It’s undeniable: trade shows and events are an expensive endeavor. Any savvy marketer wants to maximize exposure from a show to help offset expenditures and ensure constant future budgeting. A heavy reliance on social media marketing in pre-show campaigns, during the show itself, and through post-show efforts ensures wide visibility and offers many benefits when used in conjunction with other direct marketing efforts.
Preshow social media activities should be focused on generating awareness of and inviting show attendees to visit the exhibit. Teasers, special sneak-peeks and contests are terrific materials to use at this stage. Calls-to-action could include a coupon redeemable only on the show floor, contest entry with prizes awarded at the exhibit, or an incentive for booking a meeting on the show floor.
Most of the social media marketing should be focused on the show itself. As a fact of budget constraints, it is a rarity that an entire team is able to travel to a trade show. As attendees share on social media, messaging from the show is communicated to team members at home. Encouraging social media sharing of your exhibit becomes of paramount importance in reaching beyond the trade show floor.
Shares of shares can quickly grow exponentially, sometimes skyrocketing into that hallowed “viral” category. It can never be predicted just what will become the next viral sensation, but it is certain that creativity, timeliness and relevancy will certainly help propel repeated sharing.
As social media posts earn more shares, more visibility is generated for the content. Cross-pollination among networks and industries can result in staggering exposure. Show-related content should be shared originally on the organization’s social media account, and marketers should share from there to personal accounts. This creates expansion to networks of networks and can potentially reach new clients, markets and regions.
Some steps you can take to amplify exhibit reach using social media:
Generate a unique hashtag! Research a little bit; make sure it’s not too common. Your event hashtag should be short enough to be memorable, unique to the brand or company and easily related to your event. Commonly, the company or brand name is combined with the show abbreviation or show city, such as: #JoesCoABCPhilly or #JoesCoABC. Many companies will also include the year – #JoesCoPhilly2018 – which is recommended in cases where new products/announcements are regularly debuted at the same annual show. However, exclusion of the year creates the appearance of a more robust media presence, as posts from previous years will surface in hashtag searches.
Your unique hashtag should be used on EVERY social media post, in conjunction with the official hashtag created by the show organizers. This will ensure wide, yet targeted, cross-pollination of messaging to people who are searching for information and posts related to the show. Additionally, each use of the hashtag identifies the unique user, opening up channels for a direct personalized response for deeper engagement.
Whenever possible, encourage sharing! One very effective way to gain visibility is to host a live interactive event in your booth, or a sponsored event in coordination with the show organizer. W.L Gore & Associates, a materials science company, recently hosted a live Twitter feed of an installation competition for their GORE™ SKYFLEX™ materials during the MRO Americas 2018 show. Teams of contestants from various military maintenance organizations were tasked with installing the GORE™ SKYFLEX™ product in miniature aircraft replicas. Gore brand ambassadors timed and judged the competition in a conspicuously-branded environment. With 73 teams of five people each, Gore’s product physically got into the hands of 365 different people as part of the event.
This is where social media magnifies the impact. Family, friends, co-workers and industry colleagues of each team member tuned in to watch the feeds. Shares and tags expanded the reach exponentially beyond the 365 physical participants. The broadcasts were well-tagged and made available in recorded form to extend the shareability and usefulness. Both live and delayed viewers got to see the practical application of the product, and also hear the feedback and pointers from the Gore experts.
Let’s do a little math on this, hypothetically speaking. If each of the 365 participants shared with a modest network of 50 people, then 18,250 impressions are generated. If just 5% of those viewers performed an interaction which then shared the post within their own modest networks of 50 people, another 45,625 impressions are created. By sponsoring this event and using social media effectively, over 60,000 impressions have been created before the show floor has even opened! Overall impressions will get further magnified by visibility generated through the copious use of show-related hashtags, views and shares by existing brand advocates, and impressions generated by other show activity.
If a large coordinated event or sponsorship is not possible, there are many other ways to boost the shareability of an event. A few ideas:
- Contests extended to those who use a designated hashtag and share a statement or photo on social are very common and can be quite effective. The trackability of the hashtag makes this easy and efficient to offer prizes like free product, admission or VIP experience at next event. It is important, though, to review the contest policies of each social media platform to ensure compliance with all rules as some have restrictions in place.
- Set up a branded photo booth with props to encourage selfies and social media sharing organically.
- Ask vendors, business partners, loyal clients and maybe even booth neighbors to share and use your hashtag. Offer reciprocal sharing for a win-win.
- Tag as many individuals as possible. Tag other exhibitors, new acquaintances made on the floor, the show venue, the show organizer, even the city name. This will ensure that your posts are spread far and wide.
Whatever methods are used to spread the message, be sure to post content and encourage sharing on as many forms of social media as possible. The most common used for business are: Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Vimeo.
While the overall exhibit strategy is critically important, the strategic incorporation of social media is vital to increased exposure for any event. However, the real beauty of social media exposure lies in the fact that impressions can be measured, very easily! Which is different from the show itself, where measuring trade show return on investment (ROI) can be complicated and imprecise venture.