A presentation recap from #SkylineKC’s lunch ‘n’ learn, Nov 15th.

Last Thursday, emfluence CEO David Cacioppo presented a Lunch ‘n’ Learn at Skyline headquarters on best practices in social media for marketing at trade shows. In the last few years, it’s almost impossible to attend a conference that doesn’t have a hashtag and a Twitter strategy. And with good reason: social media enhances your visibility, brand sentiment and leads to more conversations than standing on the booth floor alone.

Here are a few ways Dave highlights that marketers should be using to increase visibility and traffic before, during and after the show.

Before the Trade Show:

  • Have a plan. Take out a calendar and start by plotting the event itself. Then back up 3-4 weeks and plan out regularly scheduled social media messages. Share relevant articles, research and any conference discounts you have at your disposal. For most conferences, you’ll be focusing on business-to-business channels like LinkedIn and Twitter. Start using the conference’s hashtag in these pre-show posts right away. This shares the conference info with your own following plus establishes a presence to conference attendees before the show.
  • Integrate social into your proven, successful, multi-channel event marketing plan. Don’t replace your outbound phone campaign with social – plan them out side-by-side! Schedule social media messages, like tweets and LinkedIn posts right alongside your emails, direct mail and personal sales campaigns.
  • Set appointments. Invite your social audiences to make an appointment to meet Joe, your sales rep, at your booth during the show. If you’re lucky, some of those will actually stick and you’ll get some guaranteed visitors. Be sure to offer visitors a good reason to stop by: resources, swag, prizes etc. For emfluence, sending a direct mail package that rattles gets attention weeks before an event, even though the registration inside isn’t valid until the day of the show. Recipients have to bring us their domino to register at the booth.
  • Build hype. Promote any sessions you’re speaking at or sponsoring. Offer additional chances to win your booth prizes. Help your followers – and those following the conference hashtag – get excited about seeing you at the show.

At the Trade Show:

  • Be easy to spot & go BIG. Make sure you’re not just another booth on the trade show floor. Tie pre-show promotion and your swag material into the booth design. Design them all to grab attention with easy to skim calls to action.
  • Attend sessions & tweet notes. One the fastest ways to gain Twitter followers at a conference is to be an active, valuable contributor to the conference hashtag. Attendees will retweet (share) your notes, expanding your reach and gaining followers even outside the show.
  • Have an opinion. Or better yet: have an expert opinion. You don’t need to be inflammatory, but it is ok to weigh in as an expert and not to just write up all the stats or suggestions the speakers say. Social media is a key way you can brand your company and employees in a sea of people, as long as you make your expertise clear.
  • Ask for an opt-in and a follow during registration. The most important part of a Register-to-Win promotion is to gain permission to contact those new prospects after the show!
  • Pump up your winners. Take photos of prize winners and mention them so they can share with their audiences, too.
  • Take photos! Rich media posts always win over simple text as far as attention and sharing. In addition to photos of winners, snap pics of your employees learning, having fun at the booth, sampling the prizes or talking to prospects.
  • Follow the show’s host organization. They’ll share relevant events, agenda changes, etc. and by retweeting, you can help be a resource for show attendees.

At Home, After the Trade Show:

  • Post a blog recap of the things you learned (like this one!). Tweets during the show are great for instant visibility, but a blog post after the show will help you share that new knowledge days or even weeks after the show is over. This helps build you up as an expert with your current clients and prospects that maybe didn’t attend the show.
  • Categorize your “A leads,” B leads and C leads in order to prioritize following up with them. For example, you may only follow up with C-leads – those who had no immediate interest – quarterly, but A-leads should get immediate attention.
  • Follow up! Use your integrated channels to reach out to new connections, especially phone and email.
  • Automate. Create an automated series of emails to take some of the remembering out of the process of following up once you’re back at your desk and busy. A series of emails can be set up to sound like they’re off-the-cuff and personal, but will deploy at set intervals to your new contacts to be sure you don’t forget a lead. Reminder: be sure you’ve asked people’s permission to add you to an email list!

One final tip: stick to the big channels for trade shows. Now isn’t the time to try and grow a new audience in a new medium. Twitter, Facebook and possibly LinkedIn are your go-to’s for social networking at an event.

What social and integrated tactics have you taken advantage of at trade shows?


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