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Your bags are packed and you're ready to head to the 2012 National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago May 5-8. You've probably made a list of those vendors you'd like to see, or if you're a vendor, the attendees you'd like to target.

But, did you know you could already be engaging with your customers and different vendors that will be at the show right now? Here are some great ways to use social media to start the conversation early, get some great deals while you're at the show and create engaging experiences after the show.

Before the show: Tweet, tweet, tweet

If you want to see the power of Twitter at the NRA Show before the show even opens its doors, search no further than this hashtag on the network: #NRAShow. This hashtag on the social network has been booming with vendors and attendees alike already. The conversation is great, and you're able to get a good scope on who will be at the show, what they'll be offering and more.

During the show: Check in to more than just your hotel

FourSquare is a location-based game app that allows you to "check" into your location. If you check in more times than anyone else, you become the mayor. It may sound silly, but give it a go and you'll quickly be hooked. You'll need a smartphone to download the app.

Some vendors are offering specials if you "check" into their booth at the 2012 NRA Show. In order to know if there are specials, simply open your FourSquare app on your phone. It will list all of the check-in locations around you, and an orange icon that says "Special" will be right next to the location if the vendor has a deal. If you're interested in that product and that deal, simply go to the booth and check-in to get started.

After the show: Photoshoot, anyone?

Many vendors at the show will be letting you know about their social media profiles while you're at their booth. Or, if you're a vendor, you'll probably be sure to let potential customers know they can find you on Facebook. But how about making this conversation more engaging? Take pictures of each other so you can create a Facebook album for the NRA Show. Tell your vendors or new customers to go on the Facebook page to see pictures of themselves there.

This is a great way to guarantee that you'll be connecting with more people because you're introducing a personal element into the social network. You're giving them a reason to find you online beyond just your product name -- you're allowing them to be a part of your product right off the bat.

Want to learn more, get some quick tips or just connect? Stop by and see me at my company WyckWyre's booth, #6177 in the technology pavilion at the 2012 NRA Show!

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Lisa DiVirgilio
DiVirgilio is the marketing manager for WyckWyre, the restaurant recruiting system that helps focus on quality employees quicker. She is also a social media consultant with proven experience in growing brands' followings on different social networks.
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