Social media is great for drawing people to your event, whether you’re tweeting from your booth with a contest, posting to your Facebook page or blogging.
But using social media to help people connect while at the event is easy, too. It just takes a little thought and planning, and using the right tools.
I just signed up to attend Chris Gillebeau’s World Domination Summit in Portland this July. During the process of signing up and confirming payment, I had the option of sharing some limited personal and business information so that other like-minded people can find me and perhaps connect before the event. I presume the thinking would be is that it would lead you to want to connect in person at the site. This approach seems perfectly set-up to help keep you engaged in the event a good 175 days before it kick off, and positions you to connect with people before the event. I’m curious to see what else the organizers will do to foster connectivity in the next few months, as the event gets closer.
Another way to create engagement is to offer some sort of game or activity. SCVNGR is a game about doing challenges at places, which makes it perfectly suited for events. By checking into a series of places and doing an activity, you can earn rewards (if it’s set up that way), as well as network with other people playing the same game. By setting up some kind of reward for an activity, you encourage participation.
Involve those back at home or the office. By sharing hashtags, photos and videos – even live video streaming at chosen times – you are opening the conference or show to those who were unable to attend in person. Granted, you won’t get the same kind of engagement as you will with attendees, but it’s like offering a lifeline to ‘what’s new’ and happening’ at the event to those who aren’t attending.
Foursquare is a useful tool to share tips and comments about event speakers, exhibitors and products. It also helps people find other attendees and share tips on the best restaurants of nightclubs. And by monitoring the conversations on Foursquare and Twitter, organizers can quickly step in to address concerns, solve problems or use the comments to guide a better experience with the things that are working particularly well.
It makes sense to drum up as much interest before an event as possible, even prior to any official promotion launch. In fact, social media is ideally suited for just this task. By putting a blog post or video together, for instance, on what is coming at the event (even though it may be months away), and driving traffic to that blog post or video through social media, you’ve already primed the pump to whet people’s appetites for the event.
Also, by searching for and keeping tabs on Facebook pages, LinkedIn groups and discussion boards and Twitter accounts you can slowly expand your reach and build momentum. One key to this effort is to uncover which of the social media platforms your audience hangs out at the most. You should be able to do this through searching for hashtags on Twitter, groups on LinkedIn and association or event pages on Facebook and examining the number of people involved and the level of engagement by those people.
Before the Event
Depending on the size of the event, you should consider building a small event-related blog. WordPress blogs are easy to set up and customize and domains are about $10 a year. If you’re the promoter, this is mandatory so you have a landing spot online for information related to your show. Here’s where you’ll include all pertinent info, including cost, times, dates, contact info, how to purchase a space, etc.
If you’re an exhibitor, it’s still a very useful piece of your pre-show promotion. It’s easy to share blog posts on Twitter, Facebook and relevant LinkedIn groups, and a blog legitimizes your platform more than just a Facebook event listing.
But don’t forget the Facebook listing, either. It’s easy to set up, and easy to invite people. Don’t invite everyone – although Facebook gives you this capability – because it’s a waste of time. People across the country or in another country don’t care and people who can’t relate to your event won’t bother to respond. So pick and choose.
Set up a LinkedIn event page as well. Here you can only invite 50 people once the event listing is created, but this is good in that it forces you to choose carefully who to invite. Focus on those who might actually come and benefit from the event.
During the Event
Not every exhibitor is working hard on social media to engage show visitors, although at times it seems like that. Still, you can make your efforts stand out by offering great value in your booth, such as high-profile guests, demonstrations, high-value giveaways or downloads and other enticements.
Be sure you know what the standard hashtag for the event is. While there is no official repository of hastags (that I know of) since they come and go quickly, a medium to large event should have a hashtag that is getting used by exhibitors and attendees. Once you determine what the hashtag is, use it in every single event-related tweet.
During the event, someone from your staff can be in charge of creating content for either your blog or for other social media platforms, such as Twitter or Facebook. This might also include videos for YouTube or Facebook, which might include testimonials, demonstrations of products or explanations of services.
If you’re able, set up a Twitter board. It’s easy enough to put up a large flat screen hooked up to a laptop that displays real-time tweets using the show’s hashtag. This does a couple of things: first it shows people that you’re on the cutting edge (although not so much as a year or two ago), and secondly, it gives people a reason to tweet about your booth and your company, just so they can see their tweet show up in real time. Believe me, it happens!
