In this step you will learn that for your event to be a success, you need to have a social media strategy in place before, during and after your event.
I'm going to make the assumption that you have already been through the exercise of choosing the right social media channel for your audience, so I'm not going to bore you with that detail – just to say that it is important to make sure you are on the right platforms.
This post is part of a series of 17 steps to mastering your trade show ROI. If you haven’t already seen in you need to go back to the first post in the series that covers your goals and objectives. While you can take the information in this single post by itself and improve your results - you will have far greater success if you approach it like a mini course and move from one step to the next.
Prior to the event
Before the event – there are a few key points that will help you increase your reach and help you to maximise your social media efforts.
The first part is to create a hashtag that ties in with the whole theme. See back in an earlier step here.
You really need to be unique if possible and I know it is getting harder to find a word that hasn’t already been used or abused, but the main point is make sure it isn’t being used by a competitor of yours. The last thing you want is a lot of noise being created around your hashtag of choice for another company in your sector exhibiting at the same event.
You can use Twitter Search, or Tagboard to do your research around this.
Check the events own hashtag first as well as you will be using them both together wherever you can, and you don’t want them to contradict or look weird when used together.
The hashtag you choose must be clear and easy to understand and remember. Using something like #BizEvnt4u2k16 is not going to work. If event attendees even remember that. The last thing you want is someone posting your hashtag that’s spelt wrong, this will open a whole new can of worms.
Keep it short and sweet:
With social networks like Twitter where character limits are limited to 280 characters, you need to think about creating a hashtag that is a maximum of 10-15 characters only.
The longer your hashtag is, the fewer characters Twitter users have to talk about your event.
Can your hashtag be interpreted in another way?
Check, and check again to make sure your hashtag is not going to be able to be misinterpreted, and is not associated to something you do not want to promote as a business. If an event attendee is going to use a new hashtag when talking about an event they are attending, it must be memorable. Avoid using hashtag abbreviations that aren’t instantly recognisable, even if you don’t make a mistake your intended audience could.
Find New Prospects:
Visit the Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts of the event and connect with their followers. They are most likely attending have a high chance of being your ideal client. It's also a good idea to create two private Twitter lists; one with exhibitors, and the other with attendees. You can use the exhibitor list to see what other exhibitors are talking about, and to give you inspiration, and use the attendee list to listen in on what they are saying online and jump in on conversations where appropriate.
LinkedIn Groups are also a great way to connect with the relevant prospects. Often the event organisers will have a dedicated group for that event. Ask for permission to join and you have direct access to sometimes hundreds of prospects. Please just make sure you don’t try and “sell” in any of these groups or interactions – remember your goal is to get people to meet with you at the event or at the very least get their email address so you can follow them up afterwards. You will be doing the “selling” at the event and afterwards in your follow-up. Leave the pre-event entirely for adding massive value so you can get prospects to know like and trust you.
Tell People Where You’re Exhibiting:
Facebook and Twitter allow you to “pin a post” to the top of your feed, so that it is the first thing your potential clients will see. Create a Tweet and Facebook post about the event. Use the brand theme you developed earlier and make sure your call to action is clearly visible.
Develop a regular post schedule and use a tool like “Meet Edgar” or Social Bee” to run these campaigns. You should have at least 2 or 3 posts hitting the different platforms each day – remember that social media is a huge audience and one or two tweets or posts before an event is like throwing a piece of sand into the ocean. You have to be regular and consistent to get results.
During the event
While you are at the tradeshow it can be very easy to get caught up in the moment and forget all about your online activity, however this is a perfect opportunity for you to really blow up your presence and use what’s happening to generate even more leads.
The most obvious thing is to share images of your stand… It's a great way to bring the event experience to those online. Make sure you include photos and even videos with your staff working or setting it up. Add personality, make them fun, colourful or cryptic to invite engagement and share across all of the social media platforms you’ve chosen to use.
You will also need to dedicate a member of staff to monitor and listen to online conversations whilst you are busy exhibiting and meeting potential clients. If you don’t have enough staff to do this – and I appreciate the fact that there are a lot of our clients are small businesses with only a few staff - then make sure you set aside regular slots where someone can take a 5 min break and run through your accounts.
Every tradeshow should be attended by at least 2 – preferably 3 staff and you can rotate so the stand isn’t empty while you are having a bite to eat or using the restrooms!
Another excellent use of social media during the show is to talk about offers, games and competitions you’re running with people who visit your stand as well as those on social media. This can be a perfect way to break the ice for your staff, a good lead generator during the event and a way of getting more followers on social media and continuing engagement after the event.
Above all – remember your hashtags and use them on every single post you do. You will find that the more engaged you are online – the more other exhibitors and visitors will be and it creates an exciting atmosphere that will make your brand be remembered for a long time after the event.
After the event
Even after the show has finished, your work STILL continues!
Take to social media and thank everyone for engaging with you, entering your competition and for coming to visit you on your stand. If people are tweeting directly at you, go back through your mentions and thank them individually.
Keep Sharing Images
Visuals are a great way to keep your audience engaged. Even after the event has finished, keep sharing images or videos that were taken during and after the event such as picking competition winners.
As great as it is to be active on every single social network, you need to protect your time. Don’t spread yourself too thin.
Choose the social networks that work best for what you want to achieve and perfect that. Understand that the customer journey and experience is crucial and regardless of whether you are having a conversation with a potential customer on Twitter, or at an event, you need to be able to deliver exactly what they are looking for.
If people are still engaging with you after the event, continue conversations and always follow up with every single lead you acquire from the trade show.