Getting increasingly frustrated by the inability of my smartphone to scan QR Codes that show up in magazines, I thought it would be worthwhile to show exactly what happens (or doesn’t) when it’s time to find out more information.
If you’ve been on Twitter a bit but still are confused about how hashtags are, and can, be used, hopefully we can take a bit of the mystery out of hashtags and give you some good ways to use them in conjunction with your event and tradeshow marketing.
First, what exactly is a hashtag?
Simply put, it’s the ‘pound’ or ‘number’ sign with a word or phrase after it: #jumpstart. This makes it easily trackable and searchable on Twitter or other platforms such as Hootsuite.com. You can use it with a two or three word phrase, but make sure there is no space between the words, like this: #tweetmetoday
Tweeting at Tradeshows
Use it when you tweet about a specific or general topic, such as #eventprofs when your tweet is related to the event profession. If you are tweeting about a specific event, use a hashtag that would commonly be used for that event, such as #expowest for the Natural Products Expo West show, held every March in Anaheim.
So if you’re tweeting out about your booth, just make sure to include that particular hashtag: “Hey, join us at booth 3029 at #expowest and check out the new eco-friendly shoes!”
That way, anyone who is tracking the show hashtag will be able to find it (Twitter will show search results starting with the most recent).
If you’re tweeting about something you or your company is doing at the show after hours, such as a client dinner, you might consider using the hashtag so that anyone following along can see how you’re involved: “Having a great dinner with the cool people from Bagga Riddim here at Joe’s Pizza! #expowest”
Whether you want to tell the world that you’re meeting a client is up to you, but in my mind in most cases there is nothing wrong with it. In fact it could be seen as good branding. Not only are you getting your name out there again, you’re getting it out there in connection with a client and a location. If you use Foursquare to check in, the location will be mentioned, so all you have to do it include the hashtag in the tweet.
Getting Twitter Involvement on Webinars
Let’s say the show is still a couple of months away, and you’re planning a webinar to promote your appearance (see this week’s earlier post about using webinars to promote tradeshows). You’ve got a new product to promote; you have one of the company management or marketing people on board to be a guest on the webinar. At the beginning of the webinar, include a slide that invites people to offer their comments on twitter. My suggestion is to use two hashtags: one that references the show and one that references your company:
This invites people to watch the webinar and relay their comments to their Twitter followers. Anyone who happens to be searching for that particular hashtag at that time will likely run across your webinar, which exposes you to even more people. Before the webinar you can promote it through your normal channels, but be sure to let your Facebook and Twitter followers know about it, too, and include links to the registration page.
Of course this same tactic can be used during your live presentation at the tradeshow or conference if you’re a speaker or presenter. The upside is that it can really help engage people, learn new things from them, take questions and promote interactivity. The downside is that if the presentation is going badly, you have no control over the conversation and may see some negative or snarky comments show up.
Another way to use Twitter is to hold a chat about a specific topic or subject. There are popular Twitter chats held regularly that discuss everything from marketing to industrial metal production. All you have to do is promote it through your normal channels, and through your Twitter account:
Join us for a chat about how to use drums to heal your soul: Thursday at noon ET; follow hashtag #baggariddim
If you have a guest on the chat, set up a handful of questions before hand that she’s familiar with. When the time arrives, welcome everyone to the chat and include the hashtag. People will follow along on the chat by simply searching for the hashtag in the Twitter search box. Invite anyone to submit questions and comments as the chat goes on. Schedule the chat with specific start and stop times (noon – 1pm, for instance), and stick to it. After the chat is over, archive the posts so that you can reference then in the future if need be.
Twitter is an extremely useful and flexible tool for instant communication anywhere, anytime. From the show floor, from your office, from the subway. It doesn’t matter, all a person needs is internet access and they’re on board.
What ideas can you come up with to use Twitter to effectively promote your tradeshow appearance or new product?
For whatever unknown reason, I’ve managed to attend upwards of a dozen webinars in the past month. Webinars on Facebook marketing, book marketing, and a few more. And most – but not all – of them have been very worthwhile.
It got me to thinking: why couldn’t you do a webinar to market your upcoming tradeshow appearance?
