The Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing for Trade Shows‍

We are back with another guide in our trade show marketing series. (Not sure what we are talking about? Head here.) The topic of the hour? Social media! In this day and age, we don’t think we need to sell you the power of social media, but let’s do it for fun. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, let’s start with competition. At a trade show, you are battling for the attention of prospects who in turn, are being wooed by hundreds of competitors. Needless to say, you need to stand out. Now, what if we told you that this process can start way before the actual trade show starts? Intriguing, isn’t it? Well, that’s what social media marketing can do for you. 

Social media engagement before and during the show can help your brand awareness and get a buzz going. And the results don’t stop there. Done right, pre-show social media marketing can help you create a community of people excited to see you in action at trade shows. Extra, extra; tracking social metrics is easy! You can directly attribute social media engagement to your trade show marketing plan. 

But while you fight a hundred fires at the market, you don’t have time to strategize and create social media engagement. That’s why you need to plan. And pre-show marketing obviously needs to start before the show, so having a plan is a no-brainer.

Sold? Well, let’s dive in. Let’s start with a basic action plan you need to ace social media marketing for trade shows.

Creating a Social Media Marketing Plan for Trade Shows

Here’s presenting handy steps to kickstart your social media planning way ahead of the coming shows.

1. Set goals and objectives

a) Define objectives: Determine your goals – why do you want social media marketing as part of your strategy for a trade show? What is the outcome you are expecting from your efforts? Do you want to increase brand awareness, generate leads, or launch a new product? Make sure you have an answer to this question. It doesn’t have to be just one goal – you could have multiple goals in various ratios.

b) Set metrics: Once you know what you want, set parameters for how you will measure a job well done. For this, establish specific metrics to measure your success, such as social media engagement rates, lead conversions, shares, likes, or website traffic during the trade show period.

2. Define your audience

a) Research event attendees: Know your audience! Before you start trying to engage them, take time to know what they want to see. Understand the types of attendees expected at the trade show, including their interests and what they seek from the event. 

b) Identify target audience: Once you identify the types of audiences that will attend a trade show, define your ideal customer or attendee based on demographics, interests, and behavior. Direct your social media marketing efforts toward this audience. 

c) Create audience personas: Develop audience personas to tailor your content and engagement strategies for each segment. You can segment audiences and in turn, your content by, let’s say, what platforms they are most active on. This brings us to our next point.

3. Select relevant platforms

Here’s a quick overview of the major social media platforms and how they can be leveraged:

LinkedIn: Use this professional networking platform to connect with industry professionals, share trade show updates, and increase your brand's visibility and credibility.

Email: Employ targeted email campaigns to inform your subscribers about upcoming trade shows, exclusive offers, and new products, driving attendance and lead generation.

See how it’s done: JCK Email Marketing Guide: Free Templates to Get Started

Facebook: Promote your trade shows to a broad audience using event pages, targeted ads, and engaging content, boosting event awareness and attracting attendees.

X (Twitter): Take advantage of X’s real-time updates and event hashtags to share live updates, and behind-the-scenes content, and engage with attendees and influencers.

Instagram: Utilize the platform’s visual appeal to showcase captivating images, stories, and live videos from your trade show booth, enticing followers to visit.

YouTube: Create engaging video content such as teasers, product demos, and expert interviews to highlight your trade show presence and attract potential attendees.

Now, we want to highlight that not all these platforms will be relevant to you, and you shouldn’t try to be omnipresent. Instead, pick your poison. Here’s how:

a) Choose Relevant Platforms: Select social media platforms that align with your audience's preferences and habits. For instance, Instagram and Pinterest are suitable for visual-heavy industries like jewelry.

b) Focus on Key Platforms: Prioritize the platforms most relevant to your industry and audience. Instead of spreading yourself thin, invest time and resources where your audience lives and breathes.

4. Research event hashtags

Identify event-specific hashtags and use them in all your posts across all channels. Also, consider creating a branded hashtag for your company to boost visibility and engagement.

Once you get the foundational planning out of the way, you can jump to the fun part! That’s right, let’s explore what specific activities you can do to drive social engagement before your trade show participation.

Pre-Trade Show Social Media Marketing Activities

1. Announce your presence

61% of businesses utilize social media to promote their participation at upcoming trade shows. You should, too! Months before the trade show, establish your presence and let your audience know that you are participating in a trade show. Across all channels, put out announcement posts informing your target audience about the trade show name, dates, place of exhibit, and your booth location. Make it clear where exactly they can find you at the show. 

If you are hosting events like knowledge workshops, networking gatherings, or even a great lunch, make sure to promote it on social media. Nudge your audiences to pre-book slots or just show up at the venue. Or if you are speaking at an event, share the message on your channels to establish expertise and credibility. You can also send direct invites to prospects you want at your booth. A great practice is researching and using the official event hashtags in all your posts. It’s a good way to get traction on your posts and you can track this hashtag to find prospects.

2. Launch a teaser campaign

Launching a new product or collection? Tease it on your socials! A glimpse into what’s cooking is a great avenue for building buzz and generating interest in your booth. Give a sneak peek into what your audience can expect from your exhibit at the trade show. Apart from new launches, you can also tease your booth design, display, innovative tech, and so on. 

