10 Tips for Using Social Media to Close More Biz at Tradeshows

Posted on November 6, 2009

Guest Blogger Tim Patterson


Tim Patterson is the vice president of sales and marketing for Interpretive Exhibits, a tradeshow marketing expert who is an in demand speaker, a blogger on communications and social media at the Tradeshow Guy Blog, and author of Twittering Your Way to Tradeshow Success. Under the alter ego of Tim ‘Gonzo’ Gordon, he and Rodger Pike produce and host Communication Steroids, a weekly podcast that looks at smart practices and techniques for presentations, media relations, and public speaking. He literally has another dozen projects that I haven’t listed here; Tim is one very engaged guy.

Tim has been kind enough to delve into a few ideas for using social media for tradeshow engagement. However, he is just scratching the surface. Please add your ideas for using social media at tradeshows in the comments.

–Steve Farnsworth

10 Tips for Using Social Media to Close More Biz at Tradeshows

By Tim Patterson, @tradeshowguy

Need more proof that social media is a great place to meet people of like minds?

A couple of weeks ago I was doing research for a presentation on social media and PR to a local chapter of the PRSA, so I went to Twitter, searched for the hashtag #PR and found several tweets that contained the hashtag.

One tweet was from Steve Farnsworth. Being the direct kind of guy I am, I picked up the phone and left a voice mail with him. It wasn’t long before he called back, and soon we were trading notes on various social media experiences we’d had.

The conversation led to a handful of ideas for my presentation (which went over well, btw), and also led Steve and I to do a Tweet chat about using social media to close more biz at tradeshows. [To see the Social Media 4 Biz Twitter chat search #SM4B]

The process of talking, hashing out ideas, articulating those ideas and preparing for a chat or a presentation tends to focus your mind. As a result, I came up with list of a number of things that you can use to use social media to bring people into your world at your tradeshow appearances. Some of these ideas will take just a little organization and execution by just one or two people. Others may take more investment of time, energy and money – but hey, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

1. Tweet out contests and promos for people to come to your booth. Keep a count of how many people stop by and ask about the freebie as a result of the prize. When tweeting at or about a specific show, ALWAYS use the show’s hashtag.

2. Create a hashtag for your company at the show. For instance, if your company was Keen Shoes, you could include the hashtags #Keen and #ORSM09 – after the show, count how many times those hashtags were retweeted.

3. Create a mini-site or blog dedicated to your appearance at a specific show, or targeted exclusively towards your tradeshow marketing efforts. Offer white papers, e-books and special reports exclusive to the site; perhaps related (or not) to your tradeshow appearance. Drive traffic there through social media, email and other sources. Web traffic and download metrics are easily trackable through Google analytics and basic web stats. Folks that download the white papers and reports are now in your marketing/sales funnel.

4. If you have a Facebook company page (if you don’t, you definitely should), send out regular messages to your fans about special deals or prizes that you are offering at the booth. This could be done ahead of time as well as during the show. By offering different prizes, you can track the responses from each medium.

5. Invite people to post a tagged photo taken at your booth to their Flickr account. If you have some sort of celebrity, or even a nifty backdrop such as a tropical beach, this would encourage more participants.

6. Shoot a commercial at your booth and post the best ones on your YouTube channel. Invite visitors to take 30 seconds and promote your product in any way they’d like. Low budget? Use a Flip video camera for $150 and start shooting.

7. Invite a few prominent bloggers in your industry to stop by for a chance to get a scoop on your new product or service. Make sure they have links available for their post. In fact, you might create a special landing page just for readers from that blog. It’ll give you a chance to respond specifically to interest in that show or those specific products, plus you can easily measure the metrics of people coming in via that link.

8. If you’re a speaker, and are doing a presentation where you’re projecting your laptop on stage, show your audience real-time tweet searches and Twitter comments about your presentation. Caveat: do this ONLY if you’re willing to take a few negative comments. But hey, it’ll make your presentation much timelier – and it’ll give you some real feedback on what you need to improve! A quick search for the hashtag after the show will give you measurable feedback about the presentation. It also gives those not at the show a chance to peek at the conversation while it’s happening.

9. Invite guest speakers, bloggers, product reps and others to appear on your live streaming video channel at UStream.TV or other video streaming site. Track visitor metrics and comments.

10. Give out Pokens (or thumb drives) with all of your company’s Social Media contacts. Track how many people come to your Facebook page or your mini-site as a result.

I’ve seen or heard about most of these ideas – or at least some version of them – actually used in tradeshows. I’d love to see what methods you’ve used to combine social media with face-to-face tradeshow marketing. Please leave a comment.

After all, while you can meet people online, meeting in person is where you really solidify that relationship.

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