As I visited the exhibitors at the recent Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce Business Networking Expo, I wondered how many of the participating business owners were aware of the potential benefits of using social media during a trade show.
While social media is not a magical marketing solution for businesses, one powerful way it could be used is as part of your trade show strategy.
The Chamber’s event was just last month, but start thinking now about how you might use social media at next year’s Expo if you plan to exhibit. This may sound extreme, but businesses that use social media successfully at trade shows usually start planning more than six months before the event.
Develop a social media following first
First become proficient in using a successful social media marketing campaign for your business as a whole before using it at a trade show.
It won’t do you any good to be posting or tweeting information about your trade show activities if you only have a few people receiving your message.
Determine what type of social media would be most effective for your business. Twitter is great, but is it really right for reaching your customers? Would you be better off starting with a blog and Facebook? Don’t be shy about getting professional help with your social media campaign.
Plan your activities
You need to plan your trade show social media activities. Do not jump in haphazardly and expect things to work out. Be organized and methodical in your approach.
Establish goals, determine what media to use and how and develop a calendar of activities. Put together your trade show social media team. Determine what technology you will use during the show.
Before the show
One to two months before the show, start using social media to inform your followers about your exhibit.
You could blog about what and who will be at your booth, tweet about incentives, promote give-aways, etc. Let your followers know how they can interact with you during the show.
Provide your booth number, a location map for the show and a description of your booth. Give them information about the event venue and city.
Remember: Social media is not the only way you will publicize your participation in the trade show. Traditional marketing should not be discarded but should be enhanced with social media.
During the show
You may tweet about or post on Facebook what is going on at your booth during the show. But don’t overdo it. Share information but don’t drive people crazy with constant chatter.
Post pictures of the event. Create videos of visitors to your booth talking about themselves and your exhibit. Post these on YouTube (with their permission).
In addition to the staff at your booth, you may want someone back at your home office monitoring and replying to feedback from your followers.
After the show
Once the show is over, you could blog about the experience, share photos through Facebook or Flickr, thank those who visited the booth, tell about prizes you gave out, etc.
You also could solicit additional feedback from your followers about the event.
Remember: It is “Social” Media
Although you need to develop and execute a well thought out plan for using social media at your next trade show, don’t forget that this is an interactive activity. You are not just pumping out information according to a rigid planned schedule.
I believe you should use the three F’s — fun, feedback and flexibility.
Be sure the messages you send during the show are interesting, exciting and even fun for your followers. Pay attention to the feedback you receive. Be flexible enough to respond to their feedback and use it during the show.
The above are only a few suggestions for using social media at trade shows. You must research and choose the most appropriate channels and methods for your business.
Many of the above strategies are discussed at the Marketing Savant web site at http://www.marketingsavant.com/ through their blogs and webinars. You can also get more information about using social media at trade shows from Exhibitor Magazine at http://www.exhibitoronline.com/.
Connie Edwards is a business consultant with the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center. Contact her at 912-651-3200.