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

Public Relations

7 Surefire Ways to Energize Social Media at Tradeshows – #1: Look at What Others Are Doing

(See the first post in this series: The Basics)

When I first sat down to a computer back in, oh, the early 90s, I had no idea what I was doing. But my friend Rich did know and he loved figuring stuff out on his computer. Over the next few years whenever I wanted to find a shortcut to learning something new on my PC, I just went to his house and looked over his shoulder. Believe me, watching others do something is the best way to pick up a skill or at least some valuable tips and tidbits on how things work. In large part due to his willingness to try new things and let me look over his shoulder, I got pretty good at working with those old clunky computers, back when they were brand new and needed some focused attention to get things to work properly.

Apple Computer, 1983 (Lisa)

Same thing when I was in college when I took a tennis class. I wasn’t that good at tennis, although I was a decent athlete. I found that when I played tennis with someone better than me my skill level would rise significantly. When I played with someone worse than me, I played worse. That was an eye-opener to me.

As a kid learning to ski, I never took lessons. But that didn’t stop me from lurking 50 feet away from a class and trying to pick up some pointers, which helped me find more shortcuts to learning. Hey, I guess I’ve been hacking education in some shape or form since I was just a sprite!

In other words, you should never discount the value of watching someone that’s better than you. Or worse. Because you’ll likely learn something along the way.

So first, look at what others are doing in their social media/tradeshow engagement efforts. Examine to find out what works, and copy or adapt ideas.

It may take a little effort to find out what works. Just because someone is tweeting out promotions for a tradeshow booth doesn’t mean it’s working well for them. If you can do a little digging, though, you should be able to find out how things worked out. You can see if they posted photos, videos or blog posts about the tradeshow. Then do what you can to uncover how successful it was. Often a quick phone call to someone is the easiest way. Just ask how their promotion went and what they’d do differently next time!

To re-cap:

  • Watch what others do
  • Learn what works
  • Avoid what doesn’t work
  • Copy or adapt ideas
  • Learn from their success and failure

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 photo credit: Alan Light

Making Real Connections Using Social Media

When you’re tweeting and posting Facebook updates and adding photos to your Instagram or Snapchatting like a 13-year-old, do you ever get the feeling that those updates are all…er…wasted and you’re not making real connections using social media? Do you find that very few people actually respond or read them?

Do you feel that they are not really connecting to your intended recipients – those online followers of your company and products?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Making that connection with your audience (customers, potential clients) is probably the toughest thing you’re tasked to do.

And I’m here to tell you that it’s not an easy thing to do. Even if I gave you a shortlist of things to do on a daily basis, it’s quite possible that you may get nothing out of that list. Or it may mean the difference between making the connection and being totally ignored by your followers.

But still, if you’re on social media, you’ll have to try to find what it takes to make those connections or your time will be wasted.

So let me offer some ideas on what it might take. For every person involved in social media for their company, the approach to these ideas will be different, some slightly and some extremely different, but your approach should fall under the same umbrella. To me there are just two main elements you need to provide.

Saint Etienne setlist.

CONTENT. By providing good content, you’re telling your audience that you care. Show your knowledge; share your expertise. Give things away that are worth something and are not just rehashed. Speak knowledgeably about how your products or services can actually help someone. Answer questions; offer insights based on your experience. And don’t worry about giving away secrets – there really are very few secrets left anyway.

CONNECTION. Yeah, it’s a cliché: connect with someone! The larger your audience, the harder it will be to find anything more than superficial connections based on your online back-and-forth. But…I think there’s something to be said for making the attempt.  It could mean cultivating and focusing on a handful of those people in your tribe that are engaged and responsive. You can’t connect with everyone, but for those that you do make a solid connection with, it’s worth it. Often those people will then become surrogates for you and your company, singing your praises without urging from you. BTW, the way to connect online is to get off subject: use humor; comment on photographs, share experiences that are non-business related. Connections are made on an emotional level much easier than on a business level.

And when it comes to connection, quality is better then quantity. In fact, there isn’t enough time to connect with everyone in your circle. Connect with those you are able to and have some sort of attraction to. Business happens with people you like and trust.

