In the face-to-face industry social media is becoming one of the most popular ways to engage attendees at trade shows, events and conferences. Done well social media can be very successful, but done wrong it can be a flop. For that reason, we’ve created a SlideShare of 24 simple tips and best practices to get exhibitors on the right track. Flip through the SlideShare for quick tips, then read below for details.

1. develop a detailed strategy

Because social media is so ingrained in our daily lives as a spur of the moment tool, it’s a common mistake to think that you can use it the same way for marketing. The main key to a successful exhibiting social media program is developing a detailed strategy. Approach it just like you would any other marketing plan. Your strategy should include overall goals and a specific plan of action i.e. what platforms you will use, who will post what and when and how social will be incorporated into your existing exhibiting plan.

2. set concrete goals

Setting concrete goals is the only way to gauge and understand whether or not your campaign was successful post-show. Look at the overall goals from your detailed strategy and determine what outcome would mean success. For example, if your goal is to have more people interact with your brand, your concrete goals may be an increased amount of engagement which can be measured in Retweets, comments, likes and click throughs on the content you share.

3. monitor show hashtags

This should be your starting point in using social media for exhibiting. Most shows now use a unique hashtag(s) to help attendees and exhibitors get connected and start conversations online. Monitoring the hashtag will help you get involved with attendees and get a better understanding of overall sentiment and interests of your future visitors.

4. find where your attendees are engaging the most

The whole point of using social media during the exhibit process is to build a community and interact with the attendees. While a lot of interaction happens on Twitter, at a more visual show (event planning, interior design etc…) attendees may be heavily using a platform like Instagram. Make sure you’re in the right place.

5. choose the right channel

Each social media channel will communicate with an audience differently and be best for posting at different times.

  • Instagram:
    The most visual of all the social media outlets, Instagram is the place you’ll go to share photos and short videos. This is great for sharing visual elements of your booth, product demos and more. Bonus, you can connect your Instagram and Twitter accounts for a double wammy.
  • Twitter:
    If you use Twitter for work or personal life you’ll know that feeds update at lightening speed. For that reason Twitter is the ideal place to share timely, in-the-moment updates of bit-size content pre, during and post show.
  • Linkedin:
    Depending on your industry, Linkedin may be your most powerful tool pre-show. If you are involved in any Linkedin groups, or connected to clients and professionals attending your show you can use Linkedin to get involved and re-connect with those contacts. Not all groups and members of LinkedIn are active, so if your connections and groups are having valuable conversation don’t miss an opportunity to jump in.
  • Facebook:
    Facebook allows for a variety of posts both long and short, but with more stagnant feeds, it’s not the best place for constant updates as you could end up flooding followers’ feeds. Instead focus on longer form posts like quick daily recaps, photo posts or a mass photo album uploads at the end of each day.

6. designate a social media leader

You don’t want your detailed social media strategy to fall to pieces because no one is in charge. Having a leader will be important to implementing your strategy pre and post-show, but this leader will be most valuable on-site. When the show floor opens your booth is going to be hectic, and your sales people will likely be busy with clients. Posting, engaging and monitoring is a full-time job so if you can afford it, bring a team member who is there solely for social media and marketing.

7. encourage the whole team to get involved

While it may be hard for them to post on-site, getting your team involved on social media as individuals will help them make their own connections, while supporting the overall company goals. Encourage team members to use their personal social media accounts to become active members of the show community pre-show and at the show when they can by using the official hashtag.

8. use the show hashtag so attendees can find you

This one is especially important for Tweeting. Using the show Hashtag will help make your Tweets more visible to show attendees, especially those not currently following you. If you don’t use the hashtag, those attendees may never see your Tweets at all.

9. leading up to the show tell everyone you’ll be tweeting and posting

This one is simple. You want people to know you’ll be posting live at the show. In each of your outlets, be sure to give a reminder that you’ll be exhibiting and sharing updates from the show floor. However, keep reminders to a minimum so as not to spam your followers. Give a reminder, then let your content do the talking.

10. stop only promoting your booth number and giveaways

I get it, you want people to know where your booth is and what they will get for stopping by. However when 200 exhibitors are all saying roughly the same thing and only that thing, it’s not just boring, it’s also not beneficial to the attendees following the hashtag. That’s why number 11 is so important…

11. instead try listening to what attendees want

Remember the key goal to exhibiting is giving attendees what they want, and for social media it’s not all that different. When monitoring the hashtag, pay attention to what attendees are wanting and talking about. What issues and topics are they discussing? What are they looking forward to about the show? What information do they need to know? Then…

12. share something valuable

No matter what show attendees are talking about one thing is for sure; they’re seeking to gain value from following the show hashtag. In order to stand out and build social relationships be the brand that’s sharing something of value. Examples?