Webinars are extremely easy to set up, very economical, and they can reach virtually anyone. If you have an email list of your clients or prospects, it’s easy to reach out to them, tell them you have an upcoming webinar as a ‘tradeshow sneak preview’ or some such thing, and send along a link for registration.
Webinars are best done when you have a concise, well-prepared presentation – but even those that are more loosely organize and executed can be worthwhile if you have a notable guest speaker or great content.
Let’s say that you are going to unveil a new product or service at the show. It might be a fairly simply product, or a more complex product or service that takes a bit more time to explain how it works and what the features and benefits are.
With a webinar, you’re killing two birds with one stone. First, you’ve got a prime opportunity to discuss the product/service with a more relaxed approach. You might give the back story of the product, explaining how it came about, what the goals are for the product, how it works, and then go into all of the ways the customer will benefit from it.
Next, by pitching the free webinar to current clients and new prospects, you’re launching a subtle sales process to whet their appetite.
Let’s say you’re launching a new service at a tradeshow in March. In January, you’re still finalizing how the service might be packaged and presented – but you’re almost there. A webinar with 50 or 100 clients and prospects gives you a chance to let those folks know about the upcoming release. It also gives them a chance to ask questions. Those questions now become a part of your market research, which may help you finalize a few tweaks to make the service more in line with what your market wants.
You can also use the webinar as a promotion vehicle in another way: offer the webinar attendees a chance to get a significant discount at the show if they show up with a coupon or code – which you give away during the webinar.
I’ve never seen this idea done specifically to promote a product or service at a webinar – but there’s no reason it can’t be done – and done effectively.
What it takes to put on a top-notch webinar
Computer with internet access
Telephone or microphone (preferred)
Account with a webinar provider such as AnyMeeting.com or GoToWebinar.com (although there are others, these are the two I’m most familiar with)
Slide show or something to show on your computer screen
To produce a top-notch webinar, prepare a PowerPoint or Keynote presentation. Plan on writing a page or two of bullet points but DON’T read from a script – it’ll sound too…well, scripted. Make sure you rehearse it a few times. This will give you a realistic idea of how long the webinar will be and how it sounds. Have a few other folks in the company view the rehearsal to get feedback.
Your slides for the webinar should be set-up as if you were doing a live presentation in front of an audience – yeah, as if at a conference. In other words, not too many points or topics per slide. In fact, the best recommendation is to limit each slide to ONE point with perhaps a few supporting bullet points. Use large images that evoke an emotion you want your audience to feel. If you have pertinent photos or graphics of the product or service you’re pushing, use those.
If you have a screen capture program, record the rehearsal a couple of times and watch it back. It’s amazing what you’ll catch by listening to yourself. You’ll often find that you are using a lot of verbal crutches or tics, such as ‘uh,’ ‘um,’ ‘like,’ ‘y’know,’ etc.
Before the webinar, test your computer to make sure the audio and screen transmission are working. In all the webinars I’ve attended in the past month, all of them provided audio online, although calling in on the telephone is an option.
Once the date and time of the webinar arrives, log-on early and put up a slide from your computer showing the title, date and presenter.
Use a high quality microphone if you can. A USB microphone is relatively cheap and definitely worth it – your audience will thank you and it sounds a whole lot better than using the telephone.
Start on time, or within a minute of the advertised time. Respect your audience’s time – don’t wait for stragglers, just move on without them. If they’re late, it’s their fault, not yours!
Finally, finish on time. If it looks like you have a lot of Q&A, make sure you finish the main content before your scheduled time is up. If you go past your time to deal with the Q&A, be sure to emphasize that you’ve covered all of the information that you planned and are just offering extra time to answer questions. If you have a giveaway, coupon or special deal for tradeshow attendees, make sure you get all of that in before your go to the Q&A.
You’re finished with this year’s big show. You had a great time, your employees did great, your sales people knocked down some big sales. Your lead generation tactics brought in more leads than the last time.
So you’re celebrating. Great! Awesome!
Now what? Do you wait until next year to ramp up for the big show again? If so, doesn’t that mean you’re really starting from scratch with a lot of people? Or you have to reintroduce yourself to the people that you met at this year’s show, and there’s a bit of awkwardness while you try and remember who they are and hope they remember you.