In your social media interactions (as in everywhere), be likeble and trustworthy.

 photo credit: Bo Valentin

What’s your Social Media Reputation?

Managing your social media reputation may be something that you’ve never even thought of. Or it may be something you obsess over! Either way, there are a few things you can do to control, or attempt to control, your social media reputation.

March-October 2011 Countries

First, you must spend time just getting out there. Establish your online reputation by appearing on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media outlets. People will look for you on Google (for the most part – over 90% of searches), so besides your company website, they should also find you on Twitter, Facebook and perhaps on YouTube, Flickr or even Wikipedia. Searchers won’t find those results if you aren’t there, and not only have established a presence, but are actively working those platforms.

Second, if the conversation about your products or brand turns sour, you’ll need to jump on the situation immediately. The famous United Break Guitars incident shows how lack of response can cause the chatter to blow up beyond having ANY control. But by monitoring your channels, when something does pop up, you are prepared to respond quickly. That quick response will help you acknowledge any complaints and address the situation so that your followers understand what’s going on.

Third, keep your ears to the ground! There are myriad tools out there that help you monitor what’s going on in regard to your products, company and competition. The best are Google Alerts and Social Mention. There are also several premium products on the market that allows you to drill down into social media platforms to follow those conversations.

Bottom line? You have the power to take proper action and control your social media reputation. And if you value your bottom line, you MUST be proactive in monitoring and responding when the conversation turns negative.

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 photo credit: faul

Goal Setting for Tradeshow Social Media Marketing

Do you have a set of clearly defined, easily measurable goals for each of your tradeshows regarding your social media marketing efforts?

If not, here’s where to start.

First set down your show objectives.

What metric are you most interested n moving during your tradeshows when it relates to social media? Yes, you want to move the sales needle, but as you add on social media components, you are putting more people into the potential sales funnel.

Money Graph

There are myriad tools available for tracking your social media interaction, but your measurements should be driven more by what you want to learn.

Need to know how many visitors you had this year compared with last?

Want to find out if people respond to a series of tweets inviting them to your booth to get a great deal, meet a famous person or win a contest?

Need to know how many people see those photographs you posted on your Facebook page from the show, to gauge interest in your products or services?

Once you determine what you want to learn, start focusing on the various ways social media lets you do that in the realm of event marketing.

Some of the metrics you might be interested in:

  • Facebook page ‘likes’ – perhaps not as good as adding someone to an email marketing list, but by having them as a Facebook friend they are giving you permission to engage with them.
  • Booth traffic. If you have a rough count of booth visitors from last year’s show, you can compare to what you get this year. If not, start counting anyway – it’s a good metric to have.
  • Direct response visitors, which will come from contests or other come-ons sent out via Twitter or Facebook.
  • Getting more followers on Twitter. If you have show-goers following you on Twitter, chances are they’ll come to next year’s show as well, which means it’ll be easier to find and track them to your booth.
  • QR Code responses. If you invite people to download documents or sign up for a newsletter, track the number of people that have used the code. Compare the percentage that actually followed through on your offer.
  • Blog post views
  • Photo views
  • Video views and possible click-throughs from your YouTube channel to a specific landing page.
  • Want to take a survey in the booth? Here’s a great opportunity to do a little market research. Just make sure to ask respondents how they interact with you online (or if they do at all). Offer a small reward for taking the survey. Capture contact information – at least a name and email so you can follow up. Put them on a newsletter if you publish one.
  • Length of Facebook thread, to show you how much a particular topic or post resonates with your audience (of course, it might be the responses that they’re responding to, not your original post!).
  • Impressions and other opportunities-to-see you.

And of course the sales information that you should be tracking from show to show:

  • Number of leads
  • Number of registrations for demos (or other)
  • Number of appointments made
  • Number of proposals delivered
  • Number of sales
  • Amount of sales
  • Average amount of each sale
  • Comparison of different shows and year-to-year same show results

Yes, there are a lot of moving parts and your particular goals will of course be unique to your company and product or service. The more you are able to track social media metrics and compare those numbers with the more traditional sales tracking metrics and see how they work together (or not), the more informed you’ll be and the better positioned you’ll be to adjust your direction or jump in a new direction when the signs point that way.

