How B2B Companies Can Leverage Events to Build Awareness

Last week, my ability to navigate London was put to the test as I attended four different events across the city. Luckily, I was able to be at most of the activities I needed and wanted to see, and attending them made me think of ways B2B marketers can take advantage of events — either by attending or hosting.

Aaron Pearson and I have written here about the importance of face-to-face time. Here is his post from SXSW. Today, digital helps us bridge the chasm of actually attending events in person by following the social stream, but they both have their advantages and disadvantages.

How are you turning your events into opportunities?
How are you turning your events into opportunities?

Here are some of my thoughts based on last week’s frenzy of events.

Twitter. Keeping on top of events via Twitter in particular can be very beneficial, but there are always limits and challenges. It was very helpful for me to follow the streams from multiple events while I was moving between them last week, but unless there is a regular stream of tweets it becomes difficult. Here are some ideas that I’ve found to be useful:

  • If you want your event to stand out (or if you want to stand out during an event) then make sure you are posting good content. Re-tweeting and adding favorite tags help, but most people are looking for content, so be prepared ahead of any conference and know what you plan to post and when; think of this as your Twitter editorial calendar.
  • If you are adding thoughts into the Twitter stream don’t just think about adding content from the event, but think about the messages and content you already have that can complement the event and topic. We did this effectively last week around a number of our key activities — both talking about the event but then also adding relevant links to information (e.g., research, job openings, blog posts).
  • What makes this easy to do via Twitter is the ability to hashtag each tweet. While hashtags are a great way to join conversations on Twitter and to search for information, I’ve found more than once that some events suddenly have multiple hashtags (which make it difficult to follow) and hashtags can be hijacked as well. Here are some excellent ideas and examples on how to create a useful hashtag.
  • Finally, I like the use of Twitter streams mostly for connecting with people that I either want to meet up with later or follow. If you are managing a B2B event think of ways you can use Twitter to not only push out content but also to connect people at the event and following your activities.

Video. If possible, live-streaming sessions or even having a few of them available to watch after always makes for a good marketing strategy. Last week’s FT Digital Media 2013 Conference did just that, and you can register and view four of the sessions from last week. One thing I noticed in particular among the scores of tweets was that there was very little use of Vine (Here’s my Vine from the FT Digital Media event). The challenge, of course, is that Vine is very limited (six seconds), but thinking of creative ways to use them throughout your event may provide additional ways to promote certain aspects of your initiative. I also found the use of Skype at The Economist Bellwether event a really interesting way to have participation from one speaker who could not attend be interviewed following a panel discussion. This can be a very risky option, but the quality of the video and discussion made it very good on this occasion.

Photography. Another useful way to bring people into your event is through either the use of event photography. The Economist has posted a number of photos onlinealready showcasing speakers and attendees. There were also several Twitpics from people during the event. At the FT Digital Media event there was a live Flickr stream of photos being posted as well as participants posting their own Instagrams and Twitpics. In addition to Twitter, using a social resource like Instagram can give your event more exposure as you can share those photos across multiple platforms. Images provide another way to bring people into your event and visually tell a story, so think about how you can add these to your B2B arsenal.

Networking. The true benefit of conferences ends up in the face-to-face time. I was able to be at our conference booth for both the events at City Week and Profit & Loss and each one allowed me the opportunity to talk with conference participants. If you attend events for your company where you have a booth I encourage you to always take time to play a part in working at it. It’s not as easy as you think and you never know who you may meet. In addition, planning the right types of networking events for participants remains a very valuable part of any event. No matter how large or small of a conference or event you are managing, you should make it a priority to connect people.

Website. One thing that is frustrating by trying to follow an event online is going to the event site and seeing nothing updated. Simple things like adding a Twitter stream and photos are helpful, but more importantly add special announcements, news and links to helpful resources. You want to make sure that you are leveraging your site to keep attendees and non-attendees up to date. Ideally, think of your site as the hub for your event.

Event management is an area where I think social media has really changed the landscape for B2B marketers. Unfortunately, I think they are often an afterthought as communicators chase blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn and other platforms to tell their story. But events can be a great tool for connecting people to your brand and driving further awareness across both the digital and analog worlds. If you are simply attending or planning to host your next B2B conference, hopefully you will think slightly different about ways to make it more relevant and personal for your stakeholders.