Even in this day and age trade shows are a critical component of any B2B company's digital strategy, however they involve considerable marketing investments by companies; booth space, design and fabrication of displays, travel, accommodations and marketing collateral and interactive content.
It's little wonder then why more and more cities are offering more and more incentives to attract more trade shows and conferences to their cities to fuel economic development.
To help maximize ROI and create awareness many companies and organizations are turning to social media to improve their success at trade shows.
1) Make Sure Your Brand is Discoverable on Social Media
Our first social media marketing tip starts long before you start your trade show awareness campaign. Before you're ready to go, you need established presence on social media.
No one likes to be the first guests at a party and the same goes for fans connecting with brands on social media.
Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and LinkedIn are still dominating social media marketing while entires like Instagram and Pinterest are popular due to the visual nature of their platforms and shifting trends in how users are spending their time online.
2) Make Sure Your Social Profiles are Up to Date
For trade shows, conferences and general event marketing, you need to put your best foot forward. Directing people to your social channels only to have them find the most recent post was six months ago does your company a huge disservice.
Having an up-to-date profile not only makes your company look more professional, it helps bridge the gap between the real-world touch points and your brand's online presence helping facilitate a seamless conversation between your prospects and your company.
3) Use Social Media to Create Pre-show Buzz.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube and Instagram are currently the top tools to get the word about about your trade show. The key is to move beyond the general announcement and standard issue press release and showcase who will be there, free giveaways, and what attendees can hope to learn when they stop by your booth. The goal here is to generate foot traffic.
One good tactic is to take the press release of the event and break it up into small chunks that can be spread out across your social calendar.
Create teaser campaigns where you dole out information in small amounts to pique interest and drive engagement. Make the information valuable and exciting so that it incentivizes people to share your posts with their immediate network.
In this sense, it's the 2nd degree connections that is really the most valuable asset of your social presence, often increasing the reach of your content by an order of a magnitude or more.
4) Utilize the Official Hashtag for the Event or Create Your Own
Leveraging hashtags for your event is one of the best tools for generating buzz and curating and monitoring conversations about your brand specific to the trade show or conference.
It is also one of the best ways to make lateral connections with other participants, speakers, presenters, and show attendees. If you are exhibiting at an event, check to see if there is an official hashtag being used by the show organizers, incorporate this hashtag on all of your event specific tweets and Instagram posts.
Also note that hashtags can be used on other platforms as well (LinkedIn and Google+) and that Facebook is soon expected to activate them in the next major update.
For events that do not have an official hashtag, or if you are hosting your own event. Feel free to create a unique custom hashtag to help generate buzz and awareness for your event.
Double check to make sure that the hashtag is not currently in use and be sure to use intercaps to help distinguish specific words and avoid the dreaded hashtag confusion.
5) Incorporate Social Media Into Your Corporate Website and Email Marketing
One thing we notice with a lot of companies still, is that their social media channels are nowhere to be found on the corporate website or email marketing.
This is a huge missed opportunity for brands to allow their customers to connect with them and receive news and updates in real time.
For companies that haven't done so, collect all of the live social media channels currently maintained by your brand and have your web and email teams integrate them prominently onto your company's site and campaign templates.
6) Leverage Real-Time Marketing
In a globally connected world, information is shared in real time with zero lag. Perception can turn on a dime so marketers have to be on their toes to take advantage of any opportunities that emerge.
The Oreo tweet during the Superbowl is becoming a textbook example of how to leverage social media and real-time marketing to generate brand awareness.
For real-time sharing on-the-go, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook Pages are the top three social/mobile platforms of choice primarily due to their user friendly mobile apps, around the clock content stream, and wide popularity with Millennials.
Depending on how many people you bring with you to support your trade show/conference efforts, bringing along a dedicated person (typically an online community manager or PR person) who can post real-time updates, post visually attractive photos, and engage with followers or fellow attendees on-the-fly can offer the highest impact for your brand's marketing efforts.
This also allows your company to maximize lead generation by making it easier for other attendees to make the connection between your brands offline presence with their online one.
7) Understand that Social Media is a one-to-one marketing strategy
A mistake many brands make is treating social media as a mass communication strategy.
In some instances, treating your Facebook Page or corporate Twitter as a broadcast medium is expedient and effective but the real value lies in the two way communication between you and your audience.
This offers an unprecedented opportunity to engage in one-on-one conversations with prospects and fans.
Also another point to consider is that customers are now quick to vent their frustration and dissatisfaction with a company on social media.
Getting your marketing/social team up to speed on customer service and online conflict resolution can actually help defuse negative feedback by courteously taking the conversation offline and converting critics into advocates.
8) Share Your Trade Show Experience with Those Unable to Attend
Our last social media marketing tip covers one of the most overlooked parts of trade shows - the post-show experience.
With advancements in mobile technology and smart phones you can record an almost endless amount of data at events; insights, photos, videos, contacts, geo-locations, that you can share with your audience in real time.
Some of this can be shared on social media but also don't overlook the fact that the material captured can be used to create a recap of the trade show experience where you can share what you and your team discovered and reflect on where your business or industry is headed.
Want more trade show marketing tips?
Download our Trade Show Checklist to make the most of your trade show experience.
Social Media Marketing Tips for Trade Shows
That's all our social media marketing tips for this blog. But if you want to find more ways to use social media with your B2B brand, check out our blog about social proof, and it's role in boosting online sales.