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 photo credit: 401K

Why Your Company Should Consider Blogging

If you’ve been doing tradeshow marketing for years, and you’re edging into social media, good for you. Companies that work intelligently to drive traffic to their tradeshow booths are showing some great results.

But do you have a blog? If so, are you using it to its full effectiveness? If not, why not? Perhaps you should consider blogging. The presence of an active, engaging blog can make the difference between closing a deal or not, all other things being equal.

Here are some reasons to consider blogging:

  • It’s a marketing tool that’s much easier to maintain than a newsletter. You can add and change it at any time.
  • You want to influence people in your market.
  • You want to be seen as a thought leader or industry leader.
  • You have an expertise and you want to share.
  • You like engaging in debate with strangers, who can often become friends and perhaps even clients.
  • It helps you get found online. Blogs are search-engine friendly.
  • Blogs can bring your team together. As an example, the 300-employee company Hubspot in Boston invites any employee to contribute to the blog, which allows them to have several posts a day offering a number of viewpoints and various useful information.
  • Blogging forces you to stay sharp. By continually coming up with material you’re always learning and sharing what you learn. As a result, you become smarter and more well-known for knowing more than most people in your industry.
  • As a result of blogging people will ask you questions, which leads to you learning even more.
  • Creating great content leads to sales. Seriously. When you create great content, you create trust, which brings in people that are interested in your content. Those people often become business leads, and leads often become sales.
  • Creating content leads to comments and discussions. Those comments allow you to learn from readers to find out exactly what they’re interested in. It also gives you insight in to the pain points they’re experiencing. And in a sales call, knowing those pain points and how to solve them leads to sales.

So what about tradeshows, events and conferences? How can blogging help in your event marketing? Let’s take a look.

  • By having a blog platform, you are able to share more information about what happened at the event in real time.
  • As the date of the show gets closer, your blog is a platform for sharing what you’ll be doing at the show. Classic Exhibits’ lead-in to their appearance at Exhibitor this year was a perfect example. Their regular blog readers saw the various videos they posted that teased their Exhibitor appearance.
  • A blog is a perfect platform for posting multi-media from the event: audio, video and photos. This is a great place to interview happy clients and post those video clips on your blog, which become power testimonials for your product or service.
  • Once the show is over, your blog is a place to do continual follow-ups. Material that you compiled at the show can be spun out on your blog over the next few months.

Yet, in spite of all of these great reasons to blog, make no mistake: blogging isn’t easy, and there’s not necessarily a direct payoff from all of the effort that goes into a blog. However, an active blog can be a powerful tool and is often the difference between making a sale or not when going head to head with a competitor who is not blogging.

(photo by Annie Moles, courtesy

David Meerman Scott’s NAMM Keynote

I’ve been a follower of David Meerman Scott for many years, and his find blog, and have interviewed him a couple of time for podcasts. His material is fresh, cutting-edge, and if you’re interested in learning about how social media works in real-time, he’s the guy to follow and learn from. Yes, it’s long – you’ll need an hour – but find time to watch this terrific keynote presented at this year’s NAMM January 20th in Anaheim.


David Meerman Scott keynotes the 2012 NAMM show from David Meerman Scott on Vimeo.

Social Media Isn’t All You Gotta Do

(With a wink and a nod to John Lennon...)

As much as I love social media and believe in its effectiveness to reach people and bring them together for a thousand and one purposes, when you’re doing tradeshow marketing, it can’t be your only marketing strategy.

In other words, don’t become too enamored with social media. Use it as another marketing arrow in your quiver.

Continue to use (or enhance your use of) other marketing tactics:

  • show sponsorships
  • direct marketing
  • email marketing
  • partnerships
  • public relations
  • pre-show promotions
  • contests
  • personal invitations
  • in-booth demonstrations
  • seminars and presentations
  • effective follow-up
  • tradeshow staff training
  • (what else can you add?)

Find ways to tie your social media efforts into these other more traditional tradeshow marketing tools. Blog from your booth. Shoot video at the show and post to YouTube and Facebook. Tweet about your in-booth guests, demos and contests to drive traffic. Social media can be quite effective at your tradeshow – but when used in conjunction with other methods, the combination can be deadly – to your competition.

