Trade shows can seem like an endless ride, almost a circus in a way. If you’ve been to several you know what I mean. It can seem repetitive with the same gimmicks, the same people and the same promotions. But, it’s still the place to see new products and to cement relationships.
According to the Center for Exhibition Research, trade show attendance has grown steadily since 2010. Although individual industries are different in growth – one thing that is consistent at all of them is the growth of social media use.
It’s easy for marketers to say use Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, but that’s not enough today. The landscape has dispersed, and the challenge brands face now are scattered audience, more diverse, yet fragmented social platforms and competition to be noticed is fierce. So like a circus you have to learn how to engage your audience in seconds.
It’s not a matter of a tweet anymore or just scheduling an update, or posting a meme (which, by the way is out.) The trend to integrated social advertising means further distraction within the social timeline and feed of most people. In 2014, Snapchat had its first ad, now Facebook auto-plays video ads (and soon coming to an app near you) and Twitter cards have expanded use – creating even more competition to reach your audience.
The saving grace for trade show exhibitors is the mobile channel continues to grow, and we can take advantage of that. The majority of people attending trade shows carry smartphones and tablets, taking their own videos and posting their own photos. This can be used even more effectively at events through geofencing – an upcoming blog post.
The #1 reason for attending trade shows is still to see new products. 92% of trade show attendees say they are looking for new products. It’s also a place for bloggers, fans, and customers to share what they like best – or hate – on their social media.
Some of the easy things you should do before the show, so you have resources to draw on include:
- Follow the trade shows’ Twitter account and like their Facebook page – that will help you see what’s going on during the show.
- Note the hashtags used for the tradeshow – it helps you see what’s going on at the show.
- Always include the #showhashtag and the @show’s twitter handle in your tweets. You should also like the show’s Facebook page and tag the show in your status updates – which will cause your post to show up on their wall, giving you visibility to their audience.
- Check the trade show’s Twitter lists (any industry bloggers?) follow and create your own private list – you’ll want to share with them pictures and your own insights from the show.
- While you’re at it, create a private list of companies, publications and influencers attending the show so you can easily engage with them during the show.
- Other exhibitors use their own hashtags for giveaways. Find those that complement your product or service. You should follow them and retweet their tweets and share their status updates. No doubt the love will be returned.
- Create your own hashtag for your promotion or giveaway
- Use social tools like HootSuite, Sproutsocial, and Buffer to prepare a list of tweets and posts prior to the event – and to effectively track what’s going on during the show.
- If you’re using Salesforce, Zoho, or Infusionsoft you should already have a database of your clients and prospects social media presence. Make sure you’re following them and create a private list on Twitter of those you have the interest to engage with.
- Create an event page on your website for your tradeshow visit, or a group on Facebook and invite your customers and fans. This can be incentivized through your giveaway promotion.
- Several weeks ahead of the show start sharing with your fans. Weekly tweets and Facebook posts about the show, booth number, giveaways during the show, show events you’ll be holding and more will help build an engaged audience.
- Email your list (using services like MailChimp, Constant Contact and Emma) ahead of the show with events, promotions and a landing page for “reservations” if you need to get those.
- Get media exposure. Connect with those in your niche via Twitter or LinkedIn. Here’s another list – create a private list on Twitter of the media you want to engage with. Get to know them, share what they’re sharing and comment on those updates that makes sense. Give them unique story ideas that they can write about – it can’t just be “we have a new product.” Sell it. Discover a unique angle for them to use. Don’t let them work for it. Invite them to any special event you may be having.
- Try to book time on any radio or digital streaming broadcast staging at the show. In the home improvement remodeling market, you’ll find shows like On The House with The Carey Brothers (nationally known home improvement specialists.) Ask for the audio track or their digital streaming link to promote after the show.
At the Trade Show
I can’t say it enough – videos and pictures are best and are engaged more often than anything else, in that order. Visual channels like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Vine, and YouTube all offer places to “report” to your fans from the trade show floor.
Note: Native Facebook videos (videos uploaded directly to Facebook, not embedded from YouTube) are more engaging and show up in streams in a more dependable way.
Video everything – using a smartphone and a video editing app like Magistro or Directr, that YouTube just bought, can help you put video up live at the moment. Edit other videos later and then upload to your YouTube channel, Facebook page, and website. Most smartphones will handle sound great even at a noisy trade shows, but if you want to improve that buy a Shure Condenser mic or a Blue Mic. They’re inexpensive and can do the job.
Video Testimonials – take advantage of the time, place and energy at the trade show. Find customers and others that would be interested in providing you with strong video testimonials that can be used later – and, posted at the moment.
Tweet shoutouts to businesses with video or pictures that you took at their booth remember to include their @name and any hashtags they may be using.
Live Tweet your trade show event Social Media Examiner has a great post on this and the steps to take to make it effective. Including rewriting your Twitter bio to align with the event, creating a landing page for the event with a free download (like a code for attendees to use to collect a free prize at the exhibition stand) and to tweet quotes, commentary and photos from the event.
Live Stream video from you show booth. With hundreds, if not several thousands of exhibits to see, an attendee might miss your product demonstration. Live Stream it using Periscope or Meerkat. Each has its advantage – my favorite is Periscope, Twitter owns it, and it makes it easy to tweet out your live video link. Plus, while the stream is going you can answer questions at the moment that are tweeted during the stream. You’ll need a strong internet connection to do this effectively.
Live update your blog from the show. Writing at-show and post-show blogs is a good way to create great content for your website that should include pictures, videos and other information (links) to those services and new products you found interest. If your site is a WordPress website, it is easier than ever to embed audio, video and images directly to your post from your smartphone.
Create a Pinterest board of the “best products” you like at the show. Then another board of pictures of those giveaways you found interesting, or selfies of you and your clients (I know selfies are out, but it doesn’t hurt.)
Social media is great to use, and your whole team can be part of the content curated for use, but make sure you have one dedicated person to handle it all. I was at the National Hardware Show handling social media for On The House with the Carey Brothers and it takes a full-time person to handle it all. You need a good smartphone (iPhone 6 is what I used), a tablet (iPad Air 2), a charger unit like Mophie and an external drive (Seagate.) Plus, I spent time ahead of the show to follow people, create lists and curate some advance content to pepper into the live stuff.
Some interesting ways to use the social tools at hand include:
- Your team’s Spotify playlist of songs for the show
- Behind the scenes images of pre-show setup
- Sharing your experience at the best local restaurants and events in town
- Tips on where to, or not to, stay
- Sharing what you’re interested and excited to see at the show
- Finally be genuine
Remember be creative and have fun. It can be a bit of a circus. It’s a show remember. Bring your best performance. No one wants to read a sales brochure or be sold to – even though that’s what you’re there for. No. That’s what your sales people are there for. Social media is there to help you attract your soon to be customers. That only comes through interesting content, presenting who you are and the beliefs you have about your product, the industry and your passion to help.