Using social media to drive growth at trade shows

Using social media to drive growth at trade shows

Social media has changed the way in which people consume information at trade shows. It has opened up a new channel by which exhibitors can push attendees information, but more importantly, you can now reach an audience not in attendance. If done effectively, social media can greatly increase your companies presence at trade shows.

I sat down with Ariella Steinreich, who just came back from The Winter Las Vegas Furniture Market, to discuss these new changes and how one can leverage social media before, during, and after a trade show to drive the most business for their clients. 

Muck Rack: What are some tips for utilizing social media when preparing to attend an industry trade show?
Ariella Steinreich: Social media is a critical tool when preparing for an industry trade show. It is a listening tool to explore which media are attending, the topics / themes of interest to them, additional events taking place and can even be used for new business leads. Here are some tips –

Media attending Media will often share on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook if they are attending a conference or trade show. By using these platforms or the social media listening tools on Muck Rack, you can create a customized media list of attendees to reach out to.

Themes/ Topics of Interest – Once you look up the hashtag associated with the conference or event, take a scan of the conversations taking place around social media. This is particularly helpful when briefing a client before the show as it allows you provide intel into some of the themes a particular journalist or analyst is interested in.

Additional Events Taking Place Media outlets and companies often hold additional events, parties and networking events which at conferences / trade show. In order to share the information with a larger audience they will Tweet it using the trade show’s hashtag.

New Business Leads To insert themselves into the conference or trade show conversation, many companies will offer teaser tweets about new products they are launching at the event and they’ll use the show’s hashtag. By following the hashtag, you are able to see the companies attending who might be a good new business prospect.

MR: How can PR professionals leverage social media while at the trade show?
AS: Trade shows are incredibly busy and often between meetings, media briefings, client events and dinners, the working day ends up becoming a 16-19 hour day and we forget about the importance of “listening” during a trade show. Using Twitter allows you the opportunity to “listen” to what the big themes and discussions are around the conference or trade show and to easily organize them by conversations amongst journalists, analysts and companies. 

LinkedIn is critical after a trade show. Once you return to the office, go through the new business cards you received and connect with these folks on LinkedIn. This could lead to a new relationship with a journalist or a new business lead.

MR: Do you ever use social media to follow along with trade shows that you aren't attending? 
AS: Absolutely! The great thing about social media is that it allows you to be part of a trade show conversation even if you aren’t there in person. I think that similar to how video conferencing changed the business environment, social media has changed the trade show environment. In today’s world where travel and marketing budgets are often reduced, many companies cannot attend each and every conference they would like. By following these conferences on social media they can still insert commentary into the conversation. 

For example, we have a client who wasn’t able to attend a technology trade conference but still wanted to monitor the themes and topics being discussed. We “listened” to the social media chatter and were able to report back on the themes which ultimately helped to inform their new products. 

This isn’t just applicable to trade shows, this is something we do for some of the largest conferences and events in the world. For example, I’ve always been fascinated by the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, and while it is on my bucket list to attend one of the meetings at some point throughout my career, that has yet to happen. However, so much of the discussion is now available via social media channels - whether it is listening to a webcast, watching one of the videos, following the Tweets (#WEF15) or updates via LinkedIn and Facebook – it allows the rest of the world to “listen” into the conversation.

MR: What do you see as some of the recent changes when it comes to social media applicable at trade shows?
AS: Probably the biggest change is the use of video. It is so easy and simple to create and we often help our clients develop video content while at an industry trade show. Whether it is through Vine or YouTube, once created we can share it across other media platforms and reach a wider audience. This is incredibly important in the home furnishings category. From the media side, we also see journalists asking to do Skype interviews from the trade show floor.

Many clients are doing Tweet Chats for both conference attendees as well as those who aren’t there. This is particularly popular leading up to the show and following the launch of a new product. For instance, the High Point Furniture Market, another one of the industry’s large trade shows, coordinates a Tweet Chat where its “Style Spotters” identify the trends that will be seen during the show. Others are doing Google Hangouts as they are a more controlled environment.

Ariella Steinreich is Director of Media Relations for Steinreich Communications, an independent, full- service communications agency headquartered in Fort Lee, N.J. with offices in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, London, Frankfurt, and Tel Aviv.

(Photo: Adriano Castelli via Shutterstick)

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