Using social media to drive event visitors

By Alex Sargent

If you are a business that is regularly involved in events and exhibitions, it should come as no surprise to hear that the event planning phase should ideally begin somewhere between six months and eighteen months before the actual event. Arguably the most important part of planning any event is creating a buzz around it, getting people excited enough to follow your pre-event updates and convince them that it will be worth their while to come and see your display and talk to your team.

It is important to make use of as many promotional channels as possible to create excitement around your event – brochures, blog articles, emails, adverts etc. – but the most important, the channel that will allow you to reach the most new people in your target audience, is social media.

Measure the success
If you’re not sure whether social media works in your industry, an event is an ideal opportunity to run some tests. Make an offer that’s only promoted via social media and measure the reaction at the show. Measure reaction to social media in this way and use the results to work out how to grow your social media presence in the future.

Choose your social channels wisely
Social media is increasingly important in all aspects of marketing and you will find that each of the different social channels provides individual and unique benefits when it comes to promoting your event.

  • Twitter is a very effective platform for creating buzz around an upcoming event. In the months leading up to it, your strategy should be to keep people on the edge of their seats through relevant and informative social posts, so that they continue to watch your tweets for more information. Don’t spoil all the surprises you have in store, but give them just enough information to keep them engaged and let them know that more information will follow if they continue to follow you. If there is a relevant hashtag associated with the event, ensure you make use of it – this will not only enable people who are interested in the event to discover your brand much more easily and follow your updates, but there is a significant chance the event organisers will retweet your post to a wider audience. Engage with people throughout the process, responding to any questions about the event.
  • Facebook is a bit more exclusive in that it is much harder to reach people who don’t necessarily have an interest or awareness of your brand already. However, creating Facebook events is a really handy of way of reminding people about the dates and times of events. It is one of the more visual social platforms, and links containing images receive a significantly higher click-through rate than those that don’t – use this to your advantage and incorporate whatever relevant visual content you have to hand.
  • LinkedIn, you can use a similar tactic as in Facebook by creating an event and publishing updates. The professional network enables you to go one step further by posting information in groups that are relevant to your trade show. Look for groups that target the types of people who are likely to be attending your exhibition, as well as groups that have been set up specifically for the show, and you should be able to grab the attention of your target audience.

Don’t be overly promotional
In all social interactions, remember to keep it educational, entertaining and engaging. Steer clear of outright promotion!

Monitor and follow up
Social media provides a great platform for creating pre-event awareness and excitement, but its use does not stop there. Follow up with people post-event, engage in discussions about the value attendants received and monitor the buzz you have hopefully created around your brand after a successful exhibition.  Monitor what your competitors are saying too – and respond accordingly!