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Our recent attendance at the SXSW Interactive conference was a great reminder of all of the ways you can keep your audience engaged using social media. The folks at SXSW used these tips masterfully, and we used some of them ourselves. Although all business events are not of the scale as a SXSW, we thought we would share them with our audience as you consider your participation in future events.

Before the Conference

Market through Twitter using hastags – There were many going around for SXSW – #SXSW, #SXSWi, #FreeSXSW for free events in particular.  Hashtags allow people who are planning to attend your event to use sites like Twitter to search for activities surrounding it. Then, those who are excited about attending the events can tweet them out to their friends in anticipation.

Create a Facebook Event

Generate some excitement by inviting your business Likes, friends and colleagues to your own Facebook Event. Add information like special speakers for the events, menus, etc. Get people to join the event there, and then register using a registration tool, which we will get to next.

Find out what the top website is that is being used to invite people, and list your event there – We like Eventbrite. Others are Tweetvite and Eventful.

We like to use sites like Eventbrite to register people for events. And we use the similarly named Eventful and Tweetvite to get the word out on the web. You can use one or a combination of the two. Just register and let everyone know about it.

During the Conference

Do everything you can to keep your audience engaged through social media.

That may mean tweeting from the conference, or blogging from there, and hopefully both. Try to keep your audience involved with tidbits of information, conference culture and cool happenings. And of course, at the conference, you want to encourage others to tweet out the information shared.

Have a contest in order to get more Likes and Followers

This usually means offering some sort of giveaway at the conference for people who Like you on Facebook or Follow you on Twitter.  We gave away Android Tablets to a few people who signed up to become an Ambassador of SocialToaster in a random drawing. The giveaways should suit both your needs and your audience, so approach them generously.

Monitor mentions in social media about interactions with your company

Of the tips mentioned here, this may be the most important. We suggest you set up a system for monitoring tweets and mentions on Facebook about those conference attendees who are stopping by your booth. We recommend using Twitter in conjunction with SocialMention.com. And as you monitor these mentions, make sure that someone from your team can get back to those who are writing you expeditiously. Who knows? A very fruitful business development could come from seeking to stay in touch.

Create Locations and Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places

Part of the thrill of attending these events is checking in. Be sure to set up an event for your company.  However, make sure you have all of the capabilities to do so ahead of time. For example, if you are having a party at a restaurant, the restaurateur who already has an account set up may need to add your particular event.  So definitely trouble shoot this issue ahead of time so that you have a moment to react.

After the Conference

Upload Photos to Flickr and videos to YouTube

Let your business associates and colleagues see you in all of your conference glory. Upload photos from the conference – like engaged visitors to your booth and speakers to the group – to your Flickr and YouTube accounts. Conference attendees will go to these accounts to see if they see themselves there. Plus, it’s a great way to send a few key subliminal messages – “Look how much fun we had!” And “You don’t want to miss us next year.”