There’s an easier way.
It’s called social media. You know: Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Google+. When you are engaged in social media, you are involved in the right thing to stay in touch with all of those people year-round. So let’s take a stab at a handful of things you can do on social media to stay in touch.
It can start anywhere. Of course you’ll need to actually have outposts set up on the main social media outlets. At the next show make sure that your visitors can connect with you on your most-valued social media outposts. Could be Facebook, maybe it’s Twitter or YouTube – just have something available that you can either hand out or show them that makes it easy to connect. Perhaps that’s a post-card sized handout with your social media URL’s, or perhaps even a QR Code that takes them to a landing page that links to those places.
Also at the show: create as much content you can that you will share later. For instance, shoot videos of demonstrations, interviews, testimonials and other fun stuff. During the next 10-11 months, release a short video every 4 – 6 weeks. If you shoot a couple of hours of video during the show, it should be fairly easy to find 8 – 10 short 3 – 5 minute videos to post regularly. Shoot a few hundred photos – you can use them for future blog or social media posts. Take notes on questions that are asked. Use them to create an FAQ post for your blog.
As you continue to keep connected to your social media community, let them know what’s going on in your business. Share new products, introduce new people in your company; engage with your followers by asking and answering questions. As your company is involved in various events throughout the year, do the same things as that last big show. Even if it’s just putting up a table at a marathon or tabling at a retail outlet. Post photos and comments from those events.
Then when your next big annual show gets closer, start mentioning what you’re doing at the show: new products, new people, new services, in-booth guests. Whatever you have going, make sure that your community knows about it.
When the show finally opens, you’ll have visitors that have stayed in touch with you all year long – because you took the time to stay in touch with them! They’ll already know what new products you have and will make an effort to stop by to make sure then don’t miss them. They’ll remember you because you have been a part of their life – however small – over the past year.
It’s one of the toughest things for a tradeshow exhibitor to face: once the show is over, how do you stay in touch until the next time you meet those visitors who loved your company and your products?
Social media is the easy and most obvious answer.
Are you engaged in social media? Are you staying in touch year-round?
So if you’ve been following this blog for long enough, you likely have an active following on Facebook, Twitter, or both for your business. Do you have an impressive booth that your customers could benefit from seeing? If so, leveraging your social media outlets could be doing excellent things for your business, as well as the show.
I recommended to my boss that we advertise that we’re going to be at such-and-such show, and he said, “It’s not our job to get people to the show – that’s the show’s job. Our job is to pay them and show up. I don’t want to pay to promote their show.” While I understand my boss’s point of view, I feel like not promoting the show as an exhibitor would be a mistake…especially over social media, because it’s free.
Instead, let me present my take on exhibitor promotion. I’m fairly idealistic, and I feel like if every exhibitor brought customers to the show, that it would benefit every exhibitor and the show immensely. When the shows are more widely attended, it encourages more and more people to come, which give you access to more potential customers.
I recommend using social media as a tool to let customers and acquaintances know about the show and encourage them to come. They way I’ve done this for the most part is through contests and giveaways.
Most of the shows I exhibit at give me a certain number of free tickets to give out. Reach out to your audience and offer free tickets to the show. If demand is higher than the amount of tickets you have, then do contests, giveaways, or trivia to distribute them. Not only does it give you more interaction over social media, but it gets people to the shows.
If you don’t have free tickets, simply inviting people to come check out your booth at the show could be enough. If they come from your invite, they’re sure to drop by to say hi while there. As a simple principle, the more time someone spends interacting with your company, the more connected they will feel to it. Connection breeds sales and referrals, so this will be excellent relationship building for business growth.
Once you’ve gotten them to the show, now use social media as a way to engage and interact with them at the show. Create a twitter hashtag, or participate in existing hashtag conversation. Provide interactive media like this QR code banner stand example we created, or simply talk about the highlights of the show while there. It’s not inconceivable that a customer would see your updates and think that the show sounds interesting, and decide to come.
Obviously, don’t update so often that you annoy them to death and they stop following you, but enough to stay interesting. Let me know in the comments how you use social media to bolster booth traffic and customer engagement while at the shows!
