Washington Trade Show Social Media Guide

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Washington State Department of Commerce

EFFECTIVE SOCIAL MEDIA Social media is a low cost marketing machine, but it’s not for everyone. Before you engage in a social media campaign to promote your presence at a show, make sure you’re comfortable with the medium first. A major trade show is not the time to practice your skills or login for the first time on your account. You don’t want to come across as an amateur or alienate your target audience. Even if you’re savvy at social media, you want to plan out your strategy ahead of time. The first thing to think about is your audience. Are they social media users, and if they are, where do they engage you? On Twitter? Facebook? YouTube? Knowing your audience and knowing their engagement practices will help you refine your messaging. Social media isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy. Each channel works a little differently. You’ll also want to spend some time mapping out your messaging. Trade shows are hectic and it’s easy to become distracted. If you work out your key messages ahead of time, it will be easier to weave them into your social media posts on the show floor. If you’re not all that familiar with social media, no worries. The Commerce team can help you by sharing your social media through their vast network of contacts at shows. Just find out their show-specific hashtags and you can connect right in. But more on that in a bit.


• Before you go to the show, you need to do a little preparation. First, find out what the tradeshow’s official hashtags are so you can tie into them during the show. Start following them about two to three weeks out to see how the show is being promoted and how your own tweets or posts can fit into the official hashtags. • You may also want to create your own hashtag for your company, campaign or show. If you have a communications team in your company, check with them first. They may already have hashtags assigned. The Department of Commerce communications team also has show-specific hashtags that you can tap into.

• If you have a new product or service you’re releasing or publicizing, consider producing a YouTube video before the show that can be shared through your social media channels and your website. • If you have a LinkedIn account, consider sending out a personal invite or lunch invitation to some of your contacts. Send them a message through LinkedIn to tie your request into the proper social media channel. • If you have a good media list, connect them into your Twitter or LinkedIn account and ask them to stop by the booth to see your new product or service. If you’re speaking, invite them to your session as well. • Make sure your profile’s photo is appropriate for courting business.


It’s easy to get caught up in all the hubbub of a show, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that your audience isn’t following you or wanting to engage with you while you’re there. Here are some ways to use social media to build excitement about your presence at the show and your offerings. • If you meet a customer who loves your product or service or wants to share a great story, let them. Share their photo with a brief summary of their story or testimonial as a post or film it and share it on YouTube. • Images are a great way of showing what’s happening at a show and people love to see themselves in photos. Be sure to cover some of the action away from the show floor, such as receptions, networking events and dinners. • If you are speaking, try to get someone to take video of key messages in your presentation. Be sure, however, that the sound is good before you post it. A video of you talking with wimpy sound won’t do much for your marketing strategy. • Be the eyes and ears of your audience, serving as the “reporter” for the show. As you walk the floor, take photos of interesting products or displays and add your own insights and expertise to the post or tweet. This will help your audience feel like they are there with you. • If you’re doing a giveaway in your booth, consider doing one for your online audience as well. Enter them into a drawing for sharing your tweet or post with others. Post winners at the show on social media and let them know they can pick their prize up at your booth. • Include social media addresses via QR codes to your collateral and booth materials.


• Once you return to the office, go through all the business cards and connect with these people on LinkedIn, follow them on Twitter or “Like” their Facebook page. Include a personal note to give some context to the request to connect. • Blog about your show experience. Answer some of the more common customer questions, cover new products or services you thought were worth exploring or tell a story about a current customer’s experience with your company. • Before you follow-up with people you met at the show, make sure your email signature block has your social media accounts on them. • If you presented, post a video of your presentation on your website and send a link to your audience through your social media channels.


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Everyone doesn’t tweet, but if your audience fits the demographic, then you’ll want to make sure you take advantage of Twitter’s capabilities at the show. Following are a few tips for making the most out of Twitter: • Find out if the trade show has an official hashtag. Often, the Department of Commerce’s Communications team has its own hashtag, so you may want to use that one too. • Follow users who are actively using the #tradeshow-name hashtag as well as the show organizer. Retweet their posts, when appropriate, with a quick comment. • Use Twitter to publicize your booth number and invite people to stop by your space to meet in person. If you’re doing a drawing, promote that as well. • Alternately, run a Twitter-only contest where people need to take a selfie with you at the booth and use a special hashtag on Twitter to enter.

A billion people can’t be wrong. If your business has a Facebook page, tie it to your activities at the trade show. Follow the trade show’s Facebook page. Post questions about the show, its schedule or other topics such as restaurant recommendations so you engage with other attendees and exhibitors ahead of the show. Mention your booth number in your posts. Pin a post to the top of the page to promote any show specials, promotions or contests. Ask visitors to your page to “Like” you or become a “Fan” to boost traffic and shares. Once you’re at the show, share photos and updates regularly on your page to create primary (show attendees) and secondary (fan) interest and traffic.


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Your professional network is a valuable tool to expand your reach to potential customers. If your trade show has created a special LinkedIn page, join it. Use LinkedIn to share updates about upcoming contests, special events, etc. leading up to the trade show. Connect with fellow professionals who are attending the show. Build a relationship on LinkedIn before you get to the show. Don’t forget to look for other members who you may have common ground with, such as being suppliers to the same customer or belonging to the same interest group on the site. Build professional relationships in advance of your show appearance.


If your product or service is a visual one, don’t forget to include YouTube in your social media mix. • Create customer testimonials and share them through your other social media channels as well as your website. Make them brief and to the point. Twenty to thirty seconds is all you need if it is a powerful piece. • Take short videos at the show and share them on your website and social media. Show people in the booth, a cool demo or a special event or speaker. • Be sure you include your website address in the video, either along the bottom during the entire segment or at the beginning and/or end of the video.


• Double check your grammar and spelling. Simple errors will kill the effectiveness of your messages. • Use present tense and action verbs to draw people in. • Be conversational, not stilted. • Make your headline catchy. Create value. • In your social media posts, refer to specific people, when possible, to increase the likelihood they will share it with others. • Drive people to your website as much as possible. • Avoid acronyms and jargon. • Use hashtags where appropriate to categorize posts. • Mix up your messages. Don’t copy and paste a tweet and add it to your Facebook page. Change the content so it’s not all the same. You don’t want to bore followers.

Above all, coordinate with your Commerce team. Leverage their social media feeds to boost your own posts and use their hashtags whenever possible. And share your posts with them so they can follow and interact with you before, during and after the show.

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After you get back to Washington after the show, please be sure to share any feedback, thoughts, suggestions, etc. with Commerce. This information is critical for Commerce to plan for future shows and add as much value as possible to maximize the return for small businesses that co-exhibit with us. Commerce will follow up soon after the show with an electronic survey in order to start capturing any successes and new sales that your company generated as a result of being at a trade show. Every six months for the next few years, you will receive a follow-up to capture downstream sales results you achieve from the show. Your individual company data will always be kept strictly confidential. Aggregated data is reported to state officials to help show the value of Commerce’s small business export assistance programs, which helps ensure Commerce will continue to receive state funding to continue its programs in future years.


If you have any questions, please contact your Commerce show manager. www.choosewashington.com/about-us/meet-our-team/

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