How to get social media right at your next big event

19 February 2016

When a brand commits to attending a trade show, it's likely to be one of the largest marketing investments of the year, so the task of managing social media during this time takes on an even greater importance.

Over the past five years I've taken the social media reigns at trade shows for some of the world's largest technology companies operating in the B2B sector and smaller, niche operators who are very much focused on the consumer. They're clearly two very different beasts but there are a common set of principles we apply to each.

I'll outline some of the tips and tricks of heading up social media for a brand at a show below but it's worth mentioning up front that success is determined by the flow. And by 'the flow' I mean having the experience to know what type of content to push, when to push it out and - as equally important - to know when to stop.

There's a rhythm to live-social and the sooner you can tune into the ebb and flow of the event the greater the success you'll see at the end. With that in mind, here are my thoughts on how we ensure success when asked to manage social media around a show: 

1) Be prepared 

This is obvious, right? Well, in this case preparation means everything from having that external battery ready for your mobile device (to avoid the embarrassment of begging for a charging point three hours in – you will be always-on, publishing, collecting and monitoring content) to understanding your client's key objectives for the show, and most importantly, how they map to the show experience.

With our larger clients the initial planning takes place a couple of months in advance to give us the chance to understand both their business objectives and show objectives. They'll often be similar but we want to ensure, where possible, we deliver on both with the social content we publish. Preparation means being as much of a subject-matter expert as possible for the client so that we can confidently create social content that is both meaningful and accurate to the audience. 

2) Here, there, everywhere 

Something I'm sure you'll have experienced for yourself, the frustration when a brand you follow (and usually enjoy content from) suddenly starts posting updates from an event that a) tells you what a great time they are having and b) offers little-to-no value to you as a non-attendee. It's important to recognise that the vast majority of your audience (unless you are managing an event account) will not be present at the event. If you only take one message away from this blog then make it this one: 

Provide value for your community that are not at the event otherwise you risk losing them permanently. 

When I talk of value it could be something as simple as extending a show offer to the wider community, providing first-look opportunities at features launched at the show or perhaps backing up a live show demonstration with an online video. We work closely with our clients to ensure we have a solid, high-value library of assets in place for non-attendees. 

3) Right place, right time 

Managing social media at a large show is not for the faint of heart. When done right it will - more often than not - be very long days, require a high-level of focus and discipline and an ability to place yourself at the heart of the action. What makes a great social media manager stand out at trade shows is a great work ethic – if lunch has to be taken at 5pm, then so be it – for the days of the show there is no 'off-duty'.

So whether you are sitting uninvited on the front row of a theatre session to capture some great images of the keynote speaker, or directing your client around their own stand to get the perfect 'team' image, you'll need to be confident and bold when it comes to your decision-making and content gathering movements. Do not be distracted - it's essential to remember that you are not there to demo products or assist with customer enquiries, you have been hired to deliver fantastic social media management to meet the business and show objectives I talked of earlier.

4) Shoot, shoot and shoot some more 

Never stop taking photos or videos. Keep shooting, because somewhere in the 300 images you shot that day is the one that'll take the brand and its story well beyond it's own community. Without turning this into a photography 101 blog do make sure you pay attention to what's in the background of all of your images and video - particularly when it comes to your client's competitors logo and branding.

And think about how the audience is consuming your social content too, it's likely to be on a mobile device so images of large crowds or panoramic views tend to lose impact. If your client is a large corporation then feature people in your images alongside positive messaging - a show provides a great opportunity to humanise a brand, making it seem more approachable. The bottom line is that images and videos are the lifeblood of a successful social media strategy around shows. 

5) Start early - finish late

There are some big gains to be made by those brands who are prepared to push out content early and late. Use your social media management tools to monitor key search phrases and accounts which will enable you to make conversation with people en route (and encourage them to visit a stand/booth) and follow-up with people who have been at the show and are on their way home - the evenings are prime time to drive your audience to those key assets such as videos, blog posts, case studies, etc.

We find that individuals respond positively to interaction from large brands, it really does help to create an emotional connection which can be backed up with a face-to-face conversation. Yes, it's possible to schedule tweets but more often than not these canned tweets written a week or so in advance lack emotion and can often get in the way of your flow – to your audience they're obvious.  

6) Paid media 

It's a given that you need to be spending money to back up your social media content to ensure it reaches the right people, in the right place and at the right time. While I'm on the ground at a a show our paid media experts back in the office will be choosing the best organic content to promote to a wider - but still focused - audience.

Competition for share-of-voice around an event can be fierce but with a combination of great social content and a paid media budget you can place yourself at the head of the pack.

7) Measure 

As with any other marketing activity, you need to be able to measure results. Agree what data you'll be tracking with your client and get your reporting mechanisms in place well in advance of the show.

Do the quantitative stuff post-event, that's obviously very important, but don't forget to showcase the human responses, the warmth a brand can receive when social media is done well. If you're not tracking and measuring what you are doing then you're arguably throwing away your client's time and money. 

Talk to us

I hope I've given you a flavour of what works for our clients here at Metia when we manage social media for brands at exhibition/trade shows. These shows are an incredibly important part of their marketing activity and social media is becoming increasingly valuable - I'd argue essential - to help drive show visitors, elevate product announcements and provide an opportunity to present the brand in a warm, friendly and approachable way.

If you want your brand to stand out at your next exhibition/trade show or other event then do get in touch today, we'd love to hear from you.