Today my friend and former colleague Nancy Holtzman from Isis Parenting asked me for some advice on navigating a blogger conference when you’re a marketer. She’s attending the Blissdom blogging conference with her marketing hat on, hoping to make some connections on behalf of her (fabulous) brand. (She’s a blogger too, and a Twitter fanatic to boot.)
I know first-hand that it can be a little awkward to attend a blogging conference when you’re a brand/blogger/marketer/notsurewhatIam. Overall, mom blogging conferences like Blissdom, Mom 2.0 and BlogHer are fantastic places to learn and network on behalf of your brand. And you are absolutely not alone. Brands, PR reps, mompreneurs, book authors and other brand/blogger morphs abound at blogging conferences.
Here are some of the tips I shared with Nancy:
1. Unless you are a conference sponsor, don’t hand out company literature, brochures, or swag items like hats, t-shirts or pens (okay, maybe one pen is fine, but only if someone asks for one). This is called “suitcasing” and it’s against the rules. Don’t leave any of that stuff on the tables either. It’s not cool, looks bad for your brand and it could get you kicked out of the conference.
2. Bring lots of business cards. A ton. A whole box. Hand one to everyone you meet. Deal them out like playing cards at every table. Don’t be shy. This is the the acceptable, legitimate way to share your contact information.
3. Come up with a filing system for the cards that you collect. Some people bring zipper pouches, binders, or those cute little boxes from Moo. Did you meet someone you absolutely positively need to follow-up with? Jot a note on their card and set it aside in a special spot. Collecting a card just to be polite? Set aside a catch-all area for those cards so they don’t dilute your pile of important contacts. [Bonus tip: Once you’ve amassed a pile of business cards, use a business card scanning app for your smartphone to scan all of that contact info into your address book.]
4. Tweet sparingly from your company account. Mom blogging conference attendees use Twitter like a text messaging platform. It’s easy and fun to connect with fellow attendees with the conference hashtag, and you’ll find yourself using Twitter to ask a friend to meet you by the elevator after the morning keynote. Try not to clutter your company twitter feed with conference tweets – instead, use a personal Twitter account. Make sure your personal Twitter bio mentions your position at the company and the company’s Twitter handle. That will help you maximize Twitter networking while not alienating your company’s fans (most of whom will have no idea what the conference tag/chatter is all about).
5. Restrain yourself in the expo area. You’re human, so when you get a load of the conference swag at mom blogging conferences, you’re gonna want a piece of that. Who wouldn’t? But restrain yourself. Walking out of the expo area with an armful of vibrators might not be a great idea. Conference sponsors pay big money to shower products on influential mom bloggers, not fellow marketers. And whatever you do, don’t share your business cards with sponsors in the expo area. Doing so will put you on the email list of dozens of PR firms, from which your inbox may never recover.
6. Follow-up after the conference with personal messages. For your most valuable contacts, individual personal emails is the best way to follow up. Refer to a conversation you had, or a session you both attended. Your personal message will stand out amongst the dozens of canned “Dear Blogger” emails that will surely fill her inbox post-conference.
Any other tips to share with marketers attending blogging conferences? Share them in the comments.