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Convergence 2011 at your fingertips: Using social media to stay in-the-know, whether in Atlanta or out in the snow

For many of us we’ve been going to tradeshows since we can remember, and we have the company-branded shirts to prove it. And we’ve also seen a lot of trends come and go along the way, more than I care to remember. But one of the trends that I’m excited to see, and one that has developed quite a foothold, is the uptick of social media. While it was once just a fun new thing to do, social media is becoming an increasingly more important element in successful conference planning and execution.

Convergence 2011 is right around the corner and as much as I wish the entire reading audience could attend, as there’s no replacement for being there first-hand, I also know that resources and budgets keep willing participants at bay. If you’re not attending, staying connected “socially” during the countdown to Convergence and throughout the conference will help you stay on top of the latest announcements coming from Atlanta. And by following your blogging and tweeting peers that are attending, you can benefit from the information that they’ll be distributing outside of the Convergence classrooms.

For those of you attending Convergence, you can leverage social media outlets to get the most bang for your buck. By staying connected, you can benefit from start to finish, from planning your schedule to continuing strategic conversations afterwards. By joining your peers on Twitter and following their blog posts, you can leverage the information provided to maximize your Convergence ROI. “One of the greatest values of social media around conferences is that it helps shrink the size of the conference and it greatly improves the feeling of being a part of the event, not just an attendee,” says Mark Polino, Microsoft MVP - Dynamics GP, Senior Consultant with I.B.I.S. and one of the original GP bloggers.

Leveraging social media before Convergence:

  • Find tips and checklists from bloggers for the first-timer and the experienced Convergence attendee. Need recommendations of where to eat or what to do in Atlanta? Use social media sites and blogs to quickly get advice before you go or as needed onsite.
  • Prepare, prepare, prepare. Convergence can be overwhelming, even for us old-timers. By staying connected you can get updates on what to expect and who will be attending so that you can more accurately plan your schedule, educational sessions and who you want to meet while there. (To help with planning, I also encourage you to use Microsoft’s online planning tools: Convergence Scheduler and Convergence Connect.)

Leveraging social media at Convergence:

  • There are more educational sessions offered than you can possibly attend, and as you may have experienced, it’s not uncommon to see many of them fill up quickly, leaving you on the other side of the door. Through social media outlets you can take advantage of the information distributed outside of the classroom by your blogging/tweeting peers attending the sessions that you cannot.
  • For VARs and ISVs, use social media networks to find out more about your community’s top pain points so that you can plan your educational sessions appropriately.
  • Connect with peers that you are interested in meeting with at Convergence to create another convenient way of connecting with them onsite.

How should you get started or enhance your social media networks to make the most of your Convergence experience? “First get on Twitter and follow the #CONV11 hashtag. For daily use, start with blogs and an RSS reader like Outlook or Google Reader so that you don’t have to visit the social sites every day,” suggests Polino. Also choose peers to follow, whether via Twitter or blog feeds, that show that they communicate with clients¸ potential customers, etc. in such a way as to engage them thoughtfully (not just a blatant sales pitch). You can also look to follow community members that are promoting their reporting of the conference as they will be putting a good amount of effort into planning their coverage and providing frequent updates to their followers. And always a sure way of finding peers to follow via social media, checkout Microsoft’s Dynamics community blog to see who’s “socially” active and planning to attend Convergence.

Polino wrapped up with this prediction: “I expect Twitter to continue to grow in conference use. It seems to be well suited for that micro-broadcast medium. It’s like whispering to your neighbor in a keynote except that your neighbor is 25 rows away and you have 150 neighbors.”

Keep your ears open “neighbors” and get started today so that you stay in-the-know! And if you're in Atlanta and have some thoughts on social media in the Dynamics community, let me know and we can meet to discuss your ideas!

Suggestions on What and Who to Follow:

GP Community
Mark Polino, Microsoft MVP - Dynamics GP, Senior Consultant with I.B.I.S.
Blog: http://msdynamicsgp.blogspot.com/
Twitter: @DynAcctNet

Bob McAdam, Manager & Dynamics GP Consultant, Tribridge
Twitter: @4mcadam

AX Community
Brandon George, Senior Technical Architect, Sunrise Technologies
Blog: http://dynamics-ax.blogspot.com/
Twitter: @dynamicserp

NAV Community
Blog: Navigate into Success

General Dynamics
Blog: Microsoft Community Blogs
Twitter: @MSFTDynamicsERP
Blog: http://www.erpsoftwareblog.com/
Twitter: @erpsoftwareblog
Twitter: @MSDynamicsworld

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