When it comes to trade shows, social media presents one of the biggest opportunities but also one of the greatest challenges for businesses. Sending out a few tweets the month before an event like CES, RSAC, or even Black Hat USA is not enough — businesses need a digital strategy that encompasses all parts of an integrated PR program if they want to cut through the trade show noise.
It’s no surprise that we are seeing more companies take advantage of modern marketing tactics at events. Social media is no exception; statistics show that 96 percent of marketers use social media to increase awareness around events. More than half find the biggest challenge is how to use social media effectively.
Social media is not a new phenomenon. The questions we as marketers, social media managers, and PR professionals need to ask ourselves is, how can we cut through the clutter and elevate our clients’ messages? How can we make the most of an integrated PR program, while tracking towards target KPIs?
I wish I could say it is as easy as sending out a tweet, but thankfully there are a few tricks to the trade if you are just getting started implementing a trade show social media strategy:
Goals, Goals, Goals
Just like any other marketing or PR initiative, the key to success is setting goals. Do you want to increase brand awareness? Do you want to drive revenue? Define your goals early on and determine how social media tactics can help you get there.
Highwire recently worked with a security company during Black Hat USA 2018 and RSAC 2019. While our focus during BHUSA was to spark conversation among practitioners and increase engagement around the many talks and presentations of the company’s thought leaders, our goals for RSAC were centered around brand awareness and increasing foot traffic during the many partner and company demos in-booth. No matter the trade show, get aligned on business goals and don’t treat this part of your strategy as an afterthought.
When I was at RSAC 2019, I stopped at a booth where a man had his arms strapped to his chest while riding a unicycle. I’ll give them major bonus points for creativity and drawing in a huge crowd, but it seemed a little out of place and I wondered how many bystanders stuck around to learn more about their products or services.
It’s easy for your message to get lost. Dance mobs and men on unicycles can certainly draw attendees, but how does this help you meet your goals? Is your creative activation all flash and no substance? What do you want attendees to walk away with when they leave your booth?
When we work with our clients during ideation, we always shoot for the moon, but we spend time narrowing down ideas to those that we can execute and those that land results.
We love big ideas, but we’re also keen on simple tactics that drive engagement and brand awareness: live streaming demos, Twitter giveaways, authentic on-the-ground videos, and capturing content that we can leverage during and post-trade show. Recently, we did this at RSAC with one of our technology clients. A quick and simple in-the-moment video of the company’s CEO landed more than double the engagements compared to other organic posts, generating plenty of positive sentiment on Twitter. Plus, we shared it again post-RSAC as an #ICYMI post to garner additional engagements (bonus: we didn’t even need to ride a unicycle).
Rinse and Recap
Besides a little R&R, the debrief with your team and client is arguably the most important part of the post-trade show work. Get together with your digital and PR team and talk at a high-level of what worked and what didn’t. If you ran a contest, how did participants respond? How did your content perform? Did you hit target KPIs? What could you do next year that you couldn’t do this year? What did your competitors do and did they nail it?
Collecting this data is incredibly valuable, and this knowledge might be useful for your current social media strategy. Did you learn something new about your core audience? Did you attract any new audiences to your booth? Did attendees respond well to live video or images? Turn those insights into action.