If you’re like many Americans, you use social media to document both the exciting moments of your life (concerts, vacations, birthdays, weddings, etc.) and the mundane (lunch, weather, boredom). Why should your brand’s upcoming trade show be any exception?
Social media is such an important tool for brands that our 12 For 12 audio podcast dedicated two episodes to content chemistry and social networking. And now we’re following that up with some bonus tips to help you master the art of being social and take your next trade show by storm, onsite or in the Interweb.
Ready? On your marks, get set… share!
Know Before You Go
Much like you wouldn’t head out on a first date without googling the other person, you certainly shouldn’t attend a trade show without researching potential prospects beforehand. To make the most of a trade show, networking should begin way before you hit the conference floor—and that’s where social media comes in.
“Social media turns into a giant opportunity because it is the world’s greatest phonebook,” explains marketing expert Andy Crestodina, co-founder of Orbit Media. “You can look people up in advance, [and] you can find out who they are.”
A trade show is a unique opportunity to be in a room with people you might not get in front of otherwise, so do your due diligence! Find out who’s going to be at the show, determine your individual targets (the people you’d like to meet and build relationships with), and reach out and engage with them on social media before the show begins. Don’t feel comfortable reaching out directly? You can also join in on general conversations—many shows have LinkedIn groups associated with them—and make yourself known among all attendees by sharing valuable contributions. Then, when you see them at the show, you’ll be a friendly, if not familiar face—not just another stranger trying to sell something.
“You can become really visible just by engaging in that conversation, answering questions, asking questions,” advises Crestodina “Some research up front gives people a big advantage because then the people they meet, the faces they see at the show, aren’t quite as cold. It’s easier to start that conversation.”
Not sure how to start a conversation online? Marketers can take notes from data pulled from—where else?—dating websites! Read Andy Crestodina’s blog on the subject here.
Polish Your Profiles
In a trade-show situation, you’ll (hopefully) be making a lot of new contacts, and in social media, just like the real world, first impressions matter—so it’s important to be prepared.
Before you head to a show or even begin reaching out to people, make sure that your social media profiles are polished, aligned and up to date so they reflect the image you’re trying to project right now. On the brand side, for example, you want to make sure your images and copy are consistent across profiles, while on a personal level, you should ensure your information is accurate, well written and up to date. You don’t want a new contact to search for you only to discover that your last company is listed as your current employer because you got a little lazy with LinkedIn.
So take the time before the show to perfect these digital representations of your brand and personal identity. This means proofreading copy, ensuring you have relevant and current posts on your feed, using correctly sized images, investing in headshots and requesting LinkedIn recommendations to buff up your profile.
Even if you wow someone in real life, remember: they are going to look you later. So make sure your online presence reflects how awesome you are in real life.
For 10 ways to improve your social media profiles in one hour or less, click here.
Fan the FOMO flames
We’ve all had those thoughts when scrolling through Instagram: Why am I not frolicking on that beach in Tahiti? Why am I not rocking out to Beyoncé at Coachella? Why am I not rubbing elbows (paws?) with Grumpy Cat at South by Southwest? WHY IS EVERYONE HAVING FUN BUT ME?!
We’re referring, of course, to FOMO—or fear of missing out—a phenomenon sparked by social media and our newfound ability to witness all the cool things that every other human is seemingly always doing (while, of course, we’re not). And though this feeling is, without a doubt, bad for our mental health, it is good for marketing.
In the trade show space, you can reap the benefits of your audience’s FOMO and use social media to offer an inside look at the event. By offering access to those who can’t attend, you’re elevating your image as an attendee while creating content that might be shared by the event and the people and brands you’re including in your coverage.
“A tradeshow is really an exclusive event, an in-person thing,” Crestodina explains. “Not everyone can be there, right? So you want to show activity. You want to have interaction, be posting photos, chatting with people, sharing quotes, because it’s going to both enhance the perception of the brand and the event.”
By covering the show as it happens on social media (through video, photos, Instagram stories, live tweeting and more), you’re expanding your reach beyond the trade-show floor to offer something valuable to your audience and potentially engage those prospects who aren’t able to attend.
“When you do provide this kind of insider look, it’s like they’re finding out what’s happening behind the scenes,” says Cass McCrory of of Capra Strategy and Sales Get Social, “and anybody on social media, they love that. That’s the engagement that makes someone part of a story instead of just an observer through a window.”
While we’re talking about creating live content, it’s necessary to note that this isn’t a totally improvisational practice. To make the most of your time, money and efforts, be sure to plan ahead: create an editorial calendar; arrange interviews and create shot lists ahead of time; delegate different social channels to different employees; prepare templates so you can plug in content quickly as you go; and, in addition to using the event’s official hashtag, consider creating your unique, event-specific hashtag to accompany all content before, during and after the event.
The more prepared you are, the more you’ll be able to pivot as the moment calls for it (and, you know, actually enjoy the event that you’re making everyone else wish they were attending).
Harness the Power of the People
Social media is a channel built on conversation and connection, and unless you’re running a giant corporation—or a company like Wendy’s, that is famous for its distinct social media personality—it’s uninspiring and unwise to go with a total Wizard of Oz-esque, pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-keyboard approach. When people are interacting with your brand on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or any other channel, they want to know who they’re speaking with, and social media demands a personal touch.
“People buy from people,” Crestodina says. “Relationships happen between people. So you’re putting yourself at a big disadvantage if you try to use social media from behind a logo. You should really have a face, be a person. Be human.”
Now, this tactic definitely makes more sense for some brands than others. There’s a reason we aren’t acquainted with, say, the 20-year-old social media intern assigned to drafting tweets for Metamucil this semester. (Yes, that is an intentionally weird example.) For many brands, social media messaging that comes from a single person or face just doesn’t make sense—but even those companies can harness the power of people.
One key way to make social media more human is by crafting content that your employees can leverage and share on their personal channels. According to Fast Company’s “How To Turn Your Entire Staff Into A Social Media Army,” content shared by employees gets eight times more engagement than that shared by brand channels and is reshared 25 times more frequently. On top of that, leads that are developed as a result of employee social marketing convert a full seven times more frequently.
By employing this strategy and encouraging team members to share the content you’re generating before, during and after shows (tips for how to do that are in the aforementioned article), you’re getting your message out to a larger audience in a way that feels more human, more relatable and more real than the straightforward tooting—or tweeting!—of your own horn.
Have an Empathetic Approach
Lastly, when creating your social media strategy for a trade show, you have to focus on what really matters: the audience.
Social media is a game of give and get, and if you want to grow an audience and engage people, you have to consider their wants, needs, fears, dreams, pain points and everything in between — and then create content that addresses these things and is relevant and worthy of their time attention.
When crafting content for Instagram, Twitter and every other channel in the current (and future) digital ether, your goal should be simple: create high-quality content that your followers find valuable, and do it consistently.
Remember: It’s not rocket science—it’s social media.
Now share this post if you agree, okay?