Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.
Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.

March 2011

Creating a Social Media Editorial Calendar

the little guy's special day

In my communications with companies that spend a good amount of time ‘doing’ social media, it’s easy to see that most of the engagement is random, catch-as-catch-can; sporadic. There’s no rhyme or reason to it.

And I’m not entirely sure there should be. Social media, after all, IS random! You think of something to share and BANG it’s tweeted out! You see something, you react and retweet. Personal schedules change enough on a daily basis that finding a regular time to check in is a challenge for a lot of folks.

So the idea of a Social Media Editorial Calendar may seem counter-intuitive to creating active unscheduled engagement with your crowd on Twitter and Facebook.


If you know that you’ll be at seven tradeshows this year, you can build a series of promotions around those appearances. If you know there are milestones or holidays on the calendar that your company can naturally tie into, it makes sense to set up a social media schedule in advance.

To me, the best way to do this is create a Social Media Editorial Calendar which outlines how the next year will look:

  • January 1: New Year’s Day (giveaways!)
  • January 8: Elvis’ birthday! (old-time rock and roll CDs up for grabs)
  • January 10 – 13: CES (promotions)
  • February 14: Valentine’s Day (more promotions)
  • February 29: Company product release (press releases, tweets, FB postings)

Etc…you get the idea. Build a few social media promotions around dates on the calendar, have your team members put together the various bits and pieces (giveaways, video shoots, product release notes) and build your social media schedule for cool posts and tweets.

Not only does this put you ahead of most of your competition, but you’ll breathe a sigh of relief after the schedule is set and assignments are made. At this point you KNOW what you’re committed to for the year. You KNOW what your company is doing on social media and you KNOW who’s going to do it.

Put your new year’s schedule together in the last quarter of the current year and you’ll be miles ahead when the new year kicks in.

Creative Commons License

photo credit: koadmunkee


#Socialmedia #tradeshow #marketing #checklist

The more I write about using social media to promote tradeshow appearances and events, the more it became obvious (hand to forehead – ba-bing!) that there should be some sort of checklist out there. Oh, sure there are tons of checklists for using social media for marketing. But nothing I could find that was tilted towards using social media for event, tradeshow and conference marketing.

Until now.

Stipulated: this could be – and probably is – incomplete. No one checklist can cover all eventualities. But I think I got at least 90% of what most tradeshow exhibitors, event organizers and marketers might run into when looking to use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube to promote their event. I’ll let you be the judge. In fact, I’ve included my email address and direct telephone line in there so that if you feel I’ve left something out, you’re invited to let me know. If it’s a solid suggestion, I’ll include the suggestion in a revised version.

So grab the document here and let me know how it works in YOUR WORLD! (it’s a 90 KB PDF direct link that opens in a new window).

Spatial Awareness at Exhibitions

Guest post by Abishag Wilson

When you are considering your new exhibition stand design team, be aware of the space that your stand will be used in and the space that is available for the rest of your product demonstration, and yourself.

Most importantly, you need to be aware of how you want your onlookers to interact with your stand. This will formulate the basis of your design.

Nonetheless, an exhibition stand has to be fairly flexible with space if you intend to use it for more than one event. Not all centers and pitches will have the same height in the ceiling, or necessarily be on a nice ‘straight’ when people walk by. Prepare for corner pitches just in case. Perhaps you may even have a 360 degree free-standing stall?

Think about all the pitch and plan accordingly.

Your bespoke stand should be able to cater for many events. For these reasons your stand should be portable – being made of many lightweight sections. Try visualizing individual items as being put in situ together, like Lego blocks, rather than comprising a fully formed stand.

Once you have thought about the pitch, consider the physical boundaries of the stand. Will it have walls and a ceiling, or will that make people feel claustrophobic? It can be intimidating if you ‘box in’ visitors to your stall.

If your stand is to have a roof, then you should consider introducing spotlighting insider or making it transparent so that naturally available light can fill your stand. No one is going to want to walk into a dark stand, it will look unprofessional, and look like camping gazebo.

Ask yourself if your viewers easily walk around your stand and/or in between the items and POS on show?

Free standing Point of Sales allow the visitor to walk around freely and should be tall enough that they do not block sight within your pitch, but not short enough to fall over either!

