(Trade)Show and Tell

Is including social media an afterthought when planning for your trade show? In a world filled with hundreds of millions of bloggers and Facebook users, now, more than ever, the timing is right to bring social to the forefront of your trade show engagement strategy. Whether you are communicating direct to consumer or business to business, an opportunity exists. Trade shows are a viable tactic in the marketing mix because they allow personal interaction with your most valued audience. However, measuring these engagements can often be a challenge. With social media in the mix, you can extend the conversation and get the added benefit of tracking success measures. Defining social media’s role in reaching your trade show objectives is an essential first step. Do you want to increase brand awareness? Increase booth traffic? Gain press/media coverage? Once you define objectives for social media at the show, take a look at how those stack up against some of the trade show goals like generating pre-show buzz, lead generation, or extending the conversation after the show. Now that you know what you want to achieve by using social media during the show, it’s time for the fun part – figuring out which of the available tools and channels to use. Here are some approaches worthy of sharing: Keep customers in your booth with Facebook – Sharing photos is one of the most common uses of Facebook. Take advantage of this by giving visitors a reason to have their picture taken in your booth.  You can take the picture or allow them to take it with their own personal smartphone.  Combining this with inbooth celebrity/guest speaker activity or taking pictures by a standalone branded banner are both simple ways to integrate this into your plan. Generate pre-show buzz with Twitter – Send short and sweet hints about all the upcoming events that will be taking place in your booth. Are you having any contests, guest speakers, special offers? Let people know ahead of time so they can make it a point to visit your booth. The activities are often planned well in advance and so can be your tweets. Use a service like HootSuite to pre-load and pre-schedule your tweets. Continue the conversation with Media Sharing – Did a brand advocate or a thought-leader present something new in your booth? Take advantage of sites like SlideShare to distribute the content to booth visitors and to those who couldn’t make the show. Your existing social media plans may influence your strategy as well.  Already engaged in social conversation with customers? Try out a Tweetup at your next show.  Not yet joined the social network? Set up your business accounts a few months before the show and promote your new presence live and among your biggest fans. Whatever direction you choose, there are lots of opportunities to use your trade show not only to show but also to tell.