I often get mistaken for being two things: A woman in her 50's and a dog walker. I understand both misconceptions. I got gray hair at age 16 and am now fully silver at age 30. I also am about 5'5'' and regularly walk three dogs that outweigh me at a combined 150 pounds.
No matter where I am, if I am walking all three dogs, people want to stop and talk to me. They want to know if all three of the dogs are mine (yes). They want to know how old my bulldog is (he's 8 1/2 and acts like he's 3). They want to know if their kids can pet my Boston Terrier (yes, but beware of smooch attacks). They want to comment on how it looks like I've got my hands full (yes, I do. Thanks for noticing).
My dogs are a conversation starter. People see me and want to strike up a conversation. These three hairy beasts are a catalyst for others to see a way to relate to me and find common ground for a discussion.
I realized that this inherent desire that humans beings have to connect around a shared interest is at the core of what makes social networking so successful. People are looking to connect with others. Whether it's to share information, to learn information or to create business and personal relationships: people want to find ways to relate to one another.
We at Pathable recognize the importance of social networking and its place in the events industry. Dog walking and social networking should remind event planners that you have to give your attendees a little help. Attendees aren't usually walking down the halls with pooches, or even a sign floating above their heads that says "Hey, this is what I'm interested in and what I know. Talk to me!" Conference and events are great opportunities for professionals to connect, but attendees need some support.
Use the power of social networking to create community at your conferences and events. There are so many ways to do this, from private social networks to gamification techniques. We know that social media is going to continue to grow in importance in 2012 and beyond, so use that to your advantage. Spend some time with your team thinking about what is important to your attendees and how will they want to self-identify and connect with one another? Once you get your technologies and systems in place, you can start seeing what attendees are talking about and connecting on, and tailor your approach, content and event to keep up.
So while social networking isn't literally going to the dogs, keep that conversation starter in mind as you work on your event's technology and social networking strategy.
Check out our eBook on Social Media for Event Marketing.