In the face-to-face industry social media is becoming one of the most popular ways to engage attendees at trade shows, events and conferences. Done well social media can be very successful, but done wrong it can be a flop. For that reason, we’ve created a SlideShare of 24 simple tips and best practices to get exhibitors on the right track. Flip through the SlideShare for quick tips, then read below for details.
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1. develop a detailed strategy
Because social media is so ingrained in our daily lives as a spur-of-the-moment tool, it’s a common mistake to think that you can use it the same way for marketing.
The key to a successful exhibiting social media program is developing a detailed strategy. Approach it just like you would any other marketing plan. Your strategy should include overall goals and a specific plan of action (i.e. what platforms to use, who will post what and when) and how social will be incorporated into your existing exhibiting plan.
Here are some things to consider when planning your social media strategy:
We know there is a lot to do before the show doors open, but it’s important to include social media in the mix. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to create buzz around your exhibit long before the show begins. When posting to your social media platforms, make sure to include important information, such as dates, location and booth number. Additionally, plan and promote special activities, like product launches, giveaways or contests that will drive traffic during the show.
During the Show
When show time rolls around, it is important to stay on your game. Create content that encourages attendees to stop by your booth and learn more about products and services. Many shows revolve around continuing education, so add your expert opinion to conversations about speakers, panels, and trending topics at the event.
The purpose of trade shows and other face-to-face networking events is to create lasting connections with professionals in related industries. Make sure to continually engage with this community well after the show is over. If possible, connect with leads via social media, particularly LinkedIn, because it is a powerful business networking tool. Thank visitors for stopping by your booth and learning more about your company. In the end, new leads are a powerful resource so be sure to follow up with them on social media.
2. set concrete goals
Setting concrete goals is a crucial part of the planning process, and can help gauge whether or not your campaign was a success. Look at the overall goals from your detailed strategy and determine the desired outcome. For example, if your goal is to have more people interact with your brand, your concrete goals may be an increased amount of engagement, which can be measured in shares, comments, likes and clicks based on the content you post.
Related: Intro to Trade Show Planning
3. monitor show hashtags
This should be your starting point in using social media for exhibiting. Most shows now use a unique hashtag (#) to help attendees and exhibitors get connected and start conversations online. Thoroughly research event hashtags before the show starts to see what attendees and competitors have planned. Continue to monitor the hashtag to gain insight about the interests and behaviors of attendees. Once your brand has established a presence within the hashtag, it’ll be easy to join the conversation and reach out to attendees on an individual basis.
4. find where your attendees are engaging the most
The whole point of using social media during the exhibit process is to build a community and interact with the attendees. While a lot of interaction happens on Twitter, platforms like Facebook or Instagram may also be used heavily. Make sure you’re in the middle of the action by reaching out to followers before the show to gauge the interest of followers on a particular platform.
5. choose the right channel
Since each social media channel communicates with audiences differently, try experimenting to find the best times and channels for each message.
Facebook allows for a variety of posts, both long and short, but with more stagnant feeds. It’s not the best place for constant updates, as you could end up flooding followers’ feeds. Instead focus on longer form posts like quick daily re-caps, photo posts or a mass photo album uploads at the end of each day.
The most visual of all the social media outlets, Instagram is the place you’ll go to share photos and short videos. This is great for sharing visual elements of your booth, product demos and more. Bonus, you can connect your Instagram and Twitter accounts for double efficiency.
If you use Twitter for work or personal life you’ll know that feeds update at lightning speed. For that reason Twitter is the ideal place to share timely, in-the-moment updates of bite-size content pre, during and post show.
Depending on your industry, Linkedin may be your most powerful tool pre-show. If you are involved in any Linkedin groups, or connected to clients and professionals attending your show, you can use Linkedin to get involved and re-connect with those contacts. Not all groups and members of LinkedIn are active, so if your connections and groups are having valuable conversation, don’t miss an opportunity to jump in.
