Get engaged: using social media in the exhibition arena
If you’re an event marketer worth your salt I’m sure you know your way around a hashtag and your posts from your pins, and I don’t want to teach granny to suck eggs as the saying goes, but think about it – given the vast number of options available to you, and the growing number of people engaging via social media, are you sure you’re making the most of the opportunities offered by these channels in your events strategy?
Here are some ideas for maximising your reach:
Planning is key – identify the key social media channels used by your target audience, consider which key people and organisations you’d like to engage with, and start planning your content. Write key posts before the event if needed, and designate one or two people to manage your social media throughout the event, from build-up to the post-event conversation.
Follow and use the show’s hashtag – you’ll benefit from show updates direct from the organisers and be able to monitor the buzz, stay on top of the latest industry news surrounding the show and get involved in the conversation.
Create a hashtag of your own – come up with a unique, brief and easy to remember hashtag to help monitor engagement with your brand throughout the show period. Involve your target audience in the organisation process – why not allow people to vote for a choice of speakers, giveaways or activities you offer on stand? Making them feel involved will give them a sense of ownership over your exhibition presence and make them more likely to visit you on the day of the show.
Offer a sneak peek – offering up a pre-event chat with your speakers or stand staffers is a great way to allow people a preview or sample of the content you’ll be offering on the day, which is another way of making people feel involved in your exhibition presence.
Personalise your campaign – why not collect RSVPs from attendees by tweeting them directly? You’ll start to rally attendees and begin the conversation, plus you can select your key targets.
Join the conversation – make sure your voice is heard in the pre-event conversations. Be part of the wider noise.
During the show
Mix it up – make sure you’re using a wide range of content types to keep people interested. Consider posting videos, blogs, quizzes and games as well as newsy items about what’s happening on your stand. Create podcasts with interviews of speakers, staff and attendees, create informal videos on Vine, and consider live streaming all or part of your event.
Vary between platforms – try to make different content unique to its chosen channel – don’t use the same content across all social media channels. The chances are that your followers probably track you across more than one platform, and you don’t want to risk boring or annoying them. Post content at different times too.
Content is key – you’ll be tempted to keep telling people your stand number and what you’re giving away in a bid to get them to visit. That’s ok, but don’t make it the be-all and end-all of your communication. If you’re engaging them with your interesting content they will want to find you.
Encourage interaction – encourage exhibition attendees to engage with you on social media during the event. Offer ‘check-in’s at your stand and consider having a Twitter screen where you monitor your event hashtag. Why not set up a Flickr gallery or Pinterest board for the event that attendees can upload or pin photos to – then offer a prize for the best one? Competitions are a great way to engage your target audience and encourage buy-in to your exhibition presence. Ask stand staffers to walk the hall and encourage people to tweet or post a picture on Instagram with the incentive of a free giveaway.
Data capture with a difference – why not capture people’s Twitter handles when you’re capturing their professional data so you can connect with them in a different way.
Continue the conversation – prolong the event buzz after it’s finished by ensuring you have planned content that will continue the conversation. Spread this content as far and wide as possible to make sure you hook in those that didn’t attend and persuade them to drop by next year.
Ask for feedback – social media channels can be a great, informal way to gather feedback on your exhibition presence: what was popular and what could have been improved. Consider offering a prize for the most useful feedback or suggestion for next year’s show.
*figure correct at January 2015