individuals

Tradeshow Social Media Bonus
the reason to engage

Once you have done some of this research, you can quickly garner your share of the event exposure by becoming highly engaged in the conversation around it.

Most event and tradeshow personal have no interest in being involved in online conversation, and this hesitancy creates an opportunity for web savvy professionals to insert themselves between the event management and the attendees: often creating a “micro celebrity” who other attendees and prospects want to build a relationship with.

After processing the strategic components of this article, sit down and define important pieces of information that attendees are looking for. There is ample information available to create white papers, research documents, how-to guides, and additional event details.

If you can think of any other ideas for better usage of tradeshow social media, leave a tip below.