Social media is one of the most powerful mediums for promoting your company’s trade show presence. From LinkedIn to Instagram, some of the web’s biggest social media platforms can be great tools in your trade show promotional arsenal.
And it’s not just the people in attendance that will be checking their phones throughout the day. You’ll also reach everyone who’d like to attend but has to follow events through your social media feed.
The bottom line is that you need to be ready with social marketing and interactive booth ideas that boost brand engagement.
In this section, you’ll learn how to use social media to promote your exhibit, connect with influential people prior to the show, engage with them during the event and follow up post-show.
Before the Event:
Learn from your competitors’ successes
If you’re a first-time exhibitor, you can get a great blueprint for trade show success by looking at what your competitors are doing. A lot of companies will post pictures of their trade show stands on their social media channels often as part of a promotion.
Spend a few minutes searching for your competitors on social media and you might be able to find some snapshots of their booth. This gives you a good blueprint to build your own exhibit from, as well as a good clue of how they’ll be exhibiting this year.
If you can’t find photos or marketing material on your competitors’ social media pages, try looking on industry blogs. Trade shows are covered heavily by bloggers and you might be able to spot a competitor’s booth amongst their photos.
See which of your competitors was most successful and use their exhibit as a source of inspiration for your own. Look for indicators of popularity like crowds around a booth or positive media coverage and note them for your own exhibit planning.
While social media coverage can be deceiving, it’s one of the best ways to see what you’re up against at a particular trade show.
Use social media to research before the event
Are you exhibiting at a certain trade show for the first time? Every trade show has a different culture, and using social media to research the culture and atmosphere of a trade show gives you a useful advantage over other first-time exhibitors.
Some trade shows are all about the presentations. Some are all about the sales floor networking opportunities. Others have a more ‘corporate’ atmosphere where most of the deal making is done over dinner and drinks following the show.
Knowing the culture of the show you’re attending will help you avoid spending your money in the wrong places.
Instead of searching news websites for coverage of past shows, read the blogs of attendees for a more hands-on perspective of the event.
Make social media an integral part of your branding
Social media is one of the best tools for connecting with prospects and new contacts following a trade show.
Your company’s social media accounts and blog should be listed on your banners, posters, notepads, brochures, and other marketing materials. Make every part of your exhibit an opportunity to connect with attendees on social media.
To make social media as simple as possible for attendees, use a QR Code to send people directly to your company’s Facebook App or LinkedIn profile.
Own your Google search results
No matter how prominent you make your social media profiles, a certain amount of your prospects will simply search for your company’s name (or your own name) on Google after the show.
Your social media presence should be configured to make it as easy as possible for these prospects to find you. Create accounts for yourself and your business on the major social networks – to make it as easy as possible for prospects to find you in the search results.
If your company website is optimised for search engines, you might want to create a page specifically for each trade show you attend. This makes it certain you’ll be easy to find if prospects search for ‘[company name] [trade show]’ after the event.
A successful trade show exhibit will always result in an increase in organic searches for your company name. If you practice online reputation management, the months before a trade show are a good time to double-check that no negative feedback is visible when someone searches for your brand name.
B2B? Don't Forget LinkedIn
While Instagram. TikTok and Facebook are still the preferred social network for B2C companies, LinkedIn is the social network of choice for all B2B activity. If you primarily deal with business customers and clients, it’s best to emphasise your company’s LinkedIn presence.
If you haven’t already, create a Company Page for your business on LinkedIn and ask your staff members to connect with it.
Once setup, search LinkedIn using the name of the trade show and see if the organisers have set up a group.
If they have, join the group and begin networking before the event by searching the group for people in your target audience. With the right search filters, you can find hundreds of sales prospects to connect with during the event itself.
Set up appointments with social media prospects
One of the best ways to increase traffic at your trade show booth is to connect with all of the prospects you’ve identified using LinkedIn and invite them to visit you at the event. Using InMail (a feature of LinkedIn Premium) you can message prospects without having to add them as LinkedIn connections.