Chairs in a stall can have a similar effect. If your guests require a lengthy demonstration, then seating may be necessary – but do not let it look cluttered and clumsy.

Think about disabled users who may want to get around the stall also, the gaps between stands should be accessible enough to get a wheelchair through.

Avoid exposed cabling at all costs, it is not only a trip hazard but it is not visually pleasing to see. It could also be of risk to any younger visitors tempted to give the lead a pull and find out where it is attached to. Space will be reduced if you run cabling anywhere but a corner, if it is to be on show.

If you have an over-head display, it is prudent to think about whether it is targeting those on the ground around the stall or those further away who may be looking for your stand. Keep it at a sensible height that does not encroach on your customers by hanging ominously overhead.

Abishag Wilson is a freelance author who has vast knowledge on exhibition stand design . For more information she suggests you visit


Using Social Media to Support Your Overall Tradeshow Marketing Goals

Are you using social media to drive traffic to your tradeshow booth? That’s great – it be an effective tool for creating buzz at the show. Even though social media activity is effective at communicating with your community, using social media is often not integrated very strongly with a company’s overall marketing goals. Let’s see if we can help change that for you.

Let’s say you’re working with an ad agency. They’re tasked with getting fifteen media mentions out of your tradeshow appearance. Meanwhile, your marketing department is tasked with getting X number of brand impressions. And your sales staff is tasked with generating X number of leads and closing a certain percentage of those leads. All of these entities are working to support the company’s overall marketing goals of creating more sales.

So how can you use social media to directly support all of those entities on conjunction with your tradeshow marketing, instead of just being a stand-alone operation that interacts with your community and not much else?

Start with the end in mind by breaking down your marketing goals: for example, based on past experience the sales department will need X number of leads to create X number of sales. For instance you may know that for every 100 leads generated at a tradeshow, the sales department can close 62% within three months.

Add to that your goals in press and blog mentions, and overall branding impressions and you have your end goals in mind. How can social media support those goals?

Start by choosing your key social media marketing metrics that relate to your tradeshow appearances. It’s easier to take each individual show and look at them separately, although at the end of a year it’s useful to compare and tally all of those numbers to see how the overall efforts at all shows combined performed.

  • Traffic: are you using social media to drive your customers to your tradeshow booth? Keeping track of traffic at a tradeshow is difficult without outside help, but by adding this component to your metric measurement, you get a better handle on how effective your tweets and Facebook postings can be. Beyond that, you can promote giveaways or contests via social media which specifically brings people to your booth for that contest or event.
  • Leads: when you track tradeshow leads, have a check box or area where you can indicate whether the visitor found you via social media. Did they reach you via a tweet? Was it a Facebook posting? A YouTube video? A company blog post? All of these social media outlets should support your efforts and by tracking the results you can determine which is most useful.
  • Buzz or Mentions: often an ad agency that’s working to bring you media mentions will have their own set of industry press contacts, and they can effectively exploit those relationships. Those efforts can be supported through social media: Twitter in particular is becoming known as a place where press relationships are started and developed. Not only that, once you meet a blogger or reporter on Twitter, the connection is direct with no gatekeeper.
  • Customer Support: your community of customers, clients, hangers-on and competitors (yes, they’re there too!) are all talking about you. Whether you want them to or not, they’ll say what they want when they want. By being proactive in listening to and responding to that conversation when appropriate, you are helping to improve the company’s overall performance. It may not show up as a direct impact on the bottom line, but the impact is there: fewer customer support tickets; less need for customer service support personnel; quicker response to nip problems in the bud before they become giant negatives that have to be dealt with. Your customer support team can be invaluable in your social media monitoring because they often are the front line in dealing with customer problems and know what’s happening before anyone else in the company.

Now that you’re tracking metrics, add those to your actual goal numbers previously set. Build a spreadsheet that takes into account the number of booth visitors you achieved through social media and where they came from. Add in your confirmed impressions via industry press and blogs (often a harder number to pin down: you should be able to determine a magazine’s circulation numbers, for instance, but knowing how many blog readers a specific blog has is probably harder – I’d suggest looking at Alexa rankings along with and although the caveat is that the data is very approximate).

Finally, add in actual leads and confirmed sales. When you track the numbers from show to show, and continue to implement social media to draw people to your booth, a clearer picture will emerge of which social media tools are the most effective and which are not. Having that information will help guide you to determine where to put your focus from show to show.