If your booth is more impressive than is your shop (as is the case for my company), it may be more advantageous to get customers to the show to see you. Social media will help them feel connected to the show will make them feel like they’ve shared an experience with you, which is always good for continued business relationships. Plus you’ve optimized your booth for a very specific purpose, and any excuse to get key customers there will be worthwhile.
About the Author: AJ Wilcox works for Giant Printing in Austin, TX. He constantly exhibits at various industry trade shows and is an avid proponent of booth and lead efficiency for highest show ROI. He loves exotic cars, running, and hanging out with his wife and 2 kids.
Tune in before you Turn On. If you’re listening to what your community is saying you’ll have better responses. By searching for your customers you can connect with them. Join the conversation. Pay attention to trends. Add value.
Make the commitment to be a part of social media. Building your community and your brand online takes time. This means regularly checking the social platforms you’ve joined and responding to visitors and fans and adding fresh content.
Who Are You? Well, only you know who you really are. Don’t put out a false front because eventually people will figure it out. Be authentic. By being yourself to the hilt, you’ll attract those sorts of people that like you and your company. Those that aren’t attracted to you probably wouldn’t purchase much from you anyway.
When the show is near, focus on it. When you have an upcoming appearance, your online activity should be looking closely at what’s happening at the show. Track show hashtags, make lists of attendees (and booth numbers or other info if relevant), and respond to comments or questions about the show to demonstrate that you’re engaged.
Be there. Your company’s products and services and brand may appear impersonal to your followers, but the people that work at the company (including you) are not: they’re real people. Be available as a real person and you may be seen as the spirit or soul of the company.
Make it easy for people to find you. Put links to your social media access points on business cards, flyers, handouts, etc.
Be flexible. One of the first things you recognize about social media is that it is unpredictable. Learn to go with the flow.
Follow competitors and complementary businesses. You can learn a lot by watching. By tracking company’s online behaviors you can often uncover strengths and weaknesses that you hadn’t previously seen.
Share info and views with followers. They like to hear positive things happening in your company. And if there’s something negative, share that as well. Don’t pull punches (but don’t be mean or insensitive or rude). And don’t try to put too much of a positive spin on something that’s inherently negative. Be honest.
Quality beats quantity. By looking to generate a smaller amount of high quality posts or tweets, you’ll avoid the ‘gotta get something online today because it’s been awhile’ syndrome a lot of us fall for.
Take it offline. Now you’ve met people on Twitter or Facebook. Look for ways to connect with people elsewhere. Look to build relationships offline. Invite an online friend to coffee or lunch. Pick up the phone to find out what they really sound like. Don’t try to sell them anything – you’re just building relationships at this point. If a sale happens, it’ll be because it’s the obvious thing to happen, not because it was forced in any way
Combine social media with other marketing. Social media works best when it’s done with other media. Drive traffic to your social media outlets with TV, radio or print ads. Use social media to move people to a tradeshow booth for a prize or to sign up for a mailing list. Find creative ways to meld on and offline marketing to get the best of both mediums.
Just got off the phone with a guy I’ve known for years in the tradeshow industry. He works for a great company in the Seattle-Olympia area that has a ton of capabilities. But it’s been a year or two since we chatted, until he called me and we discussed the various capabilities they have, I probably wouldn’t have thought of him if I needed those services for any of my clients at Communication One Exhibits. Which means if I needed those kinds of services I would have gone elsewhere.
Which raises the question: are you top of mind with the people you want to connect with?
One thing that’s great about social media is that it can be very effective at keeping you ‘top of mind’ of your followers and potential clients. By tweeting and posting to Facebook frequently they’ll see you in their news streams.
This is a very effective tactic when employed with tradeshow and event marketing. By planning a social media campaign around your event appearance, you can shape the content to let people know about your appearance and related new products or services. Not to mention it’s a good time and place to be videotaping happy customers who stop by your booth. Nothing sells like a happy client, so film those testimonials when you can. You’ll get a lot of mileage out of them.
You may find social media boring or useless or kid-friendly – but your customers are there anyway.
You may find social media worthless because you don’t ‘get it’ – but with hundreds of millions of people spending more time each day on social media, your market definitely does ‘get it’.
You may not feel you know how to reach your market through social media – but there are plenty of tools available and experts around that can guide you if you need it.
