A trade show offers huge potential for face-to-face engagement with prospects and customers, but you should also be using social media to boost your presence and showcase the event to an even wider audience.

Much trade show marketing focuses on how to promote and exhibit at these business events, but treats social media as a simple add-on.

However, social media works best for trade shows if you integrate it fully into your strategy, and use it pre-show, during the event and post-show.

Planning Your Social Media

Social media can be very instant, and reactive, but it is important to think through a proactive social media strategy in advance.

Your social media activity should align with your trade show objectives, so be clear what these are.

For example, you might be focusing on footfall, or how many qualified prospects will visit your stand, or raising awareness of your brand at the event.

If you understand how you will measure your success, social media can then help you achieve these metrics.

A critical part of your planning is choosing your social media channels:

  • Twitter – for its immediacy. Send out quick reminders before the show, and use it for comments on what’s going on during the event itself and for sharing images.
  • LinkedIn – extremely useful pre and post-event. Promote the trade show to target audiences, and then connect with people you have engaged with during the show.
  • Facebook – good for sharing multiple images and photographs from the trade show, and for in-depth posts associated with it.
  • Instagram – as a visual platform, this can be useful if the trade show has plenty of interesting visuals that you can post images of.

Remember though, only use social media channels that are appropriate to your audience, otherwise you risk wasting your resources.

As part of your strategic planning, consider designating someone specifically to manage your social media and coordinate your marketing activity around the event.

Before The Trade Show

It is important to start your promotional activities two to three weeks in advance at least.

This is to generate excitement about the event. Follow event hashtags on Twitter to see what is currently trending and start connecting. You can start a hashtag of your own connected with your specific campaign and attendance at the trade show.

If the event will be showcasing new products or services, create teaser content, including videos, to highlight them.

Invite attendees to visit your stand before the show has started. Use your LinkedIn network to invite connections personally and create a landing page on your website that is dedicated to the event and your part in it.

Create a buzz around the event on social media. Engage in conversations about the event on different platforms, share photographs and tag brands that will feature at the event. Encourage your employees to talk about the forthcoming show on their own social media accounts.

During The Show

Your social media marketing mustn’t stop just because the trade show has started.

Use Twitter for live Tweets during the show, focusing on reactions of your visitors, and what activities are going on that will draw people to your stand.

Photos and video provide powerful, in-show content to give online followers a vivid flavour of what is going on. Social media can enable you to bring the show, and your part in it, to a targeted audience of non-attendees – it is a great way to mix up your content marketing strategy.

If you’re running competitions, or offering giveaways, then be sure to promote these through social media to attract more footfall on your stand, always being mindful to include a powerful call to action (eg. “Visit us on Stand X”).

Cross reference your social media channels on your stand by displaying relevant QR codes, icons and web addresses on your exhibition stand design, making it easy for visitors to your stand to connect with you after the show.

After The Show

Social media is perfect for the follow-ups which are critical to event marketing success.

Check all your leads and business cards from the trade show. Where you can see potential value, make contact through LinkedIn and Twitter. Include a personal message with your connection, and refer back to the trade show.

Follow up leads with emails, (don’t forget to make sure they opt-in to any communications first!) and include links to your social media accounts in your email.

Write a blog or LinkedIn article about the show and promote it through the event hashtags. Focus on any pain points or discussion issues visitors to your stand have raised, which can help you engage with your audience.

Thanks to its ability to engage before, during and after the show, social media is a highly effective means of maximising the impact of a trade show and ultimately helping to grow your business.