Despite the explosion of social media and online connection possibilities, trade shows have continued to prove successful in fostering relationships, building new connections, and generating leads. This proves that while social media has grown, there is still a need in business for face-to-face connections. Either way, both social media and trade shows can be beneficial to your business. Combining a social media strategy with your upcoming trade show schedule will further drive success for your brand.
It isn’t enough anymore to simply register for a trade show booth and await the arrival of the big day or weekend. And it isn’t enough to rely solely on the hosts of the trade show to market for the event, either. To get the maximum benefits from participating in a trade show, your brand must utilize its social media platforms as an integral part of your trade show marketing strategy.
Since trade shows provide that nearly forgotten face-to-face interaction, why not utilize a strategy with a personal touch? Reach out personally to your past, present, and potential clients to invite them to your event. Use LinkedIn’s private message feature to personally invite your contacts to the trade show. Highlight a contact-specific feature that would be of interest to them in order to personalize the invite. Your contacts will appreciate that you took the time to think of something that will address their specific needs and challenges.
On Facebook, you can create an event page and invite contacts that may be interested in attending. The benefit of Facebook’s event feature is that the invitees can elect whether they will attend, might attend, or won’t attend. This information can help your brand prepare for the event, as you will have a general idea of which contacts will be at the show.
Before the event, you want to generate buzz around the trade show to get people interested and entice them to participate. Even those potential contacts who have committed to attending still need to be persuaded to visit your booth or set a time to meet. A great way to get your followers and contacts involved is to host contests or giveaways. Promoting a contest via social media can expand your reach for the event. For example, you can prompt your followers to share a post to be entered into a drawing. This is a great way to reach any potential leads and get your participation in the event out to the masses. If you do plan to go this route, be sure to check any trade show regulations involving raffles and drawings, since there can be restrictions.
During the Event
Utilizing social media during the event is another important piece of your trade show marketing strategy that can help bring in more attendees to your booth. One important task to consider is the team your brand is bringing with you to the trade show. You should elect one team member to be in charge of managing your social media during your event. This ensures that you have an adequate team working at your booth.
Be sure to announce any promotions on your social media platforms so your followers can cash in during the event. For instance, if you are a technology company and you have just created a new app, you can generate buzz about the app on your social media networks and offer the app download for free when attendees come to your booth to scan the QR code.
Take lots of pictures! Show your followers how much fun you’re having, who is stopping by your booth, and what activities you are participating in. You don’t need to post every single photo you take but sharing a few on the fly is a great way to generate interest in your brand from attendees as well as your followers that were not able to make it to the show. Videos are a great way to showcase the fun as well. Interview your attendees or record demonstrations. Keep your followers updated on any contests as well.
The use of hashtags during your event is a great way to allow those followers that couldn’t attend to be a part of the action. It also helps keep event attendees informed of what is going on at your booth. Some trade shows may already utilize a hashtag, but you can create one of your own as well! For example: #ManobyteAtSurtex or #ManobyteTakesIMTS.
Talking about your social networks during the event is another great way to build your following. Before the event, you had contests to draw your current followers to your event booth. Now, you want to do the reverse. Remember that not everyone that attends your booth follows you on social media.
Create a contest at your booth to drive followers to your social media pages. You could offer the same free app download prize, or a time bound promo code to any attendees that follow you during the event. For other prizes or giveaways, you could have attendees drop their business card into a bowl - real or virtual via a landing page - to be entered into a drawing. As a bonus, you are gathering potential leads for your brand!
Post Trade Show
It’s Monday morning and you are back in the office after an exciting week of connecting and teaching during the trade show -- but that doesn't mean your trade show marketing strategy can be put in a drawer until next time. Now it’s time to follow up! Remember all those pictures you took during the event? Compile the images and draft ablog post. This is a great way to showcase the successful booth you held at the trade show. Share some interesting information you learned, who you met, and announce contest winners. The blog post is a great way to let your customers know how involved you are in the industry. Plus, when you make it look fun and exciting, it can help drive attendance to your next trade show!
You have met many new contacts at the event and now it is time to get in touch with them. Connect with them on LinkedIn and send them a message thanking them for visiting your booth. Go back to the Facebook group you created for your booth and thank those who came out. Use your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn feeds to post a status thanking everyone in general. Then, start a conversation with your followers. For example: “Thank you to everyone who stopped by our booth this week! What was your favorite part of the event?” Start a conversation to help boost awareness for your brand and get ideas for what to improve upon for your next event.
Trade shows are a great way to make new connections and get some face-to-face time with current ones. Make your booth fun and incorporate social media wherever you can. Take advantage of the reach you can create on your social networks and never stop connecting.