Handshakes and followers: Twitter℠ takes on trade shows

While nothing can replace good old-fashioned networking, the advancement of social media is taking the process to a whole new level. Trade shows are not exempt from this evolution. In a recent study conducted by the International Association of Exhibitions and Events™, 31% of trade show attendees utilized social media for events—indicating that social media for trade shows is moving beyond the early adopter phase.

Social media is enhanced networking, or relationships on steroids, because it provides greater, yet abbreviated access. According to an article in Association Conventions & Facilities magazine, author John Buchanan writes, “Instead of ‘pushing’ information, it ‘pulls’ a customer into a two-way conversation with clear benefits for both parties. Technologies such as […Twitter®] have enabled networking on a scale never before imagined. As a result, the very definition of a well-defined, industry-captive audience has changed.”

Compared to other social medial tools, Twitter® allows you to stay connected and relevant to everyone, not just those within your immediate circle. In the example featured below, the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show is on Twitter as @KitchenBathShow and the organization encourages people to follow its events using the hashtag #KBIS. The hashtag creates an index of related posts allowing people to both post and search for related content.

The simplicity of Twitter® allows for an array of innovative applications for both promotion of your message and your message itself. If the possibilities are overwhelming, here are a few tips using #KBIS as an example to get you started:

Before the show

  • Advance planning is crucial. Start creating a dialogue on Twitter® months before the show. This will allow sufficient time to build a following.
  • Create a landing page on your website tailored to the trade show, incorporating your Twitter® feed. Link back to this page with QR codes printed on items such as business cards and stickers.
  • Increase your exposure by retweeting (passing along someone else’s tweet) and mentioning your followers. An example: “@JoeSmith just registered for #KBIS—see you there!”

At the show

  • Entice people to visit your booth with a practical giveaway. “Thirsty? Stop by booth #338 for a free bottle of water and short presentation. #KBIS”
  • Encourage online dialogue at the show and project your Twitter® feed on a monitor in your booth. For those who follow you on the spot, give them a small token of appreciation like a charging station for their smartphone.
  • Offer discounts through your feed with comments such as “Share your thoughts on our booth #338 and get 10% off your trade show order #KBIS”.
  • Alert people to events at the trade show: “@CabinetsPlus to unveil their design center in 15 minutes in booth #447—exciting! #KBIS”
  • Interact with your followers and have fun with your posts. Host a virtual scavenger hunt and offer prizes: “Hey #KBIS—The first person to find me wins serving utensils for their new kitchen. Hint: I’m in a yellow floral apron.”

After the Show

  • Explore your generated leads in both the virtual and real worlds. Follow your connections on Twitter® and mention them. “Pleasure doing business with @yourcompany today. I’ll be in touch. #KBIS”
  • Invite your followers to an informal feedback session on the performance of the trade show.  Creating this dialogue will reaffirm your credibility among repeat attendees. Start with a positive and truthful statement like, “I’ve never seen more people @KitchenBathShow. Top notch demos. High sales volume. Primo networking ops. Your thoughts? #KBIS”
  • Cultivate your Twitter® relationships year-round. Use this as a platform to thank people for their business and get to know the personality of your customers. When the next show comes around, you will have already groomed your target audience.

Remember that Twitter® is a cost-effective tool, but it’s not free. The investment is in time, which is a valuable commodity in any organization. Twitter forces an abbreviated message and limits you finding your voice in 140 characters or less.

Establishing a presence is also an exercise in patience. As with most marketing tactics, success will not be immediate. It will take time to build a following and capture their trust. Keep tweeting in accordance to the 80/20 rule: Tweet industry-based information 80% of the time and personal information 20%. This will allow you to establish your authority and build trust.

So get tweeting and good luck.

IAEE Social Media Task Force. “Social Media White Paper: How to Properly Use Social Media to Enhance and Promote Your Event” International Association of Exhibitions and Events™ 15 Oct. 2010. 18 Apr. 2012.

Buchanan, John. “Integrated Event Marketing: Leveraging Technology to Connect and Engage Attendees.” Association Conventions & Facilities October-November 2011. 18-21.

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