I’m usually a pretty extroverted person when it comes to meeting new people, but when I’m at a conference where I don’t know anyone, I feel awkward when I try to make new connections. I can’t even imagine how hard it would be to create and nurture new professional relationships in person if I was truly introverted. Just this last weekend I attended Serious Business in New Orleans and had this exact experience. I was able to introduce myself and network with less than a handful of people (most of whom I was sitting beside in different classes). I really felt like I was missing out on a whole lot of interacting because most attendees were there with their salon team and it felt difficult to respectfully break into a conversation.
So instead of missing out on all the networking I could be having, I used social media, particularly Instagram, to connect and engage with presenters and other participants.
I’ve made you a short list of how to use Instagram to break into a new professional social circle without feeling awkward, plus use it to create awareness for your business.
Before The Event:
1) Take a look at your favourite companies attending the conference & follow as many of the speakers & vendors as you can. This saves you time trying to find their Instagram accounts while your at the show.
2) If you know you will be using certain hashtags throughout the event, use the NOTES app on your phone, enter those hashtags and save. When you are ready to post, simply copy & past from your notes into your caption and you’re ready to post on the fly with lots of relevant hashtags!
3) If you are an employee, ask your salon or spa owner if they have a hashtag they would like you to use to help bring awareness to the business. You can also create your own hashtag to brand yourself as a service provider.
4) If you are a salon owner, and you don’t have a brand hashtag…start figuring that out now. Be sure to research before making a final decicion…some hashtags could be darn-right embarrassing!
5) A few weeks before the show, begin telling your clientele that you will be live-posting from the conference and ask them for a follow. You should already have your social media information posted around the salon at stations, change rooms/bathrooms, reception and in your newsletters.
At The Event:
6) Post images that is consistent with your brand, your personal interests and images that inspire you. Use a photo app like WordSwag to create your own quotes when you are in between classes.
7) Leverage your Instagram reach by connecting your account to your Facebook and Twitter account and share your post with both.
8) Search Instagram using the conference hashtag to find other participants using Instagram (and other social media). By following their account, liking or commenting on their posts, it is probable to get a ‘follow back’. This is a great way to network if you are shy!
9) Use Instagram video to capture the real feel of the show.
10) "Thank you’s" are always appreciated! When you are taking a class, post a pic of some of your notes, a shot of the room or an image of a slide that really resonates with you and include a “Thanks @______!”. The presenter will probably be checking their social media afterwards and you may be able to make a personal connection to a thought leader in your industry by tagging their handle!
Bonus Tip: Another great social media platform to use during a conference is LinkedIn. If you don’t have your LinkedIn address on a business card, be sure to post it in your social media profiles for attendees and new colleagues to find you on a business-to-business platform.
I had a fantastic time while at Serious Business and I didn’t let my shyness and lack of previous connections keep me from meeting new contemporaries. Now, I have a whole year to nurture these new relationships online and will have a much easier time networking in person at next years event.
The boring definition of networking means “interacting with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one's career”. I prefer to think of it as creating and nurturing my professional relationships…and as a beauty service provider, we are great at that!
Will I see you in Vancouver, BC Canada for the ESI Spa Show on February 15th & 16th? Let's connect before the conference!