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The HIMSS Networking Advice I Wish I Would Have Had Two Decades Ago

The HIMSS Networking Advice I Wish I Would Have Had Two Decades Ago

With HIMSS19 right around the corner, my team and I are excited about networking with current and prospective clients, reconnecting with old friends and colleagues, and facilitating meetings with the best healthcare and health IT media and analysts in the business.

Even though HIMSS is a few days long, sometimes it seems like there aren’t enough hours in each day to accomplish everything you need and want to get done. With about 20 HIMSS annual meetings under my belt, I’ve learned a few networking strategies along the way to get the most marketing ROI possible from the time we all invest.

Whether you’re taking part in HIMSS19 as a vendor/exhibitor or individual attendee, here are some tips to make the most of your HIMSS networking opportunities:

Face time

Even if you’re tired after a long day of meetings, be sure to take advantage of the many face-to-face networking events at HIMSS. Meeting with other health IT execs in a more informal setting is a great way to make personal connections—which in turn can become strong business relationships.

Pro tip: Find common ground and talk about something interesting or fun related to the show.

Pitch perfect

Whether you’re meeting contacts on the exhibit hall floor, in your company’s booth, or at a networking event, remember that there’s a fine line between promoting yourself and being overly self-promotional.

One way to talk about your organization is to come prepared with a well-honed elevator pitch. This is a two- to three-sentence description of your company that’s simple, easy to understand, and memorable. Don’t get bogged down in jargon and technical specs. Explain your product or service in laymen’s terms.

At our agency, every elevator pitch must pass the “Connie’s mother’s test.” In other words, if you explained your story to your friend’s mother or neighbor would they understand it? If not, you probably need to modify it.

If you’re an executive who’s meeting with media and analysts, that’s good advice for those situations, too. Talk to them just as you would anyone else you meet at the show. Be friendly, be yourself, and don’t be overly self-promotional. You want to position yourself as an industry thought leader, which means that sometimes the conversation will turn toward wider industry trends rather than specific solutions.

Pro tip: If you serve multiple client bases that use your products and services in different ways, come armed with an elevator pitch for each. They need not be completely different, but should speak to the pain points of the person you’re talking to.

The social network

Although you shouldn’t ignore social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram, you’ll likely get the most exposure by engaging with other attendees on Twitter. If you want to establish yourself as a thought leader, I suggest living tweeting from the show. A simple comment on what you learned about a session, or something interesting you saw or heard on the show floor makes for good fodder.

If you want to tweet but you’re on a tight schedule, one tactic is to retweet influencers such as the HIMSS Social Media Ambassadors and trade media with a heavy presence at the show. Also consider engaging with anyone who is effectively using the conference hashtag #HIMSS19, as well as any of the other official HIMSS19 hashtags such as #Aim2Innovate, #ChampionsOfHealth, #Connect2Health, #EmpowerHIT, #Engage4Health, #HITworks, #PopHealthIT and #WomenInHIT. (When you look at the conference hashtag feeds, be sure the list is sorted by “top” rather than “most recent” to filter out some of the noise.)

You should always be authentic, and it’s great to choose tweets that resonate with your own brand. But it’s okay to retweet something interesting or funny even if it isn’t 100 percent “on message.” In fact, many attendees scroll right by posts from vendors that only tweet their sales pitch and booth number. Of course, you should post links to your own blog posts, company announcements, events and promotions. But it’s always better to join a conversation rather than trying to dominate it.

You may want to also consider taking a team approach to your conference tweets. Platforms such as TweetDeck make it easy to post from multiple accounts at once, including your personal account and those of your team members as well as your official company account.  This is a great time to follow new influencers and to engage with them to get likes, retweets and (hopefully) new followers.

Pro tip: If you have a few extra moments, you can personalize a retweet by choosing “quote tweet” and adding a brief comment to make it stand out even more.

Go beyond the big show

Trade shows are a fantastic opportunity to connect with potential clients and business partners as well as analysts and the media, but if you fail to follow up, you’ve missed a key opportunity.

Too often, attendees collect business cards, only to toss them in a drawer once they get home. You can use an app that turns cell phone snaps of business cards into text files or make photocopies of them. Send those to your marketing team so they can add them into your prospect list, and don’t forget to connect on LinkedIn.

Pro tip: Write some details about the person you met on the back of their business cards as soon as you can, so you have context when you follow up.

Remember to have fun

Any large conference can be busy and overwhelming. Planning ahead will help, whether it’s deciding which network events to attend, having the official conference social hashtags at your fingertips, or making plans to meet long-distance contacts for a quick cup of coffee.

I’m looking forward to the show and hope to see many familiar and new faces in Orlando! Here’s to a great HIMSS!

Tips for Social Media Success

For many, social media is a mysterious beast. In part because it’s such a new means of communication, but also because the primary social media platforms we all use and love – Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter – can feel like a sea of noise in which developing best practices to engage human users (as opposed to the spam bots) inherently brings with it some challenges. That said, social media marketing in today’s world is a must if you want to engage potential clients, spread the word about what your company is doing, and support your brand with a robust online presence.

Social media marketing best practices, based on measuring trends from those who have seen success, are only now developing. If you think about it, social media is the only communication medium that everyone reading this blog can remember a world without – yet, now it’s nearly impossible to imagine what news, public relations, branding and marketing would look like without it.

