Peter Eberly, Director
Product and Vertical Marketing
During the past 10 years, social media has exploded as a strategy of choice to attract visitors and build relationships with attendees at trade shows. Businesses have added Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, among others, as they focus on creating and building relationships with customers and prospects who may be attending events.
According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, almost 75% of attendees have a plan for which exhibitors they will visit before they arrive at the show floor. And, because most attendees (more than 85%) believe that face-to-face interactions are most effective for conducting business, it’s critical that you are employing every tool available to get the right customers and prospects to your trade show booth.
The use of social media as a method to attract customers and prospects at trade shows has exploded during the past decade, according to the Exhibitor 2018 Social Media Marketing Survey. Not only do most companies now have employees dedicated to social media, they also have incorporated paid social media strategies into their work.
The study also says that event marketers using social media marketing claim the following:
- Increased brand awareness
- Enriched relationships with clients and prospects
- Increased booth traffic and event attendance
- Additional press coverage
- Increased sales
Social media is about having thoughtful two-way conversations with qualified prospects. Potential impression numbers are great, but if no one is interacting with your posts, you’re not getting the attention of your audience.
It’s important that your social media efforts aren’t created in a vacuum. Involving SMEs early and enlisting them to vet your content will save time and help to avoid possible mistakes. Additionally, SMEs often have connections or recommendations for thought leaders or industry publications you’ll want to include in your efforts. It’s also key to ensure your social media content closely matches the content you’ll be showcasing in your booth – including presentations and any new product releases.
Additionally, prepping speakers and booth personnel is critically important. There’s nothing worse than having a media representative try to have a conversation with booth personnel who aren’t adequately prepared to discuss a nuance you’ve covered in a social media post.
How else can you be sure your social media efforts are hitting the mark? Consider these tips:
- Benchmark and set goals. Even if you are new to the social media arena, benchmarking and setting goals will give you comparison data. Having hard numbers will not only show you where to grow but also will give you metrics your leaders are eager to see. These metrics also will show you what platforms are working for you and will allow you to make midcourse corrections as necessary.
- Know your audience—quality trumps quantity. It’s great to have a lot of followers. It’s less great if you’re a manufacturer and most of those followers work in retail with little connection to what you do. Perhaps they are friends or family – no disrespect intended – but that group probably is not going to be purchasing a piece of equipment from you.
- Know your competitors and follow them. Comparing yourself to competitors can give you an idea of where you want or need to be.
- Curate your platforms. You don’t have to be everywhere if your message doesn’t match the platform and why your users are there. A design company trying to make a big impression with interior designers who handle business accounts are probably on target if their social media focuses on Pinterest and Instagram. Facebook may not be the right fit. Consider what your clients are using the platforms for. Similarly, it’s less important for a B2B printer to be on Instagram but probably critical to have a LinkedIn presence because buyers and decision makers are more likely to look there before making decisions.
- Hashtags are important. Use hashtags focused on your event, but also include hashtags that are likely to interest your target audience as well.
- Not all impressions are equal. Potential impressions are the total possible reach of your posts calculated by your audience numbers. Unfortunately, those impressions don’t consider inactive accounts, or audience members who are not scrolling regularly, etc. Actual impressions that are available for Facebook and Twitter calculate the number of times your content actually appears in a members’ feed.
While social media is key to attracting and engaging prospect and customer attention, it’s important to remember that a blend of digital and traditional targets is often the most effective way to achieve goals. Consider a campaign that incorporates direct mail, email and social media as touchpoints to achieve maximum reach.