The International Manufacturing and Technology Show is a bi-yearly affair that attracts 80,000+ attendees and thousands of exhibitors to Chicago’s McCormick Place every other September. This year saw an explosion in the use of social media to enhance the experience for attendees and for those folks who would like to have attended but were unable to.
Monica Haley is the Marketing Communications Manager for AMT – The Association for Manufacturing Technology – and was part of a small team that coordinated the social media marketing effort at this year’s expo.
Social media proved to be an extremely useful catalyst to drive engagement at the show. The numbers of people posting content from the last show in 2008 jumped significantly, according to Haley. In ’08 there were only 50 people at the show who joined in posting content on Facebook or Twitter and other networks; this year the confirmed number was over 350.
The social media effort started with a strategy planning session. Out of that session grew a plan for using social media on many platforms throughout the show, including scheduled blog posts, many of which were solicited from speakers and other industry voices. The intent with the pre-show blogging was to offer unique content with a thread back to the show.
They also scheduled Facebook posts and Twitter tweets before hand using Hootsuite with a plan to offer ‘live’ ongoing posts off-the-cuff as they happened during the show.
They set up a separate social media/blogging areas where attendees could watch the Twitter Roll with the hashtag #IMTS on a large flatscreen TV, as well as plug in and log-on with laptops to engage (if they weren’t already doing that with a smartphone).
As an additional tool, Haley and her crew used SCVNGR for booth check-in (a location-based service somewhat similar to Foursquare and Gowalla), a mechanism to push people around the show who were willing to participate; it got people to the corners of the show and provided another aspect of experience to the show. She says it helped people that couldn’t come to the show feel a part. Haley says they first looked at using Foursquare but it proved to be unwieldy for the task.
SCVNGR is a location-based service game played on smartphones, which was utilized to bring people to various booths looking for specific items.
Having the social media in places helps facilitate movement of the people at the show, and helps engage people who aren’t able to attend. “One of the biggest benefits of social media is humanizing the people behind the scenes,” said Haley.
Looking ahead, Haley says in 2012 (and likely for the European version next year) they’ll be looking to engage online attendees in many ways. If successful, she feels the show could draw another 20,000 virtual attendees.