Using Social Media Before, During, And After An Event Or Trade Show
Terri Brown; Marketing and Member Engagement, AmericanHort, TerriB@AmericanHort.org
As an attendee or exhibitor at a trade show or conference, social media can help you and your business in a lot of ways. First and foremost, it helps you engage and connect with your audience. This is essential for sharing your message and having a lasting impact on your customers.
Aside from that important factor, having a large network on social media can open a lot of doors and provides the opportunity to share your products, brand or key messages with people who are interested in engaging with you.
So, how can you use a conference or trade show to build your customer base or audience? What are some of the tried-and-true methods and newest trends? Here’s a checklist that can help you navigate how to use social media to your advantage before, during, and after an event.
This list will help you:
- Build relationships with influencers, attendees, event organizers, industry peers and other businesses.
- Bring people to your booth or presentation.
- Make your message memorable and impactful after the event.
- Increase your number of followers and influence.
- Get more customers or brand/product awareness.
Before the Event: Build your Content and Make Connections
1. Share the Event
Using your social media accounts, help raise visibility for the event or show organizer. Always try to promote the event first, and your exhibit or presentation second.
2. Send Personal Invitations
Use Facebook messages, Twitter direct messages, and LinkedIn messages to invite key customers, influential attendees, and industry peers to visit your booth or attend your presentation.
Make sure to tell them the why, where, and when regarding your exhibit or presentation, and invite them to connect with you. When you get positive responses, save their names in a list for the day of the event and try to meet in person or follow up with them.
3. Use Polls
Ask questions to ask for opinions or find out what your potential customers want to know. Post a survey or poll in advance to find out what your audience is most curious about, then use your findings to adapt your exhibit signage and marketing support material.
4. Post Teasers
Post about your new products or services, share photos or content that feature a few unique facts or features that will increase interest and attention. Remind people where they can come and see you to learn more.
5. Use Event Hashtags
Start using the event hashtag before you even get to the venue. Most events will have a hashtag, but if they don’t — work with the event organizer to create one, and request that they share it with all the attendees and other speakers.
6. Social Media Handles
Include your preferred social media handle and the event hashtag on exhibit information, marketing collateral, or presentation slides. (Note: some conferences have guidelines on this, make sure you are within the guidelines.)
7. Resource Page
Set up a resources page with all your social media handles, your contact details, product or service information, slides, collateral material, images, important links, free resources, videos, and relevant presentations to make it easy for your customers and audience to continue learning from you.
During the Event – Get Excited!
1. Live Video
Use Facebook LiveVideo when you get to the event or city and share your arrival. Your LiveVideo doesn’t have to be long, maybe 5–10 minutes.
Outline what you are doing in the city, what the event is, the event hashtags, and then give one or two “sneak peeks” into what you or your company will be exhibiting or sharing with your audience. Give them a reason to come visit your booth or to attend your presentation or educational session.
2. Arriving in the City
When you get to the city or the venue, post about it using the event hashtag. Here are a few ideas on what to post:
- What your (positive) thoughts are on the city or venue?
- What you are excited about sharing?
- Who or what you are looking forward to seeing?
- Photos of the city, venue, people you meet
3. Participate in the Conference
If you’re exhibiting at the trade show, it isn’t always easy to get away to visit other exhibitors or attend sessions. If you can, be sure to post photos and insights into what you’re seeing and learning. Share other attendees’ content about the show and comment accordingly.
4. Make Connections
When you’re networking with other attendees, customers, and organizers – immediately connect with them on social media. You can also collect their business cards and email them afterward, but don’t negate one for the other.
5. Post Photos
A picture says a thousand words! Whether you are sharing this on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or even LinkedIn – show that you are active at the event. Take selfies with people, photos of people interacting in your booth, interesting things you see around the show, or even the room where your educational session or presentation will be. Be sure to tag the people or companies included in your photos.
6. Send Reminders
Remember that list you made with the positive responses from customers or influencers? Pull that list backup and send them a quick reminder of your booth number or the time and room where you’ll be presenting. Tell them how you are looking forward to talking with them afterward.
7. Tell Your Audience or Customers How to Connect with You
Be sure everyone in your booth knows how to direct folks to your social platforms. If you’re making a presentation, be sure to share with the audience how they can connect with you on social media. Whether this is Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or another platform, being clear and direct about how people can connect with you is essential. Encourage your customers or audience to share and post using the event’s hashtag.
8. Offer Incentives for your Customers or Audience to Connect with You
Whether this is connecting on your Facebook fan page, connecting with you on LinkedIn or following you on Twitter — offer something, such as a free product sample or contest. Get creative, while matching the tone of the conference.
Post Event: Keep Sharing your Message
1. Post Photos from the Event
You can share on Facebook and Twitter, tagging the names of the people or companies represented in the photos — if you have photos of the people on your list of customers, influential attendees, speakers, and organizers, tag them in the photo, and go over how it was great to meet them in person.
2. Take a Quick Video about Insights from the Conference or Show
This could include 1–2 testimonials from industry peers, co-workers, customers, or other attendees. Share this on Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
3. Say Thank You
Share an authentic thank you post to the event organizer, industry peers and customers for hosting the event, stopping by your booth, or just taking the time to connect. While you can do this privately through email or by letter afterward, a public post showing gratitude can help increase brand awareness, and your professional reputation.
4. Build an Email List
If you’re not doing it already, consider offering an incentive on social media to increase your email database, such as sharing relevant updates on current trends, products, services, features, and benefits. Your incentive needs to something of value that your audience will find useful.
As you can see, there are a multitude of ways to connect and engage with your customers or audience through social media. You’ll soon find out what platforms work best for you and your business. You don’t have to participate on all of them, choose the platforms where your customers spend most of their time and focus on developing content that you can use throughout the planning cycle for attending a trade show or conference.