Just a few years ago, companies using social media at trade shows were innovators, at the forefront of the digital revolution. Social media integration is now so ubiquitous, it’s virtually a requirement for any organization with a trade show presence. Most attendees walk around the floor with their phones in their hands—taking photos, checking Facebook, tweeting. They live simultaneously in the physical and digital worlds. In 2018, companies with booths that focus on the physical to the exclusion of the digital aren’t just slow to adapt; they’re missing out.
But with everyone on the same bandwagon, it’s harder to stand out in the crowd, whether it’s on the trade-show floor or online. It is possible to stake your claim to social, but it requires staying ahead of the game. And that means keeping your eyes firmly on emerging industry social media trends.
What are the trade show social media trends of 2018?
More and more, marketing has turned to storytelling. This new style of advertising is less about creating sound bites—such as slogans or tag lines—and more about telling stories that highlight what makes a brand special.
Storytelling humanizes your brand and showcases what makes it unique at a deeper, more human level. These elements can get lost in the trade-show environment for two reasons:
- There’s so much going on at a trade show that it can be tough—though not impossible!—to capture attendees’ attention with storytelling.
- Storytelling plays out over time, and industry events are time-limited.
As a result of these obstacles, many brands prioritize style over substance when it comes to publicizing their booths at the expense of effective, long-term marketing to prospects.
Taking the Long View
There are usually two types of exhibitors:
- Companies that rarely exhibit and tend to view each trade show as an event unto itself
- Those that exhibit several times a year
Whatever category you’re in, social-media storytelling can serve you. Not only does it play a role during events, but before and after them too. This strategic view of social media as a flow of information is increasingly important if you exhibit fairly frequently. Each show isn’t a standalone event; it’s also the next in a series.
A long-term view humanizes your brand because it fosters a feeling of consistency and lets your audience know your brand can be relied upon to show up and do a great job.
Event Coverage in 3 Stages
- Event promotion leading up to the show
- Event reporting during the show
- Post-event coverage and information round-ups
If your organization attends multiple events throughout the year, you can view each new show as an opportunity to call back to previous shows. For example, highlight your sales team and the work they do at each event, and remind customers and prospects of all the locations your crew is visiting in the coming year.
The Best Platforms for Social-Media Storytelling
In online advertising, telling stories happens across multiple social media platforms. Share images, status updates, and live stories that follow your team from the before the trade show to afterwards.
The most popular platforms for storytelling are:
Pinterest and other bookmarking and curation platforms are generally not useful for this purpose. Their function of aggregating content from all over the web and highlighting individual pins or posts isn’t geared toward helping you tell your brand story.
Off-the-cuff content is often unfamiliar to marketing teams because they’re focused on creating content carefully crafted to SEO perfection. But ephemeral content has its place too. The trade show environment is one of nearly constant action, so it’s the perfect place to try out a more spontaneous strategy.
A marketing approach that feels more casual also tends to appeal to Millennial audiences, who prefer sincerity and informality in advertising. The spontaneous, no-frills format of live video is a perfect match.
Note: Real-time interaction with your audience doesn’t have to be complete improvisation. Having a couple of talking points creates important structure. Just be sure they don’t sound rehearsed!
Use Social Media to Report on the Event
One engaging way to interact with your audience in real-time is to designate one member of your team as a roving reporter, who moves around the trade-show floor, looking for fun, interesting, or informative content they can share to your brand’s Snapchat or Instagram story or to video platforms, like Periscope or Facebook Live. There are lots of opportunities for interesting content:
- Quick interviews with attendees
- Sneak peeks at other booths (preferably non-competitors!)
- Updates on your own booth
- Chats with your exhibit staff
Through these methods, you can extend your reach to attendees, encouraging them to check out your exhibit. You can also reach customers and prospects who were unable to attend. They will appreciate the updates, and you’ll stay on their radar.
Note: Use your organization’s social media accounts before a show to let followers know you’ll be reporting live from the floor, and they’ll tune in to see what they’re missing.
The Best Platforms for Real-Time Interaction
Several platforms allow for the creation of live video content, including:
Twitter, along with Snapchat or Instagram Stories, is a great combination for a roving reporter because they’ll have both text and image media covered.
For longer form or in-depth video content opt for Facebook Live or Periscope. For instance, a live-cast of a demonstration or presentation is perfect streamed on Facebook Live or Periscope (with a tweet linking to the video).
Users are loving the trend of gaming. Common examples include:
- Earning achievements
It’s a great way to boost visitor engagement, and by implementing it digitally, you can also gather useful data on the participants.
Adding social media into the mix can drive more follower interest and encourages visitor engagement both online and at an event itself.
One fun option is a scavenger hunt. You provide attendees with a list of objects or people to find in the event space. By tweeting each time they find an object, they and other players can follow each other’s progress. And, with a branded hashtag, they provide great visibility to your business and booth. Offer a small prize to those who complete the hunt; branded promotional items are a great option.
This kind of mini-event has many benefits:
- It ramps up your social media account activity the day of the show.
- It gives your brand a fun and humanizing image boost.
- It encourages players to return to your booth multiple times.
- You have the chance to collect the email addresses of those who sign up for the game.
The Best Platforms for Gamification
The fast pace and ease-of-use of Twitter makes it perfect for gamified interaction. It’s quick and easy for participants to tweet along as they play a game and easy for attendees to use hashtags to find and follow the game action.
Branded Moments with Filters
In the past year or so, filters have become very popular on platforms like Snapchat, and brands are seeing it as an opportunity. Before your next trade show, create one or more branded Snapchat filters. It’s surprisingly easy to do with the software provided by Snapchat.
Once you’ve created a filter, your visitors can take Snapchat selfies with it or add your filter to a picture they take. That moment gets sent to their friends or can be added to a ‘story’ from the show. This is highly shareable content that’s quick to set up and easy and fun for visitors to use.
Stay on Top of the Social Media Game
What’s key to harnessing the buzz of social media? Staying on top of the trends. In addition to implementing these 2018 social media trends, make a point of checking out new social media apps as they’re developed, and think about creative ways to use them in your exhibits in the coming months.
What’s on Our Radar?
- SlideShare – Share slideshows and PowerPoints to improve your event demos or presentations.
- musical.ly – Add music or special effects to short video clips to help your roving reporter create social media content.
Social media is not static. Keep your eyes and ears open for what’s coming next, so you can use it to capture prospects’ attention in unique ways they won’t forget.