Whether you find it exciting or confusing, there’s one thing that’s for sure – social media and trade show marketing go hand in hand. Social media at trade shows is a reality that is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. Social media is no longer just “that thing that kids do on the computer.” What once was simply a place where college students would hang out online is now a digital world the majority of the global population uses to interact, socialize, learn and be entertained.
Over the last several years, trade show exhibitors have begun to successfully turn to social media platforms to promote their exhibits before, during and after a trade show. With dozens of social media channels available and so many exhibitors competing for attention, using social media to your advantage can be tricky. Effective social media marketing for your trade show exhibit doesn’t have to be complicated however. In this post, we will provide everything you need to know to navigate the world of social media and use it to boost your trade show booth traffic.
1. The Benefit of Social Media for Trade Shows
Social media allows businesses to market towards mass audiences they never could reach previously. Today, most of the world owns a social media account of some type. Facebook for example, has over 2.2 billion users, and over 1 billion people watch videos on YouTube each month. Social platforms have become tools that consumers depend on – with the majority of users signing into their accounts multiple times per day. For trade show exhibitors, social media is one of the most cost effective ways to make a strong statement while promoting a business, a product, or a brand. A strong social media campaign can benefit your business during a trade show by:
- Allowing attendees to learn what you’re doing in your exhibit and convince them that a trip to your booth is worth the time.
- Allowing you to tailor advertising for your booth and receive nearly instantaneous feedback on how well your strategy is performing.
- Giving you the opportunity to build excitement around your exhibit and create anticipation even before the trade show.
There is also one major downfall to not being visible on social media. Likely, your trade show competitors will be doing some type of social media marketing – your absence on social media makes it much easier for them to attract all of the customers!
2. What Social Media Platforms Should You Use?
There are many social media platforms out there, and it seems that a new one pops up every few months! However, not every platform is right for every business. The social media platforms you should focus on are the ones that your target audience use most. The best strategy isn’t simply just the one that attracts the most people – it’s the one that attracts the most potential customers. Instead of trying to use every social media platform out there, focus on a few that really provide the the best ROI. Here are some popular social media platforms that exhibitors are using currently, and some extremely effective ways they are taking advantage of these platforms.
FourSquare is a social network that is completely devoted to locations. On this platform, users can “check in” when they are at a particular location; broadcasting to the world exactly what they are doing at that specific moment. For exhibitors, FourSquare has proven to be perfect for attracting people to trade show booths. Here are a couple ways that exhibitors use FourSquare effectively:
- By offering incentives for checking in, such as discounts, promotions or exclusive downloads.
- By encouraging visitors to leave notes on FourSquare, broadcasting what they saw at the exhibitor’s trade show exhibit.
Facebook is the king of social networks with over 2.2 billion users around the world. Since most of the world is on Facebook, it’s likely you already have a page set up. Facebook is a great platform for businesses to promote their trade show exhibit to a large number of users. Trade show exhibitors have successfully used Facebook to promote their display or business by:
- Using custom QR Codes at their exhibition stands to send visitors directly to their Facebook pages, encouraging visitors to “Like” or engage with the profile.
- Taking photos of visitors and instantly uploading the pictures to Facebook, allowing the visitor to tag themselves right there on the spot.
- Using their profile to keep a running diary of the day’s events and encouraging visitors to join the discussion.
In 2017, the Global Pet Expo began implementing social media to market and draw attention to the entire show. One marketing strategy that was extremely successful was the implementation of Facebook Live. Organizers of the show hosted several 10-minute Facebook Live broadcasts during each of the three days of the show. This year, they are planning to add custom Snapchat filters; hoping to add an element of fun to attendees’ posts. In the same way that entire shows are now using Facebook to market events – your business should also be using the platform to draw anticipation to your trade show booth.
Twitter is a super simple platform that allows users to share message in 140-character posts. The platform uses symbols to make information sharing easy. For example, @username targets a message to a particular user, while #Hashtag allows users to track discussions on a particular topic. Exhibitors have used Twitter to:
- Create their own hashtags for their displays so visitors can easily follow them.
- Run a live broadcast of tweets on an inexpensive LED dot matrix display.
- Offer incentives for visitors to retweet the exhibitor’s messages during the show.