Your business needs a social media presence to stay competitive. But, you want to make sure to do it right, lest you risk becoming one of those accounts people ignore – or worse, block completely. Below are five tips for success on any social media platform, as well as information on all-too-common habits to avoid.

Don’t use social media as a soapbox

I have worked in public relations, marketing and branding for a number of years, and this is the most common mistake organizations make. It’s OK to promote yourself on social media, even directly. But, only about 1/3 of the content you post should ever be obviously self-promotional in nature.

The bulk of what is posted on your social media profiles should be third-party content that covers the gamut of what your organization is all about – the services you offer and the issues you’re intimately involved in – in an effort to solidify a “soft” association without being overtly promotional.

It’s awesome to be proud of your company’s solutions and brand image. But, brazen promotion on social media should be kept to a minimum. Unfortunately, no one who isn’t already supporting the work your organization does is interested solely in your brand. The subtle promotion that comes from linking to a good article, or commenting more generally on a specific topic, is what will lure people to follow your profile on social media and share the content they find, which in turn fuels further interest in your organization.

Remember, the goal of social media is largely to get others to promote your organization, and accomplishing that means posting content that is likely to be read and shared. A tweet that acts as an ad is not likely to have that effect, but a link to a great article from a reputable source is going to see some engagement, especially if you add a meaningful comment to the mix.

Know your brand, maintain your voice

The companies in any industry – including healthcare technology – have a wide variety of “voices” they express through their branding. Maybe your organization has a fun, casual image; or perhaps it is the serious type who wants to focus on education. There are no wrong answers. Unless, of course, there’s an issue with consistency.

It’s OK to join in on trending conversations and talk about current events, but you want to be mindful of the tone present in a social media post to ensure each post is supplementing the brand image you want the public to associate with your organization. If your organization has a professional business image and uses social media to highlight social issues, tweeting “Tom Brady is the GOAT! #SuperBowl” is definitely not a good idea, for a variety of reasons.

Sending out a post about the Super Bowl to join a larger conversation is acceptable for any organization, as it’s always good to remind people there are very real people behind corporate walls. However, this should be done in a way that is in harmony with everything else your organization posts on social media, and joining in on trending topics should be done without being controversial and inflammatory. Most importantly, avoid slang and “Internet speak” whenever possible, as this will be seen as disingenuous by those who follow your profile, especially if most of the content you post is of a serious nature.

Don’t #abuse #the #hashtag

If you can naturally fit a #hashtag into a sentence, do it. But never rewrite a good post just to shove some extra hashtags in there. Not only does this fail to fool the automated algorithms that rank posts for display when a certain hashtag is clicked, but you risk looking like spam.

If you’ve been on Twitter recently, you know it’s overrun with spam bots and fake accounts that exist only to gain impressions. Don’t find your organization wrongly associated with that plague by overdoing the hashtags or adding off-topic hashtags to your posts. It won’t work.

Stick with one or two hashtags per post, and if you can’t put them into a sentence without forcing the issue, simply add them to the end, and separate hashtags from your primary message with a “|” whenever possible. For example, “#Ransomware is getting cleverer, not to mention more frightening. This one turns PCs into evil clowns! (Link) | #Cybersecurity”. The hashtag at the end is relevant to post and fine to include, and we avoid a “cluttered” look by separating it with a vertical line.

As for developing custom hashtags for self-promotion: These are crucial to better understanding what people are saying about your organization on social media and driving your own trends. However, the same rules above still apply – don’t overdo it, and make sure hashtags are relevant and fit cleanly into every post.

Avoid private and direct messages

The real title of this tip should probably read “be a social media user yourself,” because if you use social media, you know that direct messages are almost always spam. And regardless of how a private message is worded to a follower, it will be seen as an annoyance.

The act of opening a message box takes away from the natural flow of social media, where someone scrolls on their phone to read a variety of messages. It’s frustrating to have to have to open a box just to make an alert notification go way, especially since 90 percent of the time doing so is going to result in being subjected to spam.

This is not to be confused with an “@” message or a tagging another profile. These practices are fine. Sending someone a message of “thanks” for a follow, or including a media outlet’s Twitter handle when sharing a link to their content, is a great idea. In fact, it’s often the best way to garner more engagement. But, stay away from private messages completely. Since these can’t be shared with others on social media and are such a nuisance, there are few good arguments for sending them.

Engagement is key

Direct and private messages may be a bad idea, but engaging your followers is crucial to success. You want your organization’s profile to feel as if an actual person is behind the keyboard making the posts, and doing that can be as simple as “liking” a reply from a follower, or acknowledging when someone tags your profile by offering a quick “@(Name) Thank you.”
Honestly, little touches like this go a long way in keeping followers and encouraging people to visit your profile, click links, and engage your posts. It fuels a personal connection between followers and your social media profile, one that contains the human touch necessary to make that connection meaningful.

Your engagement level needs to match or exceed that of your profile’s followers. As mentioned previously, social media is loaded with fake accounts and spam bots (Twitter in particular).
Social media users are numb to superficial engagement, such as a tweet directed at them that contains an ad. Avoid that practice.

When you engage followers, keep promotion out of it. And most important of all, if people are directing questions, comments, and concerns towards your profile – answer them. Social media connects the world in a way that is slowly replacing phone support and written feedback.

People like when your organization responds to them, engages them, and interacts with them on a person-to-person basis. Never doubt the power of a reply or a quick acknowledgment of a message, as they could be the key to separating your organization from all of the noise on social media and building a strong presence on any platform.