Social Media: Power to the People

June 28, 2013

Marketing-savvy consumer brands are already socially enabling their employees - not to mention customers and other stakeholders - as a way to increase their return on social. How can trade show professionals utilize decentralization to not only grow attendance, but to increase exhibitor participation, build buzz, strengthen loyalty, improve employee retention, enhance customer service and more?

By using the following tips and best practices …

1. Utilize a hub and spoke social media model: Your marketing/public relations team (or agency) will still play a vital, albeit different, role with the hub and spoke approach. Using this model, the marketing team acts as a social media enabler, setting up overarching guidelines, best practices and objectives that are communicated to the various show departments who then take responsibility over social media for their own event units. This type of model allows social media strategies to grow and develop under an umbrella of guidelines and best practices. You’re able to tap into the resources of the entire team and communications are truly authentic.

2. Set your people up for success:Ensure that social media guidelines and training have been put in place as you move to this new model and that you are facilitating a collaborative work culture. As you’re hiring new people, look for staff with more and varied skills—people who not only can meet the fundamental requirements of the position, but also might have good writing and communication skills, industry experts, social media enthusiasts, people who can write blogs, white papers, who can conceptualize and edit video, etc. When you are evaluating candidates for future positions, if they tell you that they aren’t “good” at social media, or aren’t willing to represent your brand in this landscape, think twice about the hire.

3. Extend the reach of exhibitor sales:If your Sales Managers don’t have LinkedIn accounts, that should be priority one. Salespeople should be at least as easy to find online as marketing people and should be participating in the groups and pages that you’ve built for your event. Best practices in exhibitor relations:

David Audrain, President of Clarion Events North America regularly welcomes newly contracted exhibitors via his Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn pages.

Total Energy USA’s social media strategy involves connecting with exhibitors and sponsors via social channels, then incorporating periodic recognition into the content calendar. Of course, any successes or good news about these companies that you come across—as part of your overall listening strategy—should be shared. These tactics reinforce your relationship with customers and increase the chances of them re-sharing your posts—thereby extending your reach.

4. Tie your conference content into your online content:Shockingly, many conference organizers do not leverage the subject matter experts on their team for online engagement. Your social media communities and relevant industry #hashtags are rich with insight from thought leaders and influencers about trends and hot issues that need to be addressed in the conference programming. Your education content team needs to be listening.

U.S. News STEM Solutions posts their call for papers via all of their social media channels.

MDG consistently recommends a “Partners in Promotion” program to clients as part of their tactical plan. Promotional tools provided to speakers include sample social media posts; customized links to a conference session or speaker bio page and eye-catching invites to share with their networks.

5. Remember that vendors are (social media) people, too: Do you know which of your vendors are active on social media? You should. Many top industry suppliers are eager to utilize their accounts to provide customer service. Freeman and GES both pride themselves on responding to onsite inquiries via their Twitter account. According to David Saef, Executive Vice President, Marketworks and Strategy at GES, their benchmark is a 30 minutes or less response time for any inquiry received via one of their social media accounts. There’s an additional benefit that you can promote to your exhibitors!

For trade show organizers, the move towards decentralization is inevitable. Engaging your internal and external stakeholders will lead to authenticity, a greater emphasis on listening and employees who are empowered and extend the reach of your brand.

To learn more about how to encourage attendees and other event stakeholders to engage in social, view the slide deck from my complete “Power to the People” presentation.

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