Be sure to shoot a LOT of video. The more you shoot, the more you have to share after the show. As the weeks and months go on, if you can still offer pertinent information via your social media outlets, you’ll continue to stay in your prospects’ minds. Even if you don’t shoot much extra video, use information from the show (comments, insights, etc) to create more blog and Facebook posts.
This is just a start – no doubt you can find more ways to promote your tradeshow, event or conference using social media. If you think of something I didn’t mention, be sure to add it in the comment section below!
Setting up a virtual tradeshow website for your tradeshow appearance is as easy as setting up a new website. Mainly because that’s exactly what it is. While I’ve seen a number of ways to do it, having a blog platform for your virtual tradeshow gives you the most control and flexibility.
There are some platforms that allow you to set up an virtual ‘booth’ which looks graphically much like a booth, replete with branding, graphics, aisles, floor sections and more. The trouble is, it looks like a website from 1998.
With a WordPress blog platform, you can customize it to no end and maintain total control over the process, look and feel and content.
So why set up a blog that’s specific to a single show appearance? Because you can funnel lots of eyeballs there, and once those eyeballs arrive, you can drive them to other useful things, such as opting into email lists, downloading branded white papers, ‘liking’ your Facebook page or more.
A well-built site that’s specific to a show will be packed with content. Some of that content would optimally be posted before the show to prep the world to the site. While this would be very useful for search engines, it is also a prime opportunity to invite your current clients and newsletter subscribers to check it out. Once the show is underway, have a plan to post videos, articles, interviews, photos and more on the site. Make it a place for people to find general information about the show, and specific information about your products and services and company.
Even though you have the virtual tradeshow website, don’t forget about Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and Twitter. Use those outlets to inform the wider population by the use of hashtags (Twitter), keywords (YouTube and Flickr) and ongoing conversation (Facebook). Those social media platforms will help raise awareness and drive traffic to your main site, even though much of the content is the same.
Two recent examples of the use of virtual tradeshow websites come to mind: the site set up for Osram Opto Semiconductor for Lightfair and the site put up by Griffin Technologies for their appearance at CES in 2010. Both were quite successful, and should be used as models for how to set up your own virtual tradeshow website.
So, the short list:
Set up a blog that focuses on one event
Register a domain and create a name for the blog that describes your company and appearance at the show
Create some content before the show, mainly teaser material
Post obsessively during the show: videos, articles, photos, interviews, product reviews, testimonials, booth guest schedules, demo schedules, etc.
Post much of the same material to Flickr, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, using keywords, show and company hashtags, links back to your site.
After the show, continue to post updated material or video and information from the show for at least a couple of months. It’ll help keep the site high in the search engines. Plus, if you can keep material dripping onto the site for the rest of the year until the next show, it’s a great set-up for the next year.
Your payback for your time and energy will be much more visibility and a unique record of all the materials you took and archived at the show.
Or maybe it’s a two-way freeway with traffic going a hundred miles an hour, depending on the size of your community.
If you’re promoting an event through social media, the most important thing to realize is that all communication is now two-way. The second most important thing is that when promoting an event make sure you have an actual event that is worth of that conversation.
That means bringing interesting, compelling and valuable content to the table. Are your speakers engaging? Do they have a good reputation in your community? Do they have good content that your audience is hungry for?
Often, the best way to find out what topics are at the top-of-mind for your audience is to ask them directly. Which is where social media comes in. Using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn you can follow the topics of conversation to find out what pushes buttons, and ask questions to clarify and uncover more topics. By creating quick surveys you can narrow down the interest to more finite topics.
And of course, ask for feedback. People are more than happy to give honest feedback. As much as we connect on social media, there is a barrier between one person and another which allows them to offer feedback that is often more honest than if they were sitting across the lunch table from you (of course, that depends on the individual). When comments come, be prepared to respond quickly – there’s nothing worse in social media than waiting too long to respond. Social media is ‘real-time’ and if you’re not engaging in real-time, you can be assured that your community IS communicating in real-time. If someone posts a negative comment on your Facebook page, don’t respond negatively or defensively back to them. And never delete a negative comment unless it contains profanity or is entirely inappropriate. Deleting comments makes people think you have something to hide or that you have a thin skin – neither of which will endear you to your community.