You may feel that your kind of company doesn’t do social media – but I have yet to hear of an industry where people are NOT involved.
In short, if you want to continue to have people think of you when they need what you offer, social media is a powerful way to stay on top of their minds.
The tradeshow is over. The booth has been packed away and you’re heading back to the office. No more late night carousing with clients. No more worrying about that graphic makeover that didn’t really fit. No more hustling to post photos on Facebook of those endless booth visitors.
Well, until the next show. At which point you’ll want to know how many people checked out your Facebook page; how many people retweeted your tweets and what kind of response you got from the various social media promotions you did during the show.
To check your #postseason stats (okay, a little play on the TV Major League Baseball promos going on to get people to chime in on Twitter), you want to know what statistics and metrics to track.
And that depends on what you did during the event. If you posted photos and updates on your company’s Facebook page, it’s an easy matter to go through the Facebook wall a few days after the show and check post impressions and feedback percent. You can track them by making a quick spreadsheet with the title of the post, what type it is (photo, video, text, etc), when it was posted, number of impressions and % of feedback. If this is the first show you’re tracking these stats, it gives you a baseline. Then at your next show do the same thing. After a few shows you’ll have enough information to track trends and see what types of posts get the most reaction. Is it photos? Videos? What kinds of comments do you get? You can even track who commented, and whatever pertinent information you glean from their Facebook page (where they live or work, how many friends they have, etc.).
Yes, you can go a little nuts spending a lot of time compiling and tracking the information. But by doing so, you’re moving ahead of the competition that is not bothering to learn about their community. The more informed you are about your community the better prepared you are to respond to them, interact with them and plan for the next show when you know a lot of them will want to see you and learn about new products.
You can essentially do the same with Twitter and YouTube. While you don’t have the same amount of metrics available on Twitter, you can still track re-tweets and responses and log that information in your post-show stat book. On YouTube you can compile video views and log any feedback and responses you get from the videos you post.
Is all of this extra work worth it? I think so. It gives you inside information and insight into who’s responding, what type of posts are getting responses and what kinds are ignored.
When it comes to promoting your events or tradeshow appearances through social media, you probably know best about what parts of your company or product line you want to promote.
But are you the best company for the actual job of winding up your social media and getting out the message?
Perhaps. Or perhaps not. But in considering outsourcing your social media, there are two pieces to look at:
First, what do you want to do and what is your company capable of doing?
Second, what capabilities does the social media consultant need to bring to the table once you answer the first question?
So in assessing the first question – what do you want to do and what is your company capable of doing? – you should have a pretty good handle on your internal capabilities. If not, ask around. You might be surprised to find several of your people are already extremely adept at social media – for their personal use. That doesn’t necessarily translate to doing the right thing for your company, but it’s a start. Every company probably has hidden ‘digital natives’ that can step into at least a part-time role as social media manager. At minimum they should be able to set up accounts, get followers, send out tweets, post videos, etc. They may not have the ability to design a marketing plan, but they may have the ability to execute the plan if it were outlined to them. Also, take a look at this very thorough checklist for self-assessment in your social media capabilities from Marc Meyer.
Second question: what capabilities does the social media consultant need to bring to the table? At bare minimum they should be able to strategize short-term and long-term marketing plans. They should know their way around all the popular social media outposts.
Check their client list. Not having a long client list shouldn’t necessarily disqualify them, but it’s a good first step. Next, check their involvement in social media. They should be actively involved in Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube at the minimum, and possibly active now on Google+.
Have they taught classes or given webinars? Ask their definition of social media. Is their blog active and current? Do they blog at least once a week? Do they have comments? (Comments aren’t the barometer they used to be, but still something to look at). Do they understand that social media is about PEOPLE and not TOOLS?
If they promise instant success, flee! Social media success builds slowly and over time as you build a community to interact with.
Finally – do they seem genuine? Are they authentic? Do they appear as enthusiastic about social media, or do they sound like a used car salesman?
This is not about the perfect checklist for finding the right or the best social media consultant for your business. No matter who you choose to work with, there’s always going to be someone else who’s cheaper and better.
It’s about finding the most compatible consultant with your company and with you. And it probably won’t happen overnight.