With the end of another year upon us, many B2B companies are wrapping up a busy trade show season and beginning to plan it all over again for the next year. If your company has a social media presence but is not yet leveraging it to the fullest extent at your trade shows, 2015 is the best time to start. Here are my top five tips for successfully using social media to enhance your trade show experience.

1. Plan ahead.
While social media is real-time and some content can be spontaneously developed, that doesn’t mean that you can’t — and shouldn’t — have a well-thought out strategy prior to a trade show. Think about your show objectives and what you’re trying to accomplish. Everyone wants to capture those sought-after leads, but more specifically think about the experience you’re trying to bring to your customers. Do you want them to be wowed when they walk into the booth? Are you introducing new products? What activities or presentations are you planning that could be translated into social media?
It’s also important to look at your company positioning and branding. Things like thought leadership, customer service and innovation are key themes that your company might be trying to embody, so what content could you create or capture that reflects this? Your social strategy should be a reflection of who you are as a brand and represent the experience you want attendees to have at your show.

2. Join the community conversation.
Not only is it important to be talking to your audience about the show, it’s important to be thinking about ways to grow your audience and interact with others who are there. These days, it’s commonplace for all trade shows to have their own hashtag. Using this is a great way to get your company found by those interested in the event, and it allows your brand to interact with potential customers. Set aside time to monitor applicable hashtags and interact with people when appropriate — retweeting and sharing content from users, whether it’s about your company or just something of interest at the show, is an easy way to keep your content flowing without spending a lot of time or resources developing it. Plus, people always appreciate a brand giving them a little extra attention on social media.

3. Incentivize the experience.
Any sort of giveaway at a trade show is going to be popular. Everyone loves to get free stuff, and trade show attendees are certainly no exception. Offer giveaways or incentives for visiting your booth at certain times and promote it on social media. Better yet, incorporate social media as a part of your booth experience. For example, ask attendees to complete social media-related tasks such as sharing a photo on Instragram or sending a tweet using a hashtag you specify to be entered to win. Draw a winner that day, and request they come to your booth to claim their prize. Don’t exclude your audience at home from participating, either. Think of ways you can extend those giveaways to your fans and followers so they feel connected to the experience, too.

4. Harness the power of video.
Video is a great way to get additional exposure for your company at a trade show. Not only do cameras in a booth entice interest in what activities you have going on, videos provide valuable social media content that can be shared both during and after the show. Planning is essential to ensuring you get the most bang for your video buck. Identify the videos you’d like to capture in advance and set aside certain times throughout the show to shoot them. Make sure the videos you create are high quality and valuable to viewers, as well as relevant to both your brand and to the experience you want to elicit.

5. Include your audience at home.
Just because you’re talking about your trade show presence on social media doesn’t mean you should neglect your audience at home. Be thoughtful about ways you can bring the show to them, including video content they might find meaningful — such as demonstrations or sneak previews of new products. YouTube Live is another way for you to bring appropriate seminars, Q&A sessions or presentations to your audience at home in real time. Being prompt with updates as they happen, sharing real-time photos and quick-hit videos and extending giveaways online are all great ways to demonstrate to your fans and followers that you care about their experience, too.

About Two Rivers Marketing

Two Rivers Marketing is a full-service business-to-business (B2B) marketing communications agency. Email us with your thoughts or questions at blog@2rm.com.