In less than a week, the solar industry will converge on Las Vegas for three jam-packed days of sun worship. Not at the pool, but in the halls and among the exhibits at Solar Power International (SPI) 2014.
Brands big and small routinely lose out on a vast array of opportunities and lucrative connections at large conferences, because they have not yet implemented a strategy that puts them in multiple places at once. You can’t possibly see it all or meet everyone at North America’s largest solar trade show, but with a little help from a scout called Twitter, and a few simple tweeting skills, you can maximize your exposure.
While B2B activities on Twitter might seem like it’s just 100’s of people talking at each other, it’s conferences where Twitter really becomes invaluable. It’s your best source for latest news, must see sessions and which parties are worth showing up for. Twitter can bring the industry into your hands, put your voice on par with the biggest brands in the business, and dramatically improve your team’s ROI.
As you gear up for SPI 2014, here’s a list of our top 10 Twitter skills you can try out to make the show your most significant trip of your year. I’ve offered up some top examples for each, either from current SPI activity (#SPI2014) or from South By Southwest Eco (#SXSWEco), which I recently attended in Austin.
1. Start with a pre-party
The weeks leading up to SPI are often a whirlwind of preparation and deadlines. Regardless, get yourself into the habit of watching two SPI hashtags, #SPICon and #SPI2014 starting around October 16. Around this time, you’ll notice companies starting to announce their news for the show. A quick scan every other day will give you a good sense of what the show’s themes may be.
When you see news from a colleague or prospect, it’s a perfect excuse to reach out to them. Inquire if they’ll be attending the show, and see if you can set up a meeting. Even if you don’t know them!
@[handle]: Hi Rich I am at #SPI2014 Booth XXXX. We’ve talked on Twitter but never met – will be under the same roof tomorrow.
Additionally, use this time to retweet (RT) people you want to notice you and start brushing up on your posting power.
@GlennaWiseman: RT @RainaRusso: 4 football fields worth of walking at #SPICon that’s 10,000 steps a day easy! Win a Fitbit via @ibts_solar booth 5309 #SolarChat
2. Live tweet everyday
Once SPI starts, make a commitment to tweet from the show in real time. In social media marketing, we call this “Live Tweeting.” This activity can take many forms, but should start with your announcement on your feed that you’re traveling to SPI and why you’re excited. This heads-up post, gives your followers and others following the hashtag a chance to know that you’ll be there and connect with you.
@RainaRusso: See you there! RT @ibts_solar: We’re headed to Vegas, baby! Stop by booth 5309 at @SPIConvention Oct. 21-23 #SPIcon pic.twitter.com/hrQakNmklX
@lisapinkerton: There’s something magical about being at a conference the day before it starts.
The conventional live tweet from a session usually includes sounds bites from speakers and questions posed by the audience. I often use my session posts as a way of taking notes on the panel. Be careful not to just post the sound bites from speakers, as it’s so common that you’ll notice everyone doing it. You want to be unique and stand out, so that other people with retweet and follow you. So instead, try to build on the commented given, either by posing a question, a challenge or furthering the idea with your own insights.
@lisapinkerton: PicaSolar could save solar OEMs $140M in reduced silver use alone, + 15% increase in cell efficiency.
@AutoblogGreen: Brett Hauser from @greenlots: There have been some “colossal failures” because EV charging companies used proprietary systems. #sxsweco
On the exhibit floor:
As you wander the booths, take photos of things you think are cool, friends you run into or fun happenings. Post them on Twitter with your comment and where it happened, such as the booth number. If you see something you don’t like, there’s also an opportunity to tell the company via a post.
@austinECOdetail: Met Gabriel and his team #earth911 at #sxsweco last week. They had this super cool stool made of cork on display. pic.twitter.com/pi8coPEIbY
Corporate social media feeds are often managed by the marketing and public relations teams. So, done diplomatically, your comment will reach the people in the company who will care most about the company’s brand and reputation.
Regardless of how your posts shape up, always credit the speakers and companies either by adding their name in or their handle. And always remember to add the hashtag #SPI2014.
3. Party with your Tweeps
Networking on social media is a great way to build your brand and reach new people. But in person networking is where the real magic is. At the quarterly networking workshops I teach in San Francisco, I outline how one can seamlessly go from online networking to in person networking, and back to online as a way of extending networking time and opportunities.
