Monday, April 14, 2014

Social Media Monday—Get More out of a Writers conference by Plugging in with Social Media Before it Starts

by Edie Melson

Many writers have the mistaken idea that social networking is only beneficial online. Or that it only helps when you can’t be at an event. Not true.

While it’s true that social networking can help you plug in when you’re not at a conference or event—many miss the benefits of networking online before the conference begins.

Here are just a few of the benefits you’ll find:
  • The ability to connect with others who’ll also be attending the conference. This can make coming to a huge event more like a reunion than a reason for anxiety medicine.
  • The chance to find out what industry professionals are looking for in advance. It can also give you the opportunity to find out the way the interact with others and even some of their pet peeves.
  • The opportunity for the faculty, staff, and other attendees to get to know you in a positive way. If you take the time to introduce yourself online and interact, you can already be ahead of the game when it comes to being remembered after the conference is over.
  • The inside scoop. It’s an unwritten rule that the bigger the conference, the more last minute changes occur. You can be one of the first to know what’s happening and already have a plan in place before most of the attendees know what’s happening.
So how do you make these valuable pre-conference connections? There are several ways and I recommend you use as many as you have time for. Not everyone is on all the social networks, so utilizing more than one can give you better results.

The very first place to start is on the conference website. As a conference director myself, I’m always amazed at the number of people who don’t take advantage of the resources we have on our site. It will definitely make you stand out in a good way if you take the time to read the info on the site.

So what info is valuable for social networking?
  • First and foremost the conference blog. Frequently there’ll be guest posts from faculty with extra, valuable information. There also may be posts about the culture of the conference. By that I mean the expectations of those on staff and attending. What is the expected attire of attendees, are there any special events that require or expect attendees to dress up, even how many people will be there.
  • e-Loops. These are email loops that provide the opportunity for attendees to interact with each other and/or the staff and faculty. Some conferences have different loops for different genres, others have one general loop, and still others offer something for first-time attendees. You’ll never know what’s available unless you look.
  • Conference Facebook Page. This is another opportunity to connect with attendees and faculty. Be sure to Like the page to take advantage of all the networking options.
  • Conference Twitter Account.  This is a great account to follow on Twitter because of the information that can be gleaned. You’ll also be able to find out what the conference #Hashtags are. (A hashtag is a number sign in front of a group of letters, numbers, and/or words. There are no spaces within a hashtag  and this designation makes the hashtag searchable anywhere within the Twitter universe.)
  • Faculty Page. On this page you should be able to find the websites and blogs of the faculty. Or, if they’re not listed, you’ll at least get the correct spelling to make your own research easier. 
So once you’ve exhausted the info on the conference site, then what? Why it’s on the faculty and staff. Here’s what to look for:
  • Blogs and Websites: I start here because this is where most people go to find out about the faculty of a conference. Read the blogs and leave comments. The comments section is also a good place to eavesdrop and find other commenters who’ll be attending the conference.
  • Facebook: Most people who have a blog have a way to connect with them on Facebook there. I don’t recommend you make professional relationships by Friending someone (requesting they become your friend on Facebook) but rather by Following their personal page or Liking their professional page. You can comment on things they post their and continue the conversation you started on their blog. Once again, don’t neglect to notice who else is on there and whether or not they’ll be attending the conference.
  • Twitter: With Twitter, the etiquette is slightly different so it’s a good idea to find all the faculty and Follow them on Twitter. It’s always a compliment to be mentioned on Twitter, so spread the word about blog posts and comments that have helped you.
  • Google Plus, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc: All of these are good secondary routes to network prior to a conference, but I recommend them as a second line strategy rather than the first things you go to.
While all of these things take time, they can exponentially increase the value of a single event. You’re spending good money to go a conference, take the time to get everything you can from it.

I'd love to know how you use social media to plug in before a conference. You can share your answers below.

Don't forget to join the conversation!


  1. Edie, thank you for this great reminder. With last year being my first at Blue Ridge, social media helped me out in a great way. I was able to meet several of the attendees. I was even able to get help with preparing my class schedule all from social media! Thank you for this invaluable info. Love you!

    1. Jamie, social media is a valuable tool and we shouldn't forget to use it! Blessings, E

  2. I attended a conference for conservative writers and bloggers a few years ago. It was my first experience with tweeting during conference sessions. What a blast! Especially since we were in the same building with a liberal writer's conference (this was intentional). We were bombing each other's hashtags. All good clean fun...most of the time. I plan on tweeting and posting on a Goodreads YA board while I'm at conference this year. My potential readers may find it interesting. We'll see!

    1. Ron, that does sound like fun! And I love that you'll be tweeting to Goodreads. That's a GREAT way to use social media! Blessings, E