Integrate Social Media Into Your 2011 Trade Show Promotions

A lot has been written about social media this year.  In fact, so much has been written it would seem that anyone who isn’t tweeting 20 times a day is in danger of becoming fossilized before year end.  And yet, if you are like a lot of other B2B marketers, you are still trying to figure out exactly where social media fits within your overall marketing communications mix.  Well the answer to this question depends a lot upon what your company sells, what channels you use to sell, who you sell to and the informational needs and habits of your customers.  But one area where social media seems to make a lot of sense for many companies is trade show promotions.

Despite many predictions of their impending doom, trade shows appear to have survived quite nicely and remain a key component of most B2B marketers’ annual communications plan.  In fact, I suspect they represent a larger percentage of most B2B marketing budgets today than they did even a few years ago.  But with budgets being stretched in every direction but up, the challenge of promoting your participation at a show and building booth traffic has never been more daunting.  So here are six steps you can take toward using social media to promote show activity before, during and after the event.

Step One:  Lay the groundwork

Naturally, any social media campaign is only as strong as the network on which it is built, so if you don’t have a corporate presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn, start there.  Create your pages and work on becoming active.  You need to build your followers and connections and the best way to do that is to become engaged.  We’re just focusing on trade shows here, but there are as many other ways to do this as your imagination will allow.

Step Two:  Integrate your social media activities with your other, more “traditional” promotions.

If you advertise or use direct mail/e-mail to promote your participation in a show, also encourage people to follow you on Twitter and Facebook to learn about special events, reports and promotions during the show. 

Step Three:  Create event pages on LinkedIn and Facebook

Promote your participation by creating event pages on LinkedIn and Facebook or by tapping into existing event pages created by the show management.  Either way, promote your participation and invite your connections and followers to attend.  Encourage your sales organization to promote the event to their social media network.  Leave comments about what you have planned for the show on the event pages.  Promote contests to win products or prize.

Step Four:  Capitalize on the show’s social media activities

In addition to their event pages, many show organizations are now using a variety of social media tactics to promote their events.  Make sure you take full advantage of these.  If they’ve created a blog around a show, submit content and leave comments.  Chances are they’ve created an event hashtag for Twitter.  If  you’re not familiar with them check out this page to learn more about Twitter hashtags and how they are used.  THIS IS A CRITICAL TOOL to expand your audience before, during and after the event.  Use them every time you tweet to help people find you.  If the show doesn’t have a designated hashtag, search to see if other exhibitors or attendees are using a common one.  If so, use that.  Finally, don’t forget to investigate any YouTube, mobile or Slideshare options the show may offer.  If they don’t offer these things, suggest they do so before asking you to run a paid spot in their show program or on their web site.

Step Five:  Broadcast “live” video updates during the event

Equip members of your show team with flip video cameras and assign various broadcasts to each of them.  These could include:

  • A fun, “behind-the-scenes” look at booth setup
  • A product demonstration in the booth
  • Video blogs reporting on key announcements, presentations and events during the course of the show
  • Interviews with customers and prospects
  • Guest spots from editors or other industry experts
  • “Live” drawings for products and prizes

A key thing to remember is these shouldn’t always be about your company and products specifically.  Give your followers a broader perspective of what’s going on at the show.  If all you offer is infomercials, they will grow tired and turn the channel.

Step Six:  Have fun!

As we mentioned, you are only limited by your imagination.  Brainstorm ways to keep people engaged.  Develop a plan, but don’t be afraid to improvise.  If there is a lull in booth traffic, tweet that you will give a t-shirt to the first person who can get to your booth and answer a question you pose.  If you see something cool in another exhibitor’s booth, share it.  If one of the presenters says something controversial, comment on it (again, using the event hashtag).  I was at a marketing conference earlier this year and you wouldn’t believe some of the banter going back and forth via Twitter.  We had fun commenting on everything from the moderator’s neck tie to the temperature in the auditorium to the music they played between events.

So how have you used social media to promote your shows?  I’d love to hear your ideas!


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