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!