A few quick observations on using Twitter at Expo West, the huge Natural Products show in Anaheim this past weekend:
1. A handful of companies are drawing people to their booths through Twitter. Many of them seemed to be amazed that it worked – but almost all that were using it were seeing results.
2. It seemed to me (again, anecdotal evidence) that the companies having the most success were small to medium-sized companies. I did talk to a few larger companies – those with at least 8 or 10 booth staffers and a larger island booth – but the response was, shall we say, a little less enthusiastic? “Yeah, I think we are – ask Jason over there, he’s doing some social media…I think.” When I talked with the Jason (not his real name): “Yeah, we’re using it. I mean, I’m doing some stuff online. Now and then…but it’s…uh…”
3. Before the show I gathered a list of just under 50 exhibitors who had posted their booth numbers and used the #expowest hashtag. I was able to meet ‘n’ greet most of them the first morning of the show. If there were other Tweeters they didn’t show up on Twitter with either their booth number or the #expowest hashtag. Without those, I couldn’t find them. Which meant most other people probably couldn’t either.
4. Some – but not all – were offering goodies for people that mentioned that they came to the booth because of a tweet. A free imprinted shopping bag, a larger product sample, etc.
5. Everyone that was actively involved with Tweeting among the smaller companies were absolutely enthusiastic when I mentioned I saw their booth number on Twitter. That enthusiasm for social media ran to other platforms: many had YouTube and/or Facebook pages as well.
Summing up: small companies can create consistent buzz using Twitter and other social media platforms if they have a dedicated social media staffer who ‘gets it’. Larger companies seem to struggle with what social media can do for them (although there certainly are exceptions – I’m just passing on observations from one tradeshow). It’s as if there are more layers of management and marketing and strategy and other roadbumps that appear to damper any enthusiasm that people within the company may have for using social media. For a larger company to succeed with social media, it’s my feeling they need to dedicate either a full-time person or – depending on their size – a small department to the task. Smaller companies can get away with using one person on a part or full-time basis for social media.