5 Ways to Use Social Media to Attract Traffic to Your Tradeshow Booth

The way people find and digest information has changed dramatically in recent decades. Once print news, television, and word of mouth were the dominating advertising channels; today customers rely on digital technologies to stay informed.

Knowing that, the challenge for marketers today is to reach customers in ways that are unique, compelling, clear, and convenient. Social media is proving to be one of the best channels for accomplishing those goals in a timely and cost effective manner.

With the right information and a strategic plan in place, social media marketing can be a unique opportunity for companies promoting their products and services at tradeshows to better understand attendee’s interests, interact with them in a more relevant way, and provide a compelling reason to stop by the company’s booth. The steps outlined below will allow you to create and maintain a manageable social media presence before, during, and after your next tradeshow—and establish relationships with attendees that will convert them into long-term customers. 

Set Strategic Goals

Before you start making decisions about how to reach your target audience via social media, or which platforms to use, it is vital to understand your company’s overall goals for the event. Social media for business should supplement and support the broader objectives of your company. For example, if your goal is to build awareness of your brand, the social media platforms and language you utilize will be strategically different than they would be if you were trying to increase sales of a particular product. In addition, once you’ve identified the most effective platforms, review your social media goals to ensure they are measurable. Simply saying you want 100 new Twitter followers isn’t specific enough. Instead, aim for 100 Twitter followers who are senior-level human-resource managers at Fortune 500 companies.

Find Your Audience (and Listen to Them)

In addition to identifying obtainable goals, before you can create an effective social media strategy, you’ll need to understand who is attending the tradeshow and the topics that most interest them. According to Traci Browne, author of The Social Tradeshow, “If you did nothing else with social media but used it to listen, you'd be light years ahead of companies who have no interest in the medium.”

The easiest way to start listening to your audience is to start following the event’s hashtag a few weeks ahead of time on various social media platforms. Doing so will give you a sense for what attendees are excited about, what questions they have, etc. If there is not an official hashtag, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have robust search functionality that will allow you to search for event names, people, topics, and company names to see what people are discussing. You can also set up Google Alerts for the name of the event you’re attending, your company name, your current or potential customers, your products and services, and more, to get real time information about what related topics are trending.

Identify Your Champions

While you are listening to the buzz leading up to your tradeshow, start to identify influencers—key individuals in your area whose opinions about products, services, and companies are widely read and trusted. These could be customers, media representatives, or others who are invested in your industry. The key here is to consider whether any of these individuals would be willing to champion on behalf of your company and promote your products to their followers. For example, once you’ve identified influencers, you would send them samples of key products prior to a tradeshow, which they would then test, review, and promote on their blogs and social media accounts leading up to and even during the event, encouraging their followers to visit your booth. This approach, widely referred to as influencer marketing, is effective and important, because it enables reliable, third-party industry sources to become persuasive advocates for your brand—creating authentic resources and reviews for customers and prospects. 

Create Your Strategy

Once you’ve established your goals and identified your audience, you can start developing your social media tradeshow strategy. The first thing you need to do is to determine which platforms you’re going to use. Do you have a lot of existing video material or will you be taking candid videos on site? If so, YouTube could be a valuable channel for your team. Or, while you were listening to your audience you may have noticed they tend to use Facebook more heavily than other platforms. That is valuable insight as you are creating your plan. Think carefully about which platforms will support your overall goals, as well as which ones will resonate most with your target audience. While there is no limit to how many platforms you can use, it is often best to narrow in on those that will be most effective for you. Rather than spreading yourself or your team too thin across many platforms, or utilizing platforms that do not align with your brand simply because they’re popular, focus on those that best complement your brand, your goals, and your customers’ needs.

After you’ve determined which platforms to use, consider what you’re going to post about, when you’re going to post, and who is going to be responsible for your social media during the event. For activity during the tradeshow, consider when your audience will be most engaged—maybe early in the morning, around lunch time, or during breaks in the day. For posts that you have written and planned in advance, consider using a tool like Hootsuite to schedule those posts ahead of time, so that you will not have to stop what you’re doing to post in the middle of the day. Will multiple team members have access to your Twitter account? If so, make sure they are all aware of the plan in place, so that your posts are not conflicting or repetitive. 

Engage with Customers and Prospects

As you are creating your social media strategy, incorporate intentional efforts to engage your target audience. One of the most effective ways to connect with customers is a giveaway. Advertise a drawing for a popular retail product (i.e. a YETI tumbler, Visa gift card, or an iPad) or one of your own products across your social media channels, letting your followers know what they could win, how to enter, the value of the product, the deadline for entry, and when you’ll choose a winner. Even a free gift, if advertised effectively, will draw people to your booth, giving you the opportunity to get their information and tell them more about your products and services in-person.

Social media also provides a unique opportunity to speak directly to tradeshow attendees. While you are listening to your audience before and during the event, look for opportunities to answer their questions or provide helpful information by commenting directly on their Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram posts. The important thing is to keep your comments conversational.  Focus less on selling something to your audience and more on helping them prepare for or navigate the event. Doing so will remind your customers that your brand is authentic, trustworthy, and approachable.

Once new or existing customers have arrived at your booth after seeing your social media posts, don’t lose their attention with predictable marketing materials or displays. Use a portable floor stand or an adjustable iPad stand to incorporate interactive technologies into your booth. Add games or accessories like a micro prize wheel to your overall display to add a fun, lighthearted touch and add some flare to your product giveaways. Subtle lighting and sound additions can be effective ways to highlight key products or parts of your display, and portable literature stands allow visitors to easily pick up marketing materials as they’re passing by or leaving your booth.

Whether you create a comprehensive social media strategy, start with a single platform, or focus on incorporating helpful, interactive technology into your booth, use the months before your next tradeshow to consider the ways you can stand apart from your competitors and drive relevant leads to your booth. The more intentional your efforts are to reach customers and prospects in convenient and compelling ways, the more likely you are to have a successful exhibit.