Dealing With Negative Social Media at the Tradeshow

It’s rare, but not unheard of, for social media to backfire at the worst possible time and you’re facing the dreaded scourge of negative social media. Usually the worst possible time is when your company has a majority of its resources on site at a tradeshow. If most of your people are focused on doing demos, interacting with booth visitors and putting out a thousand little fires that seem to ignite during the show, the last thing you want is to have a blow-up on your social media platforms.

For example, let’s say you have a hot new product that is hotter than anticipated. You’ve even run out in the second day of the show and there’s no way you can fulfill demand.

Or maybe one of your employees opened their mouth to the wrong person and left a negative impression, strong enough for them to go out and tweet or post to their Facebook page.

In most cases, the negative comments usually won’t get too far, especially if you promptly respond and openly try to deal with any issues created.

But on occasion, depending on circumstances of the situation, those comments can get out of hand and go viral. So how do you prepare for such an eventuality, even if the odds are slim.

First, be aware – in a real time basis as much as possible – what’s being said about your company and products. This takes vigilance, and often means using some sort of tool that can monitor Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and others. Search for ‘social media monitoring tool’ and you’ll find plenty of good suggestions.

Second, be prepared for anything. Know how to get in front of a bad story. Be ready to respond appropriately – and make sure you respond as quickly as possible. Your Public Relations department should be ready to respond to that 3 AM call, and have the power to do so. Management has got to trust the PR department that they can craft a message that’s appropriate.

Third, don’t DO NOTHING. The worst thing is to sit on a story and wait for all departments to chime in. For instance, if you think that you need a legal opinion before responding to negative comments, chances are the story will entirely get away from you before you know it. Better to get a partial response out instead of no response at all.

Finally, don’t think that you’re immune because you have a product or service or a company that doesn’t lend itself to a firestorm of negativity. It CAN happen, and if you’ve at least talked about it and have some sort of plan in place, chances are you’ll be able to respond when needed.

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Do Pretty Ads Ring the Cash Registers?

Like millions I watched the Super Bowl over the weekend, not only to root for the Packers (!), but to gawk at the ads. Lots of clever ads put together which were damn entertaining. According to the Portland Business Journal, some of the most popular were produced by Portland’s Weiden + Kennedy, well known for creating great Nike ads over the years. They created the Chrysler and Coca-Cola ads which got a lot of critical and viewer praise.

My favorite (and it’s hard to choose, so if I were to write this article tomorrow, my fave choice might change) was the very popular VW ad with the mini-Darth Vader called “The Force.” It went viral before the Super Bowl and by Monday had garnered over 16 million views on YouTube:


While the Super Bowl is a terrific showcase for ad creativity, many critics (me included) wonder about the effectiveness of the ads. Advertisers spend around $3 million for a 30-second slot. Not to mention the time, energy and money that goes into creating the ad. Must be another three mil, at least, right?

That’s a ton of money, even if you’re Coca-Cola or Chrysler. As an advertiser you want it to pay off.

If the ad is number one on the popular charts but doesn’t sell more than a few bottles of coke or more than a few new cars, is the ad worth the investment? Hard to justify in my mind. But if the ad creates huge brand awareness and you’re able to point back to the ad as a key point in a rise in sales, you can probably justify it.

Hey, it’s the same with tradeshows – which is just another marketing tactic.

You spend a ton of money (it’s not cheap!), and hope the sales increase as a result.

So…some questions to ask as you prepare your creative for the tradeshow:

  • Is the booth pretty or effective? Or both?
  • Is your graphic message popular or does it ring the cash registers? Or both?
  • Is your in-booth demo clever and does it grab solid leads? Or is it just plain clever..?
  • Do your staffers have great questions for your visitors and do they use those questions to qualify a ton of great leads?
  • Do your leads make a nice pile of paper but fail when it comes to getting them to pulling out their checkbook to purchase your product or service?

It’s the same with websites, by the way. I’ve seen incredible looking websites which did virtually nothing for the business. And I’ve seen ugly websites that were extremely effective at turning a visitor into a customer.

Pretty and popular is nice. But sales effectiveness and lead conversion pay the bills.

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