13. share valuable content from others

Don’t get too self involved on social media. Show your attendees/followers you appreciate the value they bring to the table by sharing and re-posting their valuable content.

14. don’t sound like a corporate robot

Template messages with no emotion sent over and over again, or used to respond to people over and over are a big no no. Simply put, sound like the human you are.

15. join the conversation surrounding the trade show

Respond and start conversations in addition to posting. Engage with attendees by looking for opportunities to start chatting about what you know best. Get involved in any industry Twitter chats doing pre-show or at-show coverage/topics. Remember to chat like you would at any in-person networking event and get to know people.

16. share on-site photos & videos

Statistics show that tweets with images get 2 times the engagement rate of those without. While on-site share a variety of photos and videos including in-booth products, demos, presentations as well as non-exhibiting images from the trip. To get “artistic” post your photos through Instagram and link up to your Twitter and Facebook accounts.

17. share “best of” notes, quotes & stats from educational sessions

This type of posting is highly beneficial to attendees and non-attendees following the show hashtag. If you’ll be attending educational sessions use the show hashtag to share what you’re learning to help attendees learn too! Some sessions will even encourage Tweeting with a unique hashtag.

18. show your fun side by sharing the non-business part of exhibiting

If you’re attending events, award ceremonies or even team dinners associated with the show share a few photos here and there. Showing your “fun” side will help attendees relate to your brand on a more personal level. Of course remember to keep all posting 100% appropriate. We’d like to think that rule is an easy one to follow, but if you’re worried you might share something inappropriate on the company account it may be best to shut off your phone for the night.

19. create your own unique hashtag

Some exhibitors decide to use a hashtag entirely their own for marketing purposes. This is a great idea but remember to give visitors a reason to use it. Otherwise, it’ll end up being pretty useless. You can incorporate your Hashtag into your exhibiting plan by doing a Twitter contest, hosting a Twitter chat or a social “photo booth” using services like Instaprint or TagPrints. If you go this route make sure your hashtag is highly visible in booth and visitors easily know what to do with it.

20. connect with your leads on social media

This tip may apply more to the tech-savvy industry shows. If you receive a business card that calls out a Twitter or Instagram handle don’t disregard it. Sometimes a social connection could prove more valuable than just a business phone or email.

However for less tech-savvy show, if someone who’s already a Twitter follower or Linkedin connection stops by use social media to casually keep in touch, share valuable content and thank them post-show.

21. host/plan a “tweet up” to meet your followers in person

If you have Twitter followers attending a show, a great way to strengthen those connections is by reaching out and planning a “tweet up.” A tweet up is simply a planned, in-person meet-up of a Twitter group. This isn’t a business dinner, just a social “get to know you.” Meeting up one-on-one is intimidating so make you can gather a decent amount of followers and plan to meet in a casual setting or at a show networking event.

22. engage post-show with more valuable content

We hate to tell you this, but your social media job isn’t over when the show ends. Continue to engage post-show with more valuable content following the tips above. Think of this as the same thing as following up with “leads.” You must work to maintain the new relationship you formed.

23. evaluate strengths & weaknesses post-show

Remember the goals you set? After the show completes and the dust has settled record all your results and compare to your goals to determine success. Then create a list of strengths and weaknesses. Look at all the things you did right and all the areas where you need improvement. Discuss with your whole team and identify how you can improve for next time.

24. continue to nurture & grow your new social community year-round

Now that the show is over, it’s your responsibility to continue interacting to create a community around your brand. Unlike collecting regular leads, your social leads will take more than just a follow up call. Your social media community is not going to convert immediately, and that is OK. Be patient. Be a touch point for your follows all-year round for valuable content, information and expert insights. When your followers are ready to do business, your brand will be top of mind as the industry leader.

Believe it or not, 24 tips just barely scratch the surface of running social media for your exhibit. Great social media marketing takes time, so don’t get discouraged if one technique doesn’t work for your audience. Apply these tips to your overall social media marketing, learn from trial and error and soon you’ll be on your way to building a social community around your brand.