Beyond great recipes and DIY crafts, Pinterest can be a powerful tool for exhibitors. Pin engaging content like blog posts, infographics and case studies directly from your website to boost traffic. Building a high-quality content library will support attendees and followers alike. Pinterest boards can also benefit exhibitors with a wealth of resources that help you plan for your next trade show.
6. designate a social media leader
During the event, things can get chaotic and roles may begin to blur among your booth staff. Posting, engaging and monitoring social media is a full-time job, so— if you can afford it— bring a team member who is there solely for social media and marketing. If that isn’t an option, then elect a leader for social media posts and keep encouraging the whole team to watch for opportunities to virtually connect with attendees.
7. encourage the whole team to get involved
While it may be hard for your team to post on-site, getting them involved in social media as individuals will help them make their own connections, while supporting overall company goals. Encourage team members to use their personal social media accounts to become active members of the show community pre-show, and also at the show, when possible by using the official hashtag.
8. use the show hashtag so attendees can find you
You’ve followed the hashtag and now you have an idea what your attendees are looking for, so give it to them! Take a knowledge leader approach and aim to make a valuable contribution that will motivate attendees to seek you out.
For example if everyone using the hashtag is talking about a current industry trend, contribute your thoughts, share some expertise or even just repost an interesting article covering the topic. If the topic at hand relates to what you’ll do in-booth, share that information but keep it conversational. Staying in the conversation is the best way to help attendees find you during the show.
9. leading up to the show tell everyone you’ll be tweeting and posting
Building anticipation is a crucial part of the pre-show marketing strategy. A major part of your pre-show marketing is cuing followers to expect live updates from the event. Even if some followers are unable to attend, they can still feel present and follow the event happenings.
Post early and often, but vary messaging to avoid sounding like spam. People are quick to unfollow accounts that are focused on sales alone. A variety of content, such as videos, blog posts and teasers, will inspire genuine consumer interest and motivate followers to stay tuned for upcoming event-related posts.
10. stop only promoting your booth number and giveaways
I get it, you want people to know where your booth is and what they will get for stopping by. However when 200 exhibitors are all saying roughly the same thing, it’s not just boring, it’s also not beneficial to the attendees following the hashtag. While it is still important to promote your booth numbers and giveaways, make sure that followers remain engaged with additional content on your pages, like polls, helpful resources, etc. That’s why tip number 11 is so important…
11. instead try listening to what attendees want
Remember, the key goal to exhibiting is giving attendees what they want. For social media, it’s not all that different. When monitoring the hashtag, pay attention to what attendees are wanting and talking about. What issues and topics are they discussing? What are they looking forward to about the show? What information do they need to know? Listening is the first step to engage with attendees.
12. share something valuable
No matter what show attendees are talking about, one thing is for sure: they’re seeking to gain value from following the show hashtag. In order to stand out and build social relationships, be the brand that’s sharing something of value.
Here are some of our favorite valuable content ideas:
Do you have a corporate blog? Do you publish white papers covering important industry topics? Evaluate the content you already have and look for ways to align with the conversations surrounding the show. This will promote your brand while providing content attendees actually want to read. Additionally, build new content around what attendees are talking about, or even live-blog during the show.
Don’t forget that you’re the expert in the room here. On the show floor you will be the one visitors have questions for. Track the hashtag and look for opportunities to chime in with advice and ideas. However, remember to focus on engaging, not selling. Refrain from talking about your product and brand unless someone asks. There’ll be plenty of time for that later.
Whether it’s info about an industry topic or practical advice during the show, being useful will make you a trusted resource. Think outside the box to provide information attendees are looking for, like show tips for newbies, advice on where to eat in the area or activities for those arriving early or staying late.
This will help you build relationships with attendees and publications! Great ideas for articles to share include: pre-show coverage and informative articles covering “buzz” topics.
13. share valuable content from others
Don’t get too self-involved on social media. Show attendees and followers that appreciate the value they bring to the table by sharing and re-posting their valuable content.
