One of the most useful things to master in your digital marketing is how to use social media at events. Exhibitions, Conferences and Expos are a cornerstone of business networking, and your social media needs to be right at the centre.  So when you’re dusting down the display banners, loading up the business cards and launching yourself into exhibition season, make sure you’ve given social some thought.

I’ve spent a lot of my career attending trade shows and exhibitions of one form or another.  I’m old enough to remember when no one had email access and mobiles were for senior execs only. (but on the upside, they were in the South of France and we had drinks parties on yachts so it wasn’t all bad).

Today, everything you need is in your pocket.

However nothing much has changed.  Exhibitions are a great way to meet new clients, providers and contacts and sow the seeds for long term relationships, whether you are hosting a stand or, prefer to be the conference ninja, flitting from stand to stand, arranging coffee and stealthily sizing up the lie of the land.

If you use Social Media properly, you can squeeze every last drop out the opportunities they give you.

To help you on your way, here is the Armadillo Guide to making your exhibition the social event of the year.

Before the Event

Decide on your objectives

  • OK so this is not necessarily a digital thing but vital if you are going to get great results. Setting some objectives beforehand, and working out a way to measure them are vital; then you can tailor everything accordingly.
  • It could be you want to widen your network, launch a new product, get some press coverage or actually generate sales.

Tell people you’re going

  • Use the event hashtag on Twitter and Instagram
  • Write a blog post, telling people why you’re there
  • Consider some Facebook and Youtube videos as sneak previews
  • Email your database letting them know you’ll be there.

See who else is going

  • Again, follow the hashtag and start to engage with people beforehand
  • Check the exhibitors list and make sure you’re following them beforehand, or send them a LinkedIn request
  • Make a Twitter list so you an access them all easily on the day.
  • Some ‘see you there’ tweets will go a long way.

Think about engagement

  • If you’re exhibiting, put some thought into your stand, and how you are going to encourage people to promote you on the day. Hashtag competitions, selfie opportunities, original activities are all great ways to get people talking
social media engagement at events

Activity – check, Business card collection – check

Get your materials ready

  • Conferences inevitably require a lot of stuff: business cards, brochures, flyers, giveaways and promotions.  Make sure as many of these as possible show how to find you on social media after the event.  It’s not enough to give them your email, make sure you include your Twitter or LinkedIn account or Facebook business page if you have one.   I automatically add new contacts to my social networks and I curse you if you make it hard work!
  • Make some quick graphics to make your social activity on the day look professional and eye catching. Let people know your stand number etc and why they should stop by.  Canva is a great tool to produce things quickly, or give Pablo a go as a slightly simpler alternative.

Schedule your Tweets

  • Obviously you have to be careful here, but the last thing you want to be doing all day is be frantically tapping into your phone. Use something like Buffer to schedule some photos of the stand, some graphics etc.  Then through the day you can do the more ‘on the ground’ stuff. 

During the Event

  • Keep using and following the hashtag
  • Photos, photos, photos. Oh, and some photos.
  • Instagram Stories and Facebook Live are both fun ways to create in the moment content.
  • Apps such as Wordswag, can allow you to edit and customise photos really quickly.
  • If you are giving stuff away, let people know about it.  We may all be professionals but secretly people will go out of their way for a free gonk!
  • If you’re an attendee, take part in other people’s stands and tag them in.  They’re bound to retweet you or share you posts for your trouble.
  • Comment on meetings and events.  Don’t go overboard and give away state secrets, but mention people, tag them, get involved in discussions about seminars, break out groups etc.  In my last exhibition I had a screen which showed all tweets using the conference hashtag.
  • Again, keep an eye on what’s going on.  Is there a seminar that everybody’s talking about that you can slip into?  Is someone attending that you would love to speak to?
  • Talk to people. Don’t spend your entire day looking at your phone!
  • Make sure you get people’s details. Business cards, swap social accounts

After the event

  • Thank the hosts
  • Follow up, follow up, follow up
  • Tell people you were there.  Write a blog post, share your thoughts, learnings and success stories.
  • Go through your contacts and add everyone you met on all the social media platforms you can get your mitts on.
  • If there were people you didn’t get to see, a quick ‘sorry I missed you’ tweet can work wonders.

So there you have it.  All you need to make sure you get every penny’s worth of value out of your conference activity.

As always, if you think this is all marvellous but need a little help putting it into practice, give me a shout about my social media training