Attending trade shows can be an end goal in itself, but why stop there? Folding your trade show exhibit into your company’s overall social media marketing strategy can enhance your trade show success while giving your marketing campaign a healthy boost at the same time. Chances are you’ve already planned out your social media lead gen strategies, written your newsletters, and bought paid advertising in relevant markets. So where does the exhibit fit in?
Here’s how to develop your trade show social media strategy and use your booth to bolster your other marketing efforts.
Define Your Goals Early, and Be Specific
As you sit down with your designers to plan your booth, it’s time to refer to—or define—your social media goals. But it’s not enough to simply want “more followers” or “more engagement.” Take it a step further and make your online goals specific to your overall goals. Define all your parameters: which social media platforms you’re focusing on, the audience you’re targeting, and anything else that’s relevant to your goals.
Speaking with ExhibitorOnline, industry expert Traci Browne noted that setting a one-off social media goal such as “Gain 100 Twitter followers” is a short-sighted move. Instead, Browne recommends using your overarching social media strategy as a baseline. Want to be considered a thought leader in your industry niche? Focus on creating and promoting valuable content. When you do that, the followers will come naturally.
If your goal is to gain more followers—a common objective for ecommerce brands—focus on who those followers are. More followers don’t necessarily mean more sales if you’re targeting the wrong demographics. For instance, instead of aiming to gain 100 followers, try to entice 20 industry-specific bloggers to follow your brand.
Promote your Exhibit Before the Show
In the days and weeks before the upcoming trade show, use your social media pages to promote your booth and build excitement and interest. Make sure to focus on your audience. Don’t just show off your products—talk about what makes them “must see” for your target customers.
Use this as an opportunity to talk about why show attendees should visit your booth before any others. Highlight your exhibit, products, and even your staff. If you’re giving away cool swag, post a teaser video that shows off the items.
Ask yourself why you’re excited for the show, then share your thoughts with your visitors to your pages! Remember, exhibits are one of the best ways to speak to your potential clients and customers face-to-face. Start the conversation online, then continue it in person at the show.
Use Social Media to Tell Brand Stories
Storytelling is a major aspect of modern marketing. These days it’s less about catchy slogans and soundbites and more about using stories to highlight what makes your brand unique and special. Storytelling is important because it humanizes your brand and business, making them more relatable to your audience.
Many exhibitors underestimate the power of storytelling at trade shows because the exhibit floor is so crowded, and it can feel like those messages get lost in the crowd. But when you’re playing a long game by making your trade show booth part of your overall social media strategy, storytelling can pay off.
What kinds of brand stories can you tell? Anything you think makes a good narrative can work. But it’s always good to tie your story into the upcoming show. For instance, if you’re launching a new product at your next show, tell the story of how that product was developed.
To craft effective brand stories, focus on these three elements:
- Knowledge of your audience. This is crucial because it builds emotional connections with your audience—and people rely heavily on emotion when they make purchasing decisions. To create brand stories that speak to your audience and build emotional connections, you need to know what they care about and the things they value.
- The stories you tell should reflect your brand’s values and culture. Don’t try to capitalize on trends or jump on the latest bandwagon. Your audience will quickly find out if you’re not presenting your brand in an authentic way.
- Putting your customer in the story. Brand stories are a way of showing your audience what you do, and why you do it. And, ultimately, it’s about them—so make sure they’re an important part of the narrative. To do this, create brand stories that highlight your audience and how your brand or product addresses a specific need or problem they have.
Trade Show Social Media at the Event
At any given event, most of your audience is connected to the internet via their phones or other devices. At a trade show you’ll see people taking pictures for Instagram, tweeting, and even filming TikToks. You can be part of this ongoing conversation too, and it’s easy to get your foot in the door just by talking to your audience. And social media is the perfect place to do it. By combining the digital with the real world, you’ll create more opportunities to connect to your followers.
#Hashtag Raffle: Encourage attendees to use your branded hashtag by running a raffle during the show. You can go about this in a few different ways:
- Enter everyone who visits your booth into the raffle, then offer bonus entries to people who post on social media using your brand hashtag.
- Enter everyone who visits your booth AND posts on social media with your hashtag. Offer a bonus entry to people who post on more than one platform, like Twitter and Instagram.
- Make the raffle open to anyone who posts using your hashtag, whether or not they visit your exhibit.
The Forbes Expert Panel notes that social media contests boost engagement while driving leads. That’s likely to remain the case for the foreseeable future as social media grows as a presence in people’s lives.
Social Media Scavenger Hunt: Gamification continues to be an effective way of engaging an audience. By adding social media to the game, you can drive engagement while encouraging more booth visits. To do this, just provide a list of objects for people to find and ask them to tweet with your event hashtag each time they discover an item. The first person (or number of people) to find all the items wins—either a prize or bragging rights.
Roving Reporter: Appoint one member of your booth team to be a roving reporter. They’ll walk around the show floor, looking for interesting or fun content to share to your trade show social media pages. Facebook Live and Instagram are both good options for this strategy.
There are plenty of opportunities to find content at trade shows. Some examples include:
- Interviews with booth visitors or attendees on the show floor
- Real-time updates from your own trade show display – Behind-the-scenes clips are always popular because people love the idea of seeing what’s happening behind the curtain.
- Interviews with your booth staff
- Tours of popular or eye-catching booths – Make sure to focus on non-competitors!
With this strategy, you can reach people who are at the show and remind them to check out your booth. You’ll also reach people who aren’t at the show. They’ll find these updates even more interesting, especially if they wanted to attend but weren’t able to.
Follow Up with Attendees After the Show
There’s no reason to let the conversation with current and potential customers end just because the show is over. Keep it going with a post-event content schedule. Post a video highlight reel, booth photos, and any other related content you create. If your company website runs a blog, write one or more posts about your show experience, and link to them on your socials.
- Use your social media pages to thank everyone who stopped by your exhibit.
- Follow up with important contacts you made at the show and keep the content coming.
- If you demonstrated a product and collected emails, consider sending a promotional email that offers a discount to show attendees.
Make Your Trade Show Social Media Strategy Pay Off
Your trade show marketing campaign doesn’t exist in isolation—and it shouldn’t be treated that way. When you integrate your trade show booth marketing efforts into your long-term social media campaign, you can boost the effectiveness of both.
As an extra bonus, download our Ultimate Social Media Checklist! It’s a complete plan with links to valuable resources that will get you started promoting your event online. Simply click on the button below!