The best thing about social media is that you have access to current thinking on all of the topics that are important to you and your company. And sometimes that’s the worst thing, too! But take those negative comments with a grain of salt and realize that in a sense you’re getting free research that will help you correct deficiencies in your products or services.
“Active Network is the leader in online registration software and event management software to all industries.” At least, that’s the claim in their website. As far as I can see, that claim is not only substantial, but after looking thoroughly at least one of their tools, it’s substantiated.
Recently I had the opportunity to view their online registration product, RegOnline.com, up close at a demo in Portland. It was an hour-long look under the hood of an adept tool that is used to handle all of the various complexities of event registration – and handle it well and without fuss.
RegOnline.com seemed interesting enough to warrant a little deeper digging, so I hooked up with General Manager Eric Olson for a podcast interview to discuss the service in more detail.
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.
So you’re going to shoot a tradeshow teaser video to get people to be aware of your upcoming appearance whetting their appetite to see your company’s exhibit at the show. But you’re rarely messed around with video. Maybe you don’t like getting in front of the camera. Or you don’t know what to put in a brief video.
Well, let’s take a look at ten things to think about when assembling your video.
1. Know whom you’re talking to
What is your intended audience thinking about the issue you’re going to talk about? Are they well informed? Ill-informed? Mis-informed? The more you can understand the mindset of your audience, the better your video will be. In the case of creating a short video that relates to a tradeshow appearance, does your audience know anything about you company or your product? Are they familiar with the show? Do they have the proper context for your presentation or are they coming in from the cold?
2. Pick a single topic and stick to it.
You’ve seen videos that try to do everything and cover a lot of ground. In the case of a short teaser video, know exactly what the topic and don’t waver. If you have more than one reason to invite people to your booth, do more than one video.
3. If you’re going to be on camera, rehearse your presentation a few times, but don’t overdo it.
There are other ways to create a video than to use a video camera. A screen-capture program, for instance, is a great way to put a video together without actually getting in front of a camera. But if you’re going to put your face onscreen, rehearse it a few times until you feel comfortable with the bullet points you’re going to cover. And yes, you should just cover bullet points, and NOT read a script. By rehearsing it a few times you’ll get comfortable with how you’re going to say it. Record a few times and go with the best. Don’t worry about perfection – there’s still no perfect presentation – but just relax and let it flow and you’ll be fine.
4. Fancy production or not?
In most cases, there’s no need for fancy production. If you’re a service company such as a dentist or accountant, just be real and show people who you are. If your company is a high-end video production company, yes, you should show your chops! But in most cases, expensive production is lost on YouTube. It depends on the expectations of your audience, which are being lowered continuously thanks to a lot of low-end video production.
Want to impress people? Don’t try and be someone you’re not. If you can show who you REALLY are – your AUTHENTIC self – people will find that much attractive than a horse-and-pony show that has little to do with who you are.
6. Don’t waste time – respect people’s time and use it wisely
If you have 60 seconds worth of information, don’t use three minutes to get it all out. Be short and sweet and then get it over with. Respect people’s time. If they get used to your short (and respectful) videos, they’ll have a greater inclination to come back and see more.
7. Don’t do a hard sell – talk conversationally
This goes back to authenticity. Most people don’t speak in a hard-sell mode in social situations. Imagine you’re in social situation and you’re talking casually with a friend or colleague. Now, use the same approach on your video and you’ll be fine.
8. Solve a problem
If you can describe how your product or service solves a problem in 60 seconds or less (and you should be able to do that!), you have a great chance of getting people to show up at your booth or shop. What exactly does your product do? Do you have a proven result? Tell how your solution will improve their situation. Share it.
9. Subtitles can increase response.
Okay, I have no evidence to support this! But to my way of thinking, by showing subtitles you are reinforcing your message. Of course, there are a few people that don’t hear well and the subtitles may assist them in understanding what you’re talking about. Plus, it’s a good place to put a phone number or web URL. Most video editing programs allow you to insert text on the screen. Again, don’t overdo it – but use it.
10. Put a smile in your voice!
One of the first and best lessons I learned when I got into radio as a teenager: put a smile into your voice! It comes across…really!
On Earth Day, Pablo Carrega’s company RelevanSi was managing and working on three events. One in Chicago, one in Utah and the third in Buenos Aires. Pablo talks about how his company used social media as a big part of his effort.
RelevanSi offers web design, programming and marketing and aims at the ‘greening’ of company’s marketing efforts.