YouTube is the most popular online video-sharing platform, with over a billion active users watching videos each month. This platform allows users to easily upload videos and share them across other social platforms. One way exhibitors have used this platform to their advantage is by recording video during the show on their mobile phone and uploading it instantly to their profile. They also use YouTube to broadcast important events such as announcements, conferences, demonstrations, or other public activities.
3.Promoting Your Exhibit With Social Media
Without a doubt, your business will benefit greatly from implementing a great social media strategy. Like any other marketing effort, your social media campaign needs to be meticulously planned; it’s not something that can simply be made up as you go along. Proper social media promotion has a long term effect – it’s not only effective during the show, but can also be used to drive attention to your brand before and after the show.
4. What To Do Before The Show
Weeks before the show begins, you should start showcasing your business’ upcoming trade show participation. Here’s are some strategies that any business can use to maximize their social media potential for an upcoming show:
- Start Early – There’s no reason to wait until Show Day to start communicating through your social media accounts. Start ahead of time and preferably before your competitors. Weeks before the show, post photos of your products, customers or even your upcoming exhibit. Make sure to include your booth number in your messages, so people who are planning their schedules in advance can plug you in.
- Create A Posting Schedule – Start by creating a calendar where you will plan all of your blog posts, social media updates, landing page launches, videos and event announcements. Use a post scheduling software like Hootsuite to plan and automate posts and tweets ahead of time. Use these posts to drive interest and anticipation in your exhibit and to remind your audience of your upcoming event.
- Connect With The Show’s Social Media – Make sure that you are informed on what the show is doing to promote the event through social media. Check to see who is following the event and who is liking or commenting on the show’s posts. This can give you a great idea of who will be attending the show. Also, find out the hashtag that the show is using in their tweets – you can use these hashtags during the event to further promote your exhibit.
5. Promoting on Social Media During The Show
During the show, you can use social media to attract show visitors to your exhibit. Visitors often use social media on their smartphones as they are navigating through a trade show; and if you can reach them while they are at the show, you will drastically improve your chances of getting them into your booth.
- Draw Attention With A Contest – Hosting a social media contest allows you to drive interest to your exhibit and create engagement with visitors. Set a goal for your contest and decide which platform would allow you to reach the most guests. Develop a strong strategy and use your chosen platform to reach visitors who are attending the show. After the contest has ended, monitor and track its results. Use this data to make your contests even more engaging next time – optimizing your efforts until your contest is drawing in the ideal amount of traffic.
- Go Real-Time With Live Streaming – Trade shows can be exciting and you can drive strong interest by sharing real time photos and videos to your social media profiles. Using this strategy early on in the show can be extremely valuable to driving attendees to your booth. Photographs or short video clips of your product and service demos can really engage your potential audience. Even if they are unable to attend, they can still see all the aspects of your offering that you intended for them to see. Most importantly, the people you are able to engage with will come looking for your booth – instead of your competitors’.
- Make Social Connections With Visitors – During the trade show, connect with booth visitors by having them follow your social profile and by following theirs. Even if they aren’t interested in making a purchase now, their interest in your product may grow as they interact more with your brand online, after the show. LinkedIn is a great social media site for following up after a trade show. Send out LinkedIn requests to your visitors with a note reminding them of who you are, what your brand you represent, and what the two of you discussed during the trade show. This type of personalization shows potential customers that you are attentive and true to your word, and shows that you care about building a professional relationship with them.
6. Marketing Through Social Media After The Show
Shows may end, but social media allows us to connect with show attendees even long after the end of the show. A few of the most effective ways of doing so is to:
- Post A Show Video: Your trade show will be an exciting time for your business, and hopefully, you will be able to capture all of this excitement with high-quality footage. Edit all of your footage into a captivating and engaging video, and showcase it on your social media site. This may remind visitors of how impressed they were with your display, or may draw the curiosity of those who weren’t able to visit your booth during the event.
- Write A Blog Article: After the show, share the experience with your blog readers. Create a post on your company’s blog to describe all of the exciting points of the show, enticing readers to visit in the future.
7. Making The Most Of Your Social Media Campaign
The key to making social media work for your trade show is to be consistent and patient. Like any marketing effort, creating the perfect strategy is a trial-and-error experience. If one effort doesn’t pan out the way you thought it would, figure out why it didn’t work, and move on to the next. As you optimize your social media campaign, you will find that focusing on social media can have a tremendous benefit for attracting traffic to your booth.
Here’s the caveat – once you attract consumers, you want to send them to a booth or a display that really blows them away.