Social Media’s Impact on Convention and Trade Show Marketing

September 27, 2018

Corrine Turke

Corrine Turke is a Senior Account Executive at the Washington D.C. office of Portland-based Sparkloft Media, where she leads the company’s B2B social media marketing efforts, specifically focusing on how social can be used to support meetings objectives across conference stakeholders.

In the competitive meetings landscape, with a rise in smaller, more frequent events and continued emphasis for conventions and trade shows, planners are under immense pressure to deliver top-tier programs featuring those one-of-a-kind, local experiences that attendees increasingly crave. Destinations Marketing Organizations (DMO) and Conventions and Visitor Bureaus (CVB) are competing to garner the attention of event planners to entice future event bookings, but there is a clear disconnect between the parties.

DMOs seem to find it difficult to communicate with meeting planners effectively until later in the sales process. Yes, there are websites, brochures and other information packs, but how can these events know what’s growing with these locations without a near-real-time update? The outdated modes of “selling” to meeting and convention planners have resulted in gaps between sales and marketing teams.

Luckily, social media offers an opportunity to build and tell a strong story that can include immersive, inspirational content and highlight the many ways attendees can craft unique, educational and fun experiences. Meeting planners have more tools at their disposal to conduct in-depth research before reaching out to destinations for a one-on-one conversation. Social media is more sophisticated than ever, allowing destinations to keep their message in front of the meeting planner during this research phase so that when they do reach out, it’s a stronger, more productive conversation. 

Unfortunately, many of these destinations don’t know how to use social media proficiently. 

Many DMOs and CVBs are unclear or unaware of how to fully comprehend and take advantage of the sophisticated abilities social media offers cities, events and tourism businesses. Social media is capable of leveraging the power of the destination and associated events to support strong meetings objectives but in too many cases, the full potential of this communications tool is lost in confusion or competition among DMOs and events. 

Social media gives destinations the opportunity to tell their story and engage with the right audience. For example, immersive, inspirational social ads can help a meeting planner envision the unique, experience-driven events their attendees will love, while direct engagement can showcase the concierge-level of service destinations offer to meeting planners in need of custom solutions.

Beyond building awareness, there are opportunities to engage with planners throughout the meetings lifecycle. Social media affords the opportunity to reach your target audience of meeting planners and decision makers through new channels. Leveraging conversion and lead-generation social ad options, destinations can move meeting planners down the funnel and increase intent to book. 

Once a meeting is booked, destinations can be strong social partners to the groups flocking to their cities in a multitude of ways, from supporting strong attendance to welcoming attendees and maximizing positive attendee experiences. Social media also has the ability to maximize the one-off, in-the-moment opportunities that arise throughout the year. 

With a strong strategic approach, DMOs and CVBs can use social media to build a network of advocates – amplifying the voices of meeting planners who’ve had a positive convention-planning experience, as well as those attendees who are likely to return for leisure purposes. At the end of the day, social media can help destinations be a part of the conversation, driving it in a positive, informative and delightful direction, for stronger, long-lasting relationships with this vital community of meeting planners. 


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