Tradeshows and events play a significant role in the marketing mix of many businesses, providing a hands-on opportunity to knowledge-share, network, and showcase your brand's latest and greatest / best and brightest.
A great example of this is, of course, the buzz Twitter generated from its launch during South By Southwest way back in 2007, but fast-forward ten years and many brands still miss meaningful opportunities to elevate their presence by incorporating social media throughout a tradeshow's promotional lifecycle.
It takes a fair amount of planning and coordination to properly incorporate social media into your tradeshow plans, so here's a short primer on how to make it happen:
- Get the info - I use a one-page form that our event planners complete for me so that I can have the basic info in one place, including booth numbers, event hashtags, networking receptions, speaking engagements, etc.
- Join planning meetings - Yes, listening to individuals pontificate on collateral count, promotional items, booth design, dress code, and the like can be a bit boring, but these meetings are also often your best source of information of "what's happening" during the show, and it can sometimes be one of the few times you get real insight into what's top of mind for your sales team at the show
- Start promoting (both paid and organic) - The million-dollar question for most of us is: How early should we start promoting our attendance? The answer all depends on the show and your audience. I typically recommend brands start promoting their participation 2-3 weeks beforehand so they capture attendee mindshare while they're in the schedule planning phase. Utilize the relevant social networks - for me it's often Twitter and LinkedIn, given the business I represent - to let folks know you'll be at the show, invite them to sign up to meet with your team, visit your booth, etc.
- Review the show schedule - There may be key events that would be for great live-tweeting fodder or show influencers that you'd like to connect with.
- Keep promoting - Continue to let attendees know where they'll find you at the event, or what your booth giveaways are, or run a social media contest for event attendees, etc.
- Live tweet - This includes everything from the pithy or amusing comments you're hearing on the show floor, to the great insights you're hearing from event speakers, to helpful hints for navigating big event halls (e.g. - where to find a charging port), and the like. Add some thought leadership value to the online conversation.
- Go behind-the-scenes - If your subject matter experts have been asked for media interviews or to participate in a podcast or join a panel, this all provides behind-the-scenes content for the social media manager. And, assuming the event organizers permit it (and you should check beforehand that they do), you may consider going live to share behind-the-scenes or thought leadership content with your digital audience. A word to the wise: Be creative with your livestreaming. It should be the type of content that the audience can't easily get elsewhere and it should feel timely.
- Find your partners - Some of the best tradeshow content I've leveraged came from chatting with partners, journalists, or industry analysts during a show. Their perspective can be tapped to help broaden your brand's reach during the show.
- Recap it - You could write a wrap-up blog, if you wish, provided the author's offering some unique insights versus a simple recap, especially because there'll likely be hundreds of recaps available from any number of your competitors (or there will be bloggers and journalists on site providing real-time recaps throughout the show). These days I'm a big fan of using Twitter Moments to curate the best tradeshow tweets in a single, simplified feed. It's more interactive than a simple recap blog.
- Wrap it up - Don't forget to communicate the success of your social program. I create a simplified, tradeshow-specific dashboard that I share with key internal stakeholders.
Incorporating social end-to-end to help tell the story of your brand on-site can lead to additional booth traffic, new connections (both on and offline), increased brand awareness, and fundamentally more leads. Any event that doesn't incorporate at least some social media tactics is a missed opportunity for your brand.
Do you know a brand who does tradeshows well? Let's hear about it in the comments section below.