Tweetups are sponsored happy hours where people who are active on Twitter meet each other face-to-face. Instead of meeting a group of strangers, Tweetups provide us with the opportunity to get to know better, people we already feel connected to. At SPI this year, there are two important Tweetups to hit:
- SPI Tweetup – October 22, 12-2pm
- #SolarChat’s Unplugged Solar Teams Rock – Oct 22, 8pm-10pm
4. Get your scan on
You can’t be everywhere are once. But Twitter can! Every morning, instead of looking at your usual news feeds, or playing that game you use to wake up in bed, scan the twitter hashtag. Within five minutes it would take you to review the replays of how your base got raided on Clash of Clans overnight, you’ll quickly get up to speed on the coming day at SPI. Also, at this time take a moment to post something about what you’re looking forward to, as another way of giving the SPI community a chance to meet you and connect with you.
5. Smart follow
Using Twitter at conferences, when the majority of your industry is paying attention, whether or not they are at the show, is a great way to build your audience. As a rule, you should follow everyone that follows you, as long and as much as you want to. When you do get a new follower, thank them for following you.
If people are using the hashtag, there’s a high likelihood they have some influence in solar and following them could add to your overall clout. So, at shows it’s advisable to follow people using the hashtag. They in turn may choose to follow you, and before you know it, you’ll have grown your following by at least 10-20 percent by the end of the conference.
Following those that follow you is just one part of interaction. The next step is to add to the conversation, either by retweeting what they have posted (indicated by RT in the post) or by modifying a person’s tweet and adding MT. You can also reply to a post and add your own insights, questions or comments.
This is where the interaction can take on a life of its own and lead to incredible networking opportunities you might not have had otherwise, both at the event and long after it’s over. You can even invite other people you know would have interest in a topic into the conversation by adding their handles in your posts. Twitter will notify them, depending on their account settings. Do this in compelling way and voilà, you have yourself a bona-fide social media networking moment that can be taken off line for more in-depth interaction.
7. Review sessions and parties in the moment
Let’s face it, no matter how hard organizers try, some sessions are just boring, and some parties are just a flop. Wouldn’t you like to know that before you get to the location, or warn other before they meet your fate? Well, Twitter is an excellent vehicle for that.
When you’re in a session that’s dragging on without much substance, use Twitter to see what sessions other people are posting about. You can save yourself valuable session time by leaving ones that aren’t working for ones that are. The same thing goes for parties and happy hours.
You can also use Twitter to bring more people to something good. Don’t be afraid to post that a session is impressive, making sure to share the room number. Additionally, if you find yourself at a bouncing party, spread the love on Twitter. Make sure you credit the sponsors of the event, so that if others can’t get there before it’s over the organizers get your kudos, which is a goodwill gesture that helps to elevate their brand.
AndreaLearned: Fun @triplepundit party last night @CliveBarATX – thanks @nickaster and gang. #sxsweco
8. Make it visual
Thoughtful insights are critical to building your Twitter brand. However, well-selected photos and videos will often spread the message of your brand further than words can. People love images and videos. We love to look at them and share them.
When people retweet your multi-media, your handle (@yournamehere) gets added to the post and you get the credit. You may find a comment retweeted once or twice, while an image or video gets many more shares. A note of caution, before you share a photo or video, be sure to ask others in the moment if it’s okay. If they say yes, be sure to add their handles as well.
9. Give credit where credit is due
In the other steps, we touched on how selecting the retweet symbol in your Twitter app will automatically add the handle of the person you are retweeting into your post. Twitter also offers an “edit retweet” function in case you want to modify the tweet. Often we do this to add additional insights or if the original tweet was too long.
However, some people will use the “edit retweet” function to remove the handle of the person who originated the tweet as a way of claiming it as their own. This is not how you build a supportive community and people will notice if you try this too much. They might even call you out on it, publicly; I have. Keep your ego at bay and give credit where credit is due. Sometimes, when a post becomes too long, because of the RT handle(s) at the beginning, it’s advisable to add them to the end with the word “via” indicating where you got the information. This step can save you precious characters.
This also goes to crediting speakers and companies. You can use the search function in Twitter to learn if companies or people have twitter handles already and add them to your post. While you’re at it, you should follow them too. They will get your notification that you mentioned them and it helps you build a positive relationship with them over time.
10. Stay in the moment
One trick about live tweeting is that we pay too much attention to creating our posts, watching the hashtag feed or responding to alerts we get on our phone, because it’s right in front of us. Speakers certainly like to see their names and opinions trending on social media, but they also like an attentive audience. You can miss critical information when you are too busy multi-tasking. Therefore, try to keep your live posts to an average of one per ten minutes. This will help you keep your attention on the session and retaining the most amount of information possible. Additionally, it will keep your feed from dominating the hashtag as people are following it.
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