August 2012
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10 Social Media Tips for Trade Shows

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have a huge amount of information on them that can be used to initiate sales opportunities.

Manny Mandrusiak

Manny Mandrusiak
Managing Creative Consultant,
4 Bravo Marketing

Contributing Editor


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As the calendar slides into August families start to think about getting kids ready to head back to school and companies start thinking about trade shows.  The fall is always the start of the mainstream of industrial automation trade shows both in North America and Europe.  Event coordinators and marketers will start to make plans about show logistics, booth construction, who is attending, but one thing that many overlook is the importance of getting  social media networks ready.

It is not a question of simply thinking that one will send a few tweets out from the show, it  is about taking the time to leverage Social Media to do three things while at the show:

1.  Increase a company’s corporate footprint.
2.  Drive traffic to a company booth (generate leads)
3.  Networking with potential business partners

In my opinion these are the three most important ways that social media can be leveraged to truly get the greatest return on investment in any trade show.  As a company trade shows are always a huge investment and many will try to justify the expense with a phrase like “Our competition is there, so we have to be there”.  Wrong.  The mains reason for going to a show, aside from those listed above, are to increase sales and consumer knowledge about a company’s product line. No salesperson walks into a trade show hall without the plan to make sales.  If they walk in with any other plan then they should not be working for you.  The following paragraphs will layout some tips for leveraging social media to assist with that ultimate goal regardless of the size of the event.

Groundwork

I like to use the old adage “Planning and preparation prevents piss poor performance”.  Trade show coordinators will almost always send a list of what companies are attending the show along with a floor plan.  Take some time to look the list over and highlight the booths that you want to ensure that you visit.  Similarly make a list of the companies that you want to ensure that you connect with for possible partnership opportunities. 

Once these lists are made run all of these names through the social media platforms that your company has chosen to use.  Follow them on Twitter and friend them on Facebook.  This not only unofficially introduces your respective companies, but also builds you a nice network for pushing out your information while at the show.

It will also provide the opportunity to view the Tweets and posts of companies at the show so that you will have an idea of what products they will be displaying and where potential partnerships may exist.  Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have a huge amount of information on them that can be used to initiate sales opportunities.

Tips to executing successful social media campaigns at the trade show

Having a solid plan for using social media at the show will make it easily integrate into your overall strategy because it will not be chaotic or rushed.  Here are some tips that will serve you well at the show:

1.  Ensure to join the tradeshow provider’s social media groups.  Shows like the Rockwell Automation Fair and the Honeywell User Group set up Twitter and Facebook pages for their events.  This is a great place to start collecting followers to your sites, and provide yet another conduit for communicating with trade show attendees. 

2.  Post pictures often.  Every smartphone has a camera and the ability to post pictures directly to Twitter and Facebook.  Post pictures of the booth, people at the booth, products, maybe a contest at the booth.  A picture is worth 1000 words.  How quickly will a photo of a favored customer spread through their social network if you post it and tag them in it?  Faster than you might think.  A quick picture of an engineer test driving the latest BACnet server will bring their friends to your booth. People always want to be where the action is, and if Dave thought that server was awesome then Dave’s friends will naturally want to check it out.  This can be done several times throughout the day and takes only a few minutes.

3.  Trade shows are a fantastic time to unveil new products or features. There are typically tons of press around, but more importantly there is an opportunity for instant customer feedback. Every cell phone with a camera has the ability to record video.  Most digital cameras can record video and some even have the ability to post that video right to Facebook and Twitter.  People love companies that look for feedback as it demonstrates to customers that they are valued.  A quick video answering a simple question like “What  was the most exciting feature that you found about our new product during the demo”?  A quick and dirty video of an excited potential customer who likes the new product features is gold. It can be up on Twitter and Facebook quickly and farmed out to other networks later that day.  The potential customer now has not only had a product demo, but also a cool experience.  When was the last time that someone who had a cool experience did not tell their friends?  Put their networks to work for your company.  They will share the link and increase potential leads for you as others either visit your booth, or follow you on social media.  Either way you are generating more leads.

4.  Publicize that you are on Twitter and Facebook right at the booth.  Most people that attend tradeshows will make a post to their favorite social network platform anyway.  Why not sign them up for yours right there and then. 

Control Solutions, Inc 5.  Take the time to get pictures posted from your partners and potential partners.  The trick to winning with social media at the trade show is by constantly pushing out relevant content.  Tagging the reps from a partner company in a Facebook photo post means that they will receive a notification about the picture.  They will either make a comment, or share the photo through their network.  That means you are now being exposed to their customers.  Just make sure that you remember to tag yourself in the photo so that potential customers can follow that link to find your page.

6.  Post to your blog at night when the trade show is done for the day.  Writing a blog post during a show simply means that you are taking time away from networking and selling.  If you have done your job correctly with Facebook and Twitter then your blog post will take no more than 20 min once you finally hit your hotel room.  The trick here is that  you now have back links to photos, posts, and tweets that will drive traffic to your blog.  Simply one more place to generate leads and promote products.

7.  Plan for a couple of interviews with key people at the show.  Get a few minutes of video from some key people in your industry talking about the show and most of all your company.  Ask only one or two questions per person.  These people are busy at shows, and if you can get two minutes then maximize them.  If I’m at the Emerson Exchange then I want a couple minutes with Social Media Guru, Jim Cahill.If I’m at an OPC Foundation event then I want comments from the OPC Foundation President, Tom Burke.   If I’m at Connectivity Week then I’d want two minutes from Editor,  Ken Sinclair.  A quick opinion about the show, and perhaps a relevant issue (smart meters for example) and a little comment about how your company solves a problem with that issue.

8.  Follow up with everyone who joins your networks.  Take a look at the companies that they follow.  See what publications that they subscribe to, and send them a direct message.  The direct message would be a thank you for following your company, and then ask them a question for feedback, or send them a link for a free download or demo.  People want to be engaged on social networks.  By nature they want to make posts and interact.  This is a prime opportunity for you to provide them that opportunity.

9.  Take your new followers from being lukewarm leads to hot leads by getting them back in front of your product. Schedule a webcast that fully demonstrates  all the features of your product and position it as a Twitter and Facebook follower exclusive webcast only.  They will flock to it and give your salespeople the opportunity to demonstrate their product to an audience who wants to see it.

10.  Keep things consistent at every show that you attend.  By making the show an experience by engaging customers, they will seek you out at future shows.  There are always the few booths that you remember after a show.  Not always are they the biggest and flashiest, but they are the ones where people had a great experience. Be that experience every time.

Hopefully these tips provide some excitement for everyone during the upcoming trade show season.  I absolutely love marketing at trade shows because there is an electricity and speed within the shows that gets the blood moving.  Social media just makes it that much easier to get your message out and bring them all to your booth.


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