Social event trends for trade shows

Most B2B marketers know they should be using social media at trade shows, but how that looks in execution is very different than even two years ago. Major social media marketing trends for 2019 include using Facebook Live and influencers at trade shows, Facebook events, and Instagram Stories.

If you’re judging whether you should invest the time to execute one of these tactics at an upcoming event, consider that a major trade show is a time when customers are actually seeking your content. For example, this is a real quote from a customer of a Two Rivers Marketing client:

“I went on the [client’s] Facebook page to see what the company was introducing at the last CONEXPO-CON/AGG trade show,” the customer said. “They happened to be doing a walk-around of [a new compact excavator]. I knew my sales specialist was there, so I called him and eventually ordered one. Social media played a huge role.”

Here are our thoughts on using social media at trade shows in 2019:

Facebook Live at trade shows

We love using Facebook Live for trade shows, often for walk-throughs of new products. It’s engaging, fans like it, and it allows our clients to pitch their new products directly to customers.

Our top tip for any live video: Be human. Humans make mistakes, trip over their words, and don’t always look perfect. So long as your audio and video is clear, your audience will be forgiving. They know they’re watching something live, so they don’t expect perfection. In fact, we have found Facebook Live users prefer an on-air presenter who appears less polished to one who is robotic and inauthentic.

If you are going to shoot live video at a trade show, bring microphones with an in-ear monitor for the cameraperson. It’s also good to rent mobile hot spots from a few wireless carriers, since the 4G and internet connections at trade shows are often unreliable.

Use Facebook events to reach trade show targets

We recommend creating a Facebook event for fans of your brand at least one month before a trade show. You can use Facebook advertising to then boost the event to your targeted audiences on Facebook and build the event RSVP list.

Then, in the weeks leading up to the show, post teaser content to the event page to show your fans what to expect at your booth. With each post, fans who have RSVP’d will receive a Facebook notification, which dramatically boosts the number of eyeballs on your content.

We used this approach for a client at a recent trade show, with an added customer data capture tactic. With our partners, we created an online registration landing page. If users filled in their contact information on the landing page, they received a code that they could then bring to the client booth and redeem for a pair of work gloves. We promoted this giveaway in our Facebook event, and so many people signed up that we ended up running out of gloves at the show. It created a steady stream of potential customers at the booth and a new list of customer emails.

Once an event is over, you still have the list of users who RSVP’d saved in Facebook, and you can use it as a new advertising segment for future events.

Using influencers at trade shows

If you have an existing relationship with a social media influencer, a trade show is an opportunity to further solidify their association with your brand. Have them at your booth to meet your fans and draw their fans to you, or have them promote your products on social media, either their account or yours. If it’s a milestone event for your target audience, influencers may already be attending, so you don’t always have to pay for their travel and lodging.

In 2018, we helped another client with two influencers at SEMA, the premier automotive specialty products trade event in the world. A metal sculptor, popular on Instagram, created a sculpture during the trade show at the client’s booth, which created foot traffic and engagement on social media. Meanwhile, a popular YouTube personality took over the client’s Instagram account for an afternoon. His posts got great engagement, and they created a deeper connection between him and the client’s brand.

Instagram Stories boost trade show engagement

Instagram Stories launched to all Instagram users in 2017, and since then they have accounted for a large portion of the social engagement our clients’ receive during trade shows.

We start using Instagram Stories for our clients as we travel to a trade show, and the engagement will start pouring in. The local fans of a few of our client brands get excited just hearing that we are coming to their city. In fact, we’ve received direct messages to the brands’ Instagram accounts with dining and entertainment recommendations.

During the trade show, we’ll continue to post Stories sharing our experiences at the show, and people respond. We find that Instagram users like content that focuses on the people of the show, rather than only products. Seeing the faces of real people experience our clients’ products for the first time resonates on Instagram. 

Instagram’s audience may be younger, but it’s still important. For example, the individual who purchases welding machines for a company may not be on Instagram, but the welders who will use the machine may be. Those end-users often carry a significant influence on what the company buys.