How to Use Conferences and Events to Build Online Community
Many online community managers are taking advantage of the benefits of conferences. No longer stuffy professional events, today’s conferences provide educational experiences and ample opportunity for networking with current and potential community members. They’re also terrific for sharing tips and ideas with other community professionals.
You should attend conferences for a variety of reasons:
To interact with others in a niche. Suppose that your community is for professional writers. Attending events for writers, journalists, and bloggers enables you to interact with other writers and invite them to join your community. Not everyone you meet will want to become a member, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t walk away with at least a few signups after attending a conference.
When recruiting new members, watch out for being too sales-pitchy. The idea is to get to know the attendees and interact with them. Carry on a conversation and talk about what you do, while being careful not to make the discussion all about you and your brand. This can pique the interest of potential members who might ask for a business card or the web address for your community.
If you’re pushy about recruiting new members, all you’ll do is turn them off. By having a conversation and learning about potential members, while discussing what you do, you’re letting them make their own decisions — and there are sure to be some people who are intrigued enough to take your community for a test drive.
Your conversation doesn’t even have to be work-related. Meet people and chat, and you’ll find it all fall into place.
To find out more about a particular topic: Because you’re expected to provide discussion topics for your community and answer questions related to your niche, you should stay on top of the latest news and techniques. Definitely attend learning sessions to stay updated. Community members appreciate a knowledgeable community manager. If you’re viewed and talked about as someone who knows her stuff, you’re sure to attract new members.
To mingle with other community managers: Both online and offline communities, clubs, and groups are available for online community managers to network and share with their peers. Interacting with other community managers enables you to discuss methods for community management and commiserate on issues you all face. In addition to potentially becoming members’ of each others’ communities, you can also discuss ways to build your own networks.
To meet with their community: Members of your community may attend the same events as you. If so, do take time to say hello. They’ll appreciate your taking the time out, and you’ll find out more about the people who make up your community. Knowing as much as you can about your members is important for community growth and content and promotional strategies.
To work for their brands: Brands send community managers to industry-related events for many reasons. They want to educate their managers and have them evangelize the product or service. While there, they also hope to grow community.
For example, if your brand is a yarn company, attending a craft fair is a terrific way to meet the people who use or may use your products. Talk to them about their needs and learn about why they’re looking for in a brand, all while talking up your community.