(graphic author: Gautheron – Creative Commons)


Social Media is NEW! (No, it’s not…)

You’ve probably heard it a lot, and maybe even agree: Social media is NEW! It’s something that’s so brand-spanking new that it’s going to take you a lot of time and effort to figure it out! There are new tools, new toys, new ways of connecting. And since it’s NEW it’s gotta be confusing and confounding.

Nope, that’s not true. Social media has been around for quite awhile. Yes, some of the tools and toys are relatively new, but think about it: if you’ve been online for at least a decade you should be used to this stuff. I’ve been connecting with people online since before the Internet. You may remember a brief period of time in the early 90s – before the ‘net – when there were online community bulletin board systems (actually around from 1979 – 1995). These BBS’s would allow people to dial in to a central computer, share notes and programs. I remember having a conversation with a guy who introduced me to one of his BBS’s where he shared software. It would take two or three days to transfer a small software program from one computer to another via a dial-up connection.

But we were connected.

In fact, ‘instant chat’ was available as early as 1988, which was when IRC (internet relay chat) made its debut. It became a PC desktop feature with ICQ in 1996. Yes, we were sharing instant messages with smiley faces by the mid-90s.

Then came CompuServe, Prodigy and AOL (remember all those millions of CD’s you get in the mail hoping to get you to get on board with AOL?). And the web and email. Being from a radio background, my interest in those days was figuring out to share audio online. It wasn’t too tough, and shortly thereafter I was hosting (albeit briefly) a short comedy show online through a website I had figured out how to set up.

Yes, it was all pretty rudimentary in those days. But around 2004 podcasting came along and I jumped in with both feet.

Then around 2006 we all read about the new Web 2.0 where we’d all be interconnected. Except that we already were connected in so many ways.

Early in the decade lots of people were connecting using Friendster (founded 2002) and MySpace (2003).

Today with Facebook (2004), Twitter (2006), YouTube (2005) and LinkedIn (2003) generally regarded as the ‘big four’ of social networking, it’s not hard to realize that this stuff has been around for several years. And with our online connectivity reaching back a couple of decades, don’t believe anyone who says social media is “new” – it’s not.

What’s new is that the tentacles of social media are reaching further into small businesses, who are then trying to figure out how to implement these platforms into their marketing mix.

It takes some adjustment, admittedly. Often new people need to be brought on board, or current employees need to be re-purposed for some of their work day to ‘figure out’ how to use social media to reach their target market.

The good news is that there are unlimited resources available to help. If you’re the self-help type, you search blogs about social media marketing. If you’d rather hire consultants to teach you how to tie it all together, that’s appropriate as well. No matter how you approach it, there are myriad ways you can implement social media in your tradeshow or event marketing efforts.

But again – none of this is really new. If you think it is, you literally haven’t been paying attention. And you’re living in the past….around 1979.

If you still haven’t started using this “new” social media to reach your market, when do you plan to?

(image courtesy of Mentionablehonor and is used through Creative Commons)

Tradeshow QR Code Usage – A Few Brief Tips

At the Natural Products Expo West show earlier this month in Anaheim, I had the opportunity to scan several QR Codes that were displayed in booths, posters and banners. Some were prominently displayed in large form – maybe a foot square – and others as small as less than one inch on business cards. All in all, I saw perhaps twenty QR Codes. Since I became aware of QR Codes a year ago ago, and have blogged about them a couple of times, I was curious to see how business incorporated the goofy-looking symbol into their marketing efforts.

Here are a few thoughts on what worked and what didn’t:

First, it’s easy to generate a code and stick it on a banner or poster and invite people to scan it. However, the very act of scanning a QR Code should be extremely easy. I found a few codes that were not easy to scan because they were placed in odd locations. One was placed close to the floor, making it difficult to get the camera phone at a good enough angle to capture the QR Code.

Another code was so displayed so small that it was difficult to capture it on the phone. Yet another one was put up high – it was large, but behind a counter which was a barrier to getting a good shot of the code. Finally, one code looked incomplete, as if it was missing a part of it. I scanned it twice and my iPhone app said ‘no code scanned’ even though the guy in the booth insisted it was a good working QR Code. Um, sorry, no.

