Trade shows are a great way to promote your business, but they’re inherently noisy. Not loud noisy, but marketing noisy. You have a lot of businesses in one room all trying to get noticed. Even social tools like Twitter can leave your business lost in a sea of noise if not used thoughtfully. Thankfully, there is a way you can use Twitter to set yourself above the noise.

This strategy, and these tips, will help you establish meaningful connections and start building some buzz around your business while at a tradeshow.

Find the Hashtag
Most events have a hashtag, or a special acronym/short phrase preceded by the hash sign (#). For example, the hashtag for South by Southwest is #SXSW.

Update Your Profile
When was the last time you looked at your Twitter profile? Update it to reflect who you are and what you do. Make sure it includes a link to your company website. Ask yourself, What do I want people to know after reading this profile? Once you engage people in conversation (see below) they’ll look at your profile before they decide to follow you.

Use a Laptop
Twitter is great because you can most often tweet from your phone but not at a trade show. You’ll want a laptop because of the potential volume of tweets you’ll see. Additionally, a laptop allows you to see your tweet stream, searches and lists all in a glance (see below). Download a Twitter app that allows you to both search for hashtags and create lists (TweetDeck is the most popular).

Build a List of Event Attendees
Twitter allows you to create ?Lists,? a way to categorize people in groups. For example, you might create a list titled ?Trade Show. Move everybody who is going to the trade show to that list. When you click on that list, you’ll only see tweets from people already in the list. This allows you to cut out tweets from people not at the event so you’re less likely to miss tweets from people who are there.

Build a Search for the Event Hashtag
Many Twitter applications also allow you to build a Hashtag search (which is why you looked for it in step one). Building this search allows you to see what everyone at the event is saying as long as they use the tag.

Keep the Application Open
Once you’ve set up your booth, open your laptop and keep it on, with the Twitter app open. The idea is that when you’re not engaging an attendee in person, you’ll be drawn to the computer so that you can engage someone virtually.

Engage People
You have two goals: reconnect with current followers and create new followers. This means you need to watch both the event list and the hashtag search column. Look for points of entry discussion topics that you can participate in.

For example, someone might tweet about a booth that you visited. Respond to the tweet with your thoughts. Or someone might tweet about a service you provide. Respond and start a discussion. If the person responds back, follow them and move them to the event list. Last, make sure they know that you have a booth, and show an interest in their booth if they have one (and go visit them, if possible).

Final Consideration

You might be asking yourself: Which Twitter account should I use, mine or my company’s? That really depends on preference. I think that either is fine, as long as you follow through. Don’t stop engaging people after the event. This is not a bait-and-switch where you engage with people to get followers and then spam them afterwards. This doesn’t mean you need to devote a lot of time to responding to tweets. It just means you should make sure to keep your mind open to conversation, so that if the chance comes along you can grab it.

Combine that rule with these tips and you shouldn?t have any problem marketing your business with Twitter.