InMail is fantastic for explaining how your business can help prospects, promoting competitions you’ll be running at the event, or introducing yourself to key people at the event before speaking to them in person.
Connect with Influencers
If you work with any social media influencers, you need to connect with them to plan your strategy before the event. Try collaborating on content before and during the event to generate brand engagement. That could be a video or post designed to create a buzz around your brand.
If working directly with an influencer doesn’t fit your brand, try partnering with a social media contest or giveaway for the duration of the event.
During the Show:
Trade show videos
There are some powerful reasons why your brand should be using video marketing. Video content is easy to digest, and viewers retain 95% of your message when they watch your videos. So how can you bring that level of engagement to your stand?
If you’re launching a new product, start building hype with teaser videos. You’ll encourage attendees to stop by your stand, and they’ll help spread the word to create a viral buzz.
Explainer videos are always popular, so record visitors testing your products and post the videos to your social channels. You could also livestream any panels or talks given by members of your organisation. Remember to get consent before using any filmed content.
For the full guide see our piece on How to use Video at a Trade Show.
Trade show photos
Any coverage on the show’s official social media will likely include lots of images, so your brand must be part of the visual mix.
Obviously, you’re going to want to snap people interacting with your brand and trying out your products. Just make sure you get consent before sharing those images on your social channels.
Other popular ways to generate a buzz are to hire a photo booth or create a branded backdrop. These strategies generate content that users post to their own social channels, creating a much broader reach.
Trade Show Social Media Wall
Social media walls are great for sharing content using your hashtags, so they’re a time-tested way to generate engagement with your brand.
But you can take your social media wall to the next level by using it to aggregate and automate product reviews and interactions. You can even create real-time updates of positive feedback for your company and its products.
If you’re running contests, use your social media wall for live updates. You’ll generate engagement and motivation by letting competitors know where they are in the current standings.
And don’t miss out on the opportunity to amplify your company’s culture to prospective customers. Use your wall for company employee posts and create a real connection with attendees.
Trade show Hashtag Campaigns
Don’t underestimate the power of a good hashtag. Try and mirror the official hashtag for the event you’re attending, so it’s easier to remember. And always use your brand hashtag alongside the event hashtag to increase its reach to other attendees at the show or conference.
You’ll need to start using your hashtag before the event, so ensure you have a solid policy on how and when your hashtag is used across social media and other pre-event publicity.
Make sure you use your hashtag across your publicity materials, interactive booth displays and for all your posts during the tradeshow. Then don’t forget to follow up after the show to optimise brand engagement.
Trade Show Social Media Contests
All work and no play can make your stand a very dull place. Trade show competitions are great for engagement, and these can also take place on social media.
Social media contests are a great way to engage with attendees passing your booth, and there are plenty of different games and competitions to attract their attention:
Prize raffles: these are a cost-effective way to encourage brand engagement. Remember to give away a small branded item with every entry.
Vote, like & comment to win: these contests encourage visitors to engage with your content on Facebook, Instagram or other social channels. You could ask for votes, likes and comments on new services, product options, artwork, logo and branding and much more. By voting and sharing their favourites, attendees put themselves in line to win a prize.
Photo & Video contests: encourage trade show visitors to submit content to be in line for a prize. You could have several categories, including most shares/likes/comments or best in show.
After The Show:
Follow up post-event using social media
The average trade show will leave you with hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of business cards. InMail is a great way to connect with people that you can’t seem to track down using the traditional email or phone call.
Search the names of people you met at the trade show on LinkedIn and connect with them using InMail.
For prospects and business contacts that you know well, skip the InMail and connect using the phone number or email listed on their business card.
Another great way to connect with prospects following the event is by contacting them on Twitter. Tweet them after the show reminding them that it was good to connect and that you’ll be in touch soon with a phone call or email.
Good luck with your trade show social media marketing strategy
Not every social media marketing idea will be the right fit for your brand. But there are plenty of ideas for brand engagement that will fit with your strategy.
So be sure to evaluate what works best for your company so you can generate even higher levels of buzz at your next event!