  • Best practice: put the QR Code in an easily accessible location, about 12″ x 12″ in size, with an invitation to “Scan Me!” right above the code. Put it at about head height with no barriers; print it in black ink on a white background. Smartphones need to be able to recognize the code so they can interpret it and take you to whatever information is contained within the QR Code. Include a Call To Action, such as “Scan me to Win!” (I just attended a webinar where the presenter suggested putting QR Codes in odd locations to make it more interesting to scan, such as temporary tattoos…not sure I agree with how practical or effective that would work in the real world!)
Make sure your QR Code URL landing page is optimized for the smartphone!

Once the code is scanned, the information is processed. Most often the code is a URL (although I’ve seen simple contact information), which spawns the phone’s web browser. Here’s where the marketing thought process tends to break down. Question: what device is used to scan the QR Code? Answer: a smartphone. Since that’s the case, wouldn’t you think it wise to have the web URL optimized for viewing on a smartphone? Of course.

But that’s not the case. Not a single QR Code that I scanned was optimized for a smartphone. Instead, the links all led to a typical HTML page that looks crappy and hard to read on a smartphone.

  • Best practice: make sure your web landing page is optimized for viewing on a smartphone. If you have a WordPress blog (like this), it’s easy to install a plug-in that displays the page optimized for a smartphone.

Finally, I scanned one QR Code that was prominently displayed at the entrance to the tradeshow hall. The link was BROKEN! Hard to say why: server could have been down; link not confirmed; entered wrong when the QR Code was set up. I did scan the link the next day and it was working correctly.

  • Best practice: TEST everything BEFORE the show. Double and triple-check that everything works as it should and looks right as it will be most likely be seen by your end user – the person who’s scanning the QR Code.


Have a Plan Even if it Changes Mid-Stream

No matter what your goals are at a tradeshow, whether you’re walking the floor or exhibiting, you probably won’t get far unless you have a plan (obviously that’s a given) – and are flexible enough to let the plan adapt and evolve as necessary.

This past week at Natural Products Expo West 2011 in Anaheim, my plan – as it originally stood – was to meet people, find out their problems and issues with their exhibits or marketing approach, and have a brief conversation that left me an opening to follow up later with a specific reason. This is the ninth time I’ve been to the show (we have eight client booths there), so my plan is based on what’s generally worked in the past.

As someone just walking the floor, I’m prohibited from offering my services or trying to sell something at the show. That’s the way it should be. After all, I’m NOT an exhibitor. Only exhibitors who have paid those high space rental fees have the right to blatantly sell their products.

Earth Mama Angel Baby at Expo West 2011

But I can certainly engage people in conversations and see where they lead. More often than not the best way to leave the door open for someone to hear from me is to invite them to subscribe to my monthly tradeshow marketing newsletter. Easy enough to do – I simply ask as I’m ready to leave if they mind if I put them on the list. Only once did someone say no – and that was because they weren’t the right person in the company, so the newsletter would have been of no use to them.

And I value not only my time, but the exhibitor’s time, too. I want to be in and out of a booth in about 90-180 seconds, which means that I strive to be precise with the encounter. It’s the same for an exhibitor, by the way: you should try and keep your engagement time with attendees at a bare minimum. Enough to qualify or disqualify them and to gather pertinent information should they be potential clients.

I started the show with a list of exhibitors and booth numbers that had promoted themselves on Twitter – some 75 at least, along with their Twitter handles. Knowing that it would take fully two days to cover the show and talk to that many booths (along with several others that I randomly stopped at for one reason or another), I figured I had would my hands full.

Turns out the ‘Twitter’ greeting was very engaging to almost everyone I met:

“Hi, I’m curious who your company Twitterer is? Or would that be ‘Tweeter’? I’m Tradeshowguy, I saw your booth number on Twitter and someone tweeted out an invitation to come by!”

It was a bit of a goofy intro that created smiles and broke down barriers. Often I was quickly subjected to what is commonly referred to in sales as an “information dump” where a bunch of product information is dumped on you before the speaker has even bothered to qualify you. I’d just smile and let them go on. Sometimes it turned out to be pretty interesting stuff. Other times…not so much.

