Trade shows are an important part of business in many industries. However, spending up to millions of dollars on trade show presence without promoting it also to people who are not attending is a waste. With modern online and social media, you can make your trade show presence visible all over the world and for an extended period of time, thus making sure the investment is as profitable as it can be.
In this post, I will examine the goals that online integration can help you achieve as well as the ways to reach these goals.
What online and social media integration can do for your trade show presence
Taking your trade show online is a two-way street: your activities online will help your offline presence at the show itself, and what you do at the show will promote your existing online presence.
Here are the goals:
- Attract more visitors to your exhibition stand through online promotion before the event.
- Attract more visitors to your exhibition stand through online promotion during the event.
- Attract more visitors to your online presence through offline promotion during the event.
- Increase the amount of time visitors spend checking out your material during the event by providing interesting content both offline and online.
- Attract more visitors to your online presence also after the event with interesting content from the event.
How to integrate trade show presence and online and social media
1. Promote the event online in advance
Create a page or mini-site for the event on your website. Share your plans for the event, schedule meetings, and create buzz. Let your customers and prospects know you will be attending, and why they should care. Use the event page or mini-site as the central hub of your event activities that points to relevant content on your site, on other sites, and on social media.
Write about the event in social media. Blog about the upcoming event, run competitions, or give sneak-peeks into the products you will showcase at the event. Reach out and let those interested find the content on your site.
Create or sign up to the event on social media. Sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn allow you to create events and show that you are attending. You can both let others see you are attending and check out who else will be there and connect before the event.
2. Share your experience online
Share the events at your stand and whatever interesting things you find at the other stands as they happen. At the moment, the tool for doing this is Twitter: it is instant, easy to follow, and mobile. You can share with a hashtag for the event and also create a list that people can follow if you have multiple people sharing content (for example, someone at your stand and others around the event). The goals of this content are to get the people at the show notice you and to report the events to people who want to know what is going on right now but are not where the action is.
Elaborate on the most interesting parts when you have time. Evening at the hotel? A perfect time to write a blog post about the day. This content serves a more lasting purpose, as it will tell people about what happened even months after the event. It may attract some attention from people at the event in the next days as well, but the main buzz machine is live sharing.
Go multimedia. You don’t have to limit yourself to writing. Record video of interesting events, arrange live interviews (video or podcast), and take photos. Post them on Twitter, Youtube, and/or Facebook.
Be social. Ask your audience what they want to see or read about, and show it to them. This is especially helpful to catch the attention of people who are not at the event, but are interested in it.
A little bribery always helps. Have free stuff to give away? Announce it online. Running a competition? Tell about it online. Got a robot serving drinks at your stand? Hey, lots of people are going to want to see that. Free stuff and competitions can be put to good use to drive traffic to your stand, although the attention may bot always be ideal for generating leads (depends on what you sell). Try to come up with something that interests your target audience in particular, and announce it online.
3. Direct the visitors at your stand to your online presence
Show that you are sharing valuable content about the event online. Posters linking to your event site or Twitter feed may draw attention, but how about going one step further? Do what Twitter itself did at SXSW 2007, put up a big screen next to your stand and show your reporting there, with a link to subscribe so that visitors can keep an eye on it elsewhere at the show as well. You can even team up with partners and create a common reporting stream showcased on multiple stands. Sharing enough content, but not too much, avoids the problems using Twitter caused at SXSW 2009 when the popularity of the tool made the stream too difficult to watch.
Make it easy for your visitors to reach your online presence. For example, use QR codes to let your visitors connect to your online presence without typing any URI addresses. QR codes are easy to create with various online tools, some of which create them in vector format for easy large-size printing. There is a fair amount of buzz going on regarding QR codes at the moment, for example, see the Image Media Partners blog. There is an excellent white paper on QR codes available from NeoMedia.
Running a Twitter feed from the event? Let your visitors follow with a QR code. Showing product videos? Upload them on Youtube and give your visitors a link with a QR code. Displaying product prototypes? Link your product page with a QR code. You can also put a QR code on your business card to give easy access to your data (more on this approach at Fastcompany).
However, keep in mind that not everyone gets QR codes yet, so also provide the data or URI in human-readable format for manual use. Also, there may be other solutions to provide easy and fast access in the future, NFC technology being the most prominent candidate. With the massive increase in the number of smartphones (of non-NFC variety), QR codes are the way to go at the moment.
For example, here is a QR code for this blog:
4. Measure the effects of your activities
It is of vital importance to measure your success, or failure, in order to improve.
Online measuring can be carried out by directing traffic to certain pages or through certain pages (certain URL shorteners, redirect pages from your own site to your Youtube videos) in order to get the data to your analytics software.
Offline measuring can include giving the visitors the option to tick a box that says “Twitter” or similar on a questionnaire form that asks where they heard about you.
5. Don’t forget traditional promotion
Whether it’s press releases, newsletters, or direct phone calls, don’t forget to use promotion methods that are tested and work.
It all depends on your audience. The resources you allocate to social media and other methods should reflect your audience. However, keep in mind that nowadays, regardless of your industry, some of your audience is already on social media. It is just a question whether this part of your audience is still a minority, or already a majority.
Picture: inUse Consulting (cc)