14. don’t sound like a corporate robot
Lifeless messages with no emotion sent over and over again, or the same message used to respond to people are a big no-no. Instead, sound like the human you are. For instance, include opinions (that reflect brand identity) on shared content, post live videos of booth activities and reach out to followers on a personal level.
15. join the conversation surrounding the trade show
Respond to and start conversations in addition to posting. Engage with attendees by looking for opportunities to start chatting about what you know best. Get involved in any industry Twitter chats doing pre-show or at-show coverage. Remember to chat like you would at any in-person networking event, getting to know people and encouraging attendees to join the conversation.
16. share on-site photos & videos
Photos and videos are the best way to show followers that a visit to your exhibit will be worthwhile. First, strategically schedule a content calendar that includes potential ideas for great in-action content. Then populate these posts once the photos have been taken. Keep in mind that giveaways, contests and other activities generate buzz and are easy to share.
17. share “best of” notes, quotes & stats from educational sessions
This type of posting is highly beneficial to attendees and non-attendees following the show hashtag. If you’ll be attending educational sessions, use the show hashtag to share what you’re learning to help attendees learn too! Some sessions will even encourage Tweeting with a unique hashtag.
18. show your fun side by sharing the non-business part of exhibiting
If you’re attending events, award ceremonies or even team dinners associated with the show, share a few photos here and there. Showing your “fun” side will help attendees relate to your brand on a more personal level. Of course, keep all posts 100% appropriate, making sure the posts reflect your brand image and integrity. But it’s okay to loosen up and show followers that robots don’t run the social media sites (see #14).
19. create your own unique hashtag
Exhibitors can create and use their own hashtag entirely their own. This is a great idea, but remember to give visitors a reason to use it. You can incorporate your Hashtag into your exhibiting plan by doing a Twitter contest, hosting a Twitter chat or a social “photo booth” using services like Instaprint or TagPrints. If you go this route, make sure your hashtag is highly visible in- booth and visitors easily know how to use it.
20. connect with your leads on social media
This tip may apply more to the tech-savvy industry shows, but if you receive a business card that calls out a Twitter or Instagram handle, don’t disregard it. Sometimes a social connection could prove more valuable than just a business phone or email.
21. host/plan a “tweet up” to meet your followers in person
If you have Twitter followers attending a show, a great way to strengthen those connections is by reaching out and planning a “tweet up.” A tweet up is simply a planned, in-person meet-up of a Twitter group. This isn’t a business dinner, just a social “get to know you.” Meeting up one-on-one is intimidating, so make sure you can gather a decent amount of followers and plan to meet in a casual setting or at a show networking event.
22. engage post-show with more valuable content
We hate to tell you this, but your social media job isn’t over when the show ends. Continue to engage post-show with more valuable content following the tips above. Think of this as the same as following up with “leads.” You must work to maintain the new relationship you formed.
23. evaluate strengths & weaknesses post-show
Remember the goals you set? After the show completes and the dust has settled record all your results and compare to your goals to determine success. Then create a list of strengths and weaknesses. Look at all the things you did right and all the areas where you need improvement. Our 12 Post Trade-Show Questions post will guide the conversation as you discuss and identify how you can improve for next time with your whole team.
24. continue to nurture & grow your new social community year-round
Now that the show is over, it’s your responsibility to continue interacting to create a community around your brand. Unlike collecting regular leads, your social leads will require more than just a follow up call. Your social media community is not going to convert immediately, and that is okay. Be patient. Be a touch point for your follows all-year round for valuable content, information and expert insights. When your followers are ready to do business, your brand will be top of mind as the industry leader.
Believe it or not, 24 tips just barely scratch the surface of running social media for your exhibit. Great social media marketing takes time, so don’t get discouraged if one technique doesn’t work for your audience. Apply these tips to your overall social media marketing, learn from trial and error and soon you’ll be on your way to building a social community around your brand.