(By the way, I found it interesting that over half a dozen people I met throughout the show had heard of me; they were looking for tradeshow marketing tips before heading to Expo West and found this blog. Definitely a nice ego stroke…)

Then we’d chat about Twitter and social media and how they used it to promote their company at the show. If the opportunity arose and they showed interest, I’d mention that I regularly speak about, consult and teach social media. By then, I’m about ready to wrap it up. If they’re active on Facebook or Twitter, often I’d offer to take their picture and post it on Facebook immediately (always a big hit – who doesn’t like having their picture posted on Facebook?…apparently, no one). Finally, I’d suggest they subscribe to the email newsletter. Again – almost everyone took me up on it…which means they’ll be hearing from me once a month. The key: stay on someone’s radar regularly and you increase your chances for a future sale.

The real evolution of my approach happened when I discovered that not only did people love to get their photos on Facebook, but they loved to talk about Twitter – even those that didn’t use or understand what it could do for them. The natural curiosity of the social media phenomenon was a conversation starter every time – much more than I originally thought it would. So I made a point of beginning almost all conversations with that.

How do you approach your tradeshow marketing? What’s your plan? Are you able to adapt and evolve the plan as necessary? Do you need several people to implement the plan, or are you just walking the floor of a show trying to make connections that could turn into future business?

Whatever your situation, make a plan, follow it, and let it evolve as necessary.



What’s the Use of Foursquare?

Last summer just a few weeks after I got iPhone I was on a road trip with a buddy. Every time we ate at a restaurant or teed up a golf ball at a golf club I’d whip out the iPhone and check in via Foursquare.

“What are you doing that?” he’d ask. And of course I’d show him the app, explain how it works, how I could become the mayor, etc.

“Yeah, but why? What’s the point?”’s fun! Right?

It’s something a lot of people struggle with. Foursquare, to their credit, is trying to find ways to make it more of an engaging platform than just a ‘check-in’ tool that leaves you asking questions about what to do next.

One complaint I’ve seen is that when you check in with Foursquare and have that information posted to your Facebook and Twitter feeds, all you’re really doing is cluttering the stream. And people don’t want to see the clutter.

Well, if you look at it that way, virtually ALL posts are clutter to one degree or another. I tend to check in, have the info post, and then watch the reaction – and I often get it. And isn’t reaction the whole point of sharing via social media?

If you search online it’s easy to find hundreds of blog posts that are foretelling the end of Foursquare because they can’t figure out what the hell they’re doing.

But you can also find a lot of great ways to use Foursquare (as well as some nice tips on how NOT to use the app). Check out this post from Lifehacker. One very useful idea is to create a separate account for checking into any location where you spend money and use Foursquare to track expenses.

Here’s another post from which shows you a handful of ways to use Foursquare.

They also have a fun slideshow on where NOT so check-in.

While Foursquare is not perfect – here’s Peter Shankman’s blog post on his trouble with Foursquare overseas –  it still has a lot of interesting uses. Maybe not as much of a game as SVCNGR, but as LBS (location based services) go, it’s still the leader. And I expect it to remain the leader for the foreseeable future. Which in social media years, could be as long as six months or more!


Find me at Natural Products Expo West

If you’re attending the Natural Products Expo West 2011 at the Anaheim Convention Center March 10 – 13, try and catch up with me! I’ll be roaming the aisles, meeting exhibitors, looking for Tweetups and monitoring my Twitter feed, Facebook and blog for any connection opportunities.

Our company, Interpretive Exhibits, also will be well represented with eight custom-designed and fabricated exhibits. Come see our work – check out the following booths:

  • Hyland’s: 1320
  • Mountain Rose Herbs:  2820
  • Bob’s Red Mill: 2660
  • Nancy’s Yogurt: 2481
  • gDiapers: 3276
  • Natracare: 3316
  • Bi-O-Kleen: 3856
  • Earth Mama Angel Baby: 4120

Here are a few suggestions for you IF you happen to be at the show:

  1. Tweet your booth number (if you’re exhibiting) to @tradeshowguy and include the #expowest hashtag. I’ll come by and say hi!
  2. Download a PDF with the booth listings and my contact information here.
  3. If you hear of a great tweetup, send out a tweet with the time/locale and be sure to include #tweetup #expowest hashtags.
  4. Download the ExpoWest app from iTunes to check schedules, look up exhibitors, plan your event, get local info and more
  5. If catch me wearing my QR Code t-shirt, fire up your QR Code smartphone app, scan it and see what goodies you get!

And…have fun!

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