Although I learned a lot from the Online Marketing Conference, the purpose of this blog is to speak about my personal experiences covering a live event. I want to share with you the top three lessons I learned.
Lesson 1: Know your audience
As a business owner, you probably attend a variety of events, whether it is for the industry or for your community. For tire dealers, having a lot of coverage at a show like SEMA will have information that your followers on social media and your customers in the store would want to know or see. Case in point, I am sure you have customers who like cars. There were tons of cars on display at SEMA that your followers might want to see.
The best advice I have is to know your audience. If you are attending SEMA or some other industry event, think about what information your customers would care about. Maybe even let them know you are going beforehand and speak to them about what they want to see. You can definitely post on your social media sites that you are planning to attend the show and you also can speak to your customers about it in the stores. This can also encourage them to follow you on Facebook or Twitter if they know that you will be posting live.
Some of the seminars that run at conferences are not specifically about an industry, but information that can be used across the board. This is information that your audience might want to know about, too. For instance, press conferences held by industry associations are something that me as a tire reporter or you as a tire dealer, might want to attend to keep are up-to-date on our industry. A seminar on how to deal with difficult people — Maria Grande led this section and is featured in this week's NewsPoint — might be something that your customers would like to know about. I think it's safe to say that everyone, at least once in their life, has dealt with a difficult person. Whether it was in customer service or not, this is a topic everyone can relate to.
So whether it is a show like SEMA, or something more local that you are attending, think about who your audience is and what kind of information they want to know about. Is there something that you, as a business owner, found interesting? That could be informative for another business owner who is your customer. Is there something that you thought was awesome? Other people might be interested in that, too. That should be one of your focuses.
Lesson 2: Even the best laid plans might not work out
Having a social media plan before entering any kind of live coverage is important. Even if it's just a plan of how much you are going to post. If you know you are going to be attending a session that would be informative for a lot of your followers, give yourself a number of Tweets, Facebook posts, or whatever your social media site of choice is. Have objectives to meet. If you attend that seminar, set a goal, like at least five tweets per session. Twitter is a fast-paced site and great for real-time coverage. Check to see what kinds of hashtags are being used at the conference — like #SEMA2013 or #SEMAShow — and make sure you are tagging that to expand your visibility.
One other tip: If you are attending a session that you plan to tweet from, check if the speaker is on Twitter. These days, if they are, they will probably have their "handle"—their username— in their contact information that is listed on the PowerPoint or you can ask them. Mentioning them can help expand both their reach and yours because you will be making that connection through the session.
Having a plan is helpful and will help keep you on track. Having some fresh ideas for your sites will help you see what works and what does not. With that said, probably not everything you do is going to be successful.
Maybe you want to run a photo contest or want to find a new way to interact with people; sometimes it is going to work and sometimes it will not. You will never know until you try.
As long as you always keep in mind that you operate a business, thus you are representing your brand on social media, and remember who your audience is, then trying new things is good. It also helps you learn what works best for your brand and what ideas just are not cutting it.
Lesson 3: Even when things get hectic, don't forget about social media
Live coverage can take up a lot of time, especially if you keep thinking of it as "one more thing" you have to do.
Sometimes it's mind over matter. Yes, long days can be exhausting. Maybe you feel like there is so much going on, and so much information to digest, that you don't know where to start posting from events, so you give up. Here's what I learned. Having Twitter and Facebook apps on my phone let me take social media with me wherever I go. At SEMA I was able to tweet whenever I found something really interesting and thought my audience would, too. I was able to get this out right away. If I would have had to wait to get to a computer to be able to share everything I wanted to, I might have not been able to remember everything I wanted to say.
This also helped because I could tweet or post on Facebook all the photos that I would be taking anyway. If you are stopping to take a picture of something that others would like to see, then take that one extra step to post it to your social media sites.
If you do not have a Smartphone that allows you to have an app on your phone, but you still want to be able to tweet as you go, then you can set up your Twitter account with your text messaging.
If this is still not something you are comfortable with, then speak to the other people on your team. Maybe elect one person to do most of the tweeting for the business while you are at the event. If you are already breaking down who would stay at the booth if you have one, or who is going to what seminar, maybe it'll make sense for your company to have someone manning the live coverage, too.
Everyone can do a little since everyone is going to different parts of the conference, but you have to figure out what works best for your team.
Basically, I learned that social media at an event gets the information out immediately to my followers. I was able to interact with all different kinds of people—both those who were at the show and were at home—because I was posting regularly during my time at SEMA. This is the type of interaction that makes social media special and if you are not participating, then you could be missing out on some great opportunities.