3. Put out interactive polls and surveys

Interactive content such as polls and surveys can effectively engage your audience on social media before a trade show. They not only engage your audience but also allow you to gather insights and feedback. Ask your audience questions about their preferences and expectations, and build anticipation around your trade show participation. Ask questions like “Are you planning to attend the XYZ trade show?” or “What are you most excited to see at the XYZ trade show?”. You can also go brand-specific and ask something like “Which of our latest designs is your favorite?”

You can also host a live Q&A session on social media to answer questions about the trade show, your products, or your brand. This helps you gauge the queries and interests of your audience and align your social messaging. Post the session, consider offering a giveaway like an e-book, blog, or maybe even a document answering all the questions raised during the session.

Curate your own questions to engage and find out more about your target market and get started!

4. Launch a contest and offer giveaways

Who doesn’t love freebies, right? Pre-show contests that offer giveaways can effectively engage your audience and generate excitement before a trade show. Urge your audience to like, share, or tag people in your posts for exciting prizes. 

Or you can make it really fun and organize creative contests like a social media scavenger hunt, custom design contest, creative caption contest, virtual styling challenge, fan of the day/week, product launch guessing game, and so on. 

Offer prizes to winners of whatever contest you decide to go with and make sure you give something people want. What starts as a fun online activity can help you draw visitors to your booth and isn’t that the end goal? You can also give discounts that can be availed by visiting your booth. Easy incentive to draw prospects to your exhibit, isn’t it? 

Tailor these to your industry and let the games begin! These contests encourage interaction, increase brand visibility, and build anticipation for the trade show, ultimately drawing more attendees to your booth and boosting engagement.

5. Establish thought leadership

Monitor topics trending on social media around the trade show. Participate in these discussions by sharing your opinion and point of view. Share articles, research, or case studies related to your industry to establish your brand as a trusted source of information. Post content on topics that are likely to be discussed at the trade show, such as emerging trends or challenges in the industry. This establishes your expertise in your industry, positioning you as a thought leader. This element of credibility can help you gain traction among prospective buyers in the industry.

6. Collaborate with an influencer

Influencer collaboration is a powerful strategy to leverage the reach and credibility of influencers in your industry before a trade show. By partnering with influencers, you can extend your brand's visibility to a wider audience and generate buzz around your participation in the event. Influencers can help promote your booth, products, or special offers through their social media channels, sharing authentic and engaging content with their followers. You can also collaborate with influencers on campaigns such as takeovers, where they manage your social media accounts for a day, or co-create content that highlights your trade show activities. Additionally, influencers can help drive traffic to your booth and encourage audience engagement, ultimately leading to a more successful trade show experience.

7. Give special offers

Offer early bird discounts or promotions for attendees who book appointments or register for the trade show in advance. You can also promote special deals or bundles that will only be available to attendees during the trade show.

Before we move on to social media activities you can do during the trade show, here’s a quick plan to ensure you don’t grapple with a thousand things social at the market. 

Planning Tips for Social Engagement During the Trade Show

1. Create a content calendar

Develop a content calendar specifically for the trade show that outlines the type of content you'll share each day. Make sure you try to include any contests or giveaways you are planning to have in this plan. Try to have captions and hashtags ready so that posting from the show is not a hassle. For pre-planned posts, you can also consider scheduling posts beforehand.

2. Prepare Multimedia Assets

Create and organize multimedia assets such as graphics, images, and videos in advance. Have branded templates ready for posts that can be easily customized during the trade show. Print high-quality graphics of these assets for your booth design.

3. Set Up Monitoring Tools

Use social media monitoring tools to track mentions, engagement, and conversations about your brand during the trade show. Monitor event-specific hashtags and branded hashtags to engage with attendees and influencers.

4. Assign Roles and Responsibilities

Assign team members specific roles for managing social media during the trade show, such as content curation, posting, engagement, and monitoring. Ensure your team is trained and ready to handle social media activities efficiently.

During-The-Show Social Media Activities for Trade Shows

78% of exhibitors have plans to showcase their event on social media to their following during the trade show. You need to, too! Here’s everything you can do.

1. Post behind-the-scenes content

Do not be wary of showing your human side. Carefully crafted messaging is just as important as the process leading up to it. Let your audience in on the preparation that goes into setting up your booth, team activities, interactions, and networking moments. This humanizes your brand and makes it relatable and memorable. Plus people are always excited to see how something came together.

Look at this BTS clip of a booth setup.

2. Go live!

Share real-time updates from the trade show, such as photos and videos of your booth, products, and interactions with attendees. Stream live sessions or events at your booth to give your online audience a taste of the trade show experience via Facebook or Instagram Live. Don’t forget to use the official event hashtag and your branded hashtag so that everyone following the event via social media can see your content too.

You can also start a Twitter thread and send constant updates. According to a trade show poll, most marketers identified Twitter as one of the most valuable social media tools for trade fairs, closely followed by LinkedIn. Having a dedicated social media captain to undertake this endeavor is a good practice.

3. Create a post-worthy booth for user-generated content

Make sure you add interactive elements to your booth so that visitors are lured into clicking pictures and posting them on their socials. You can create a photo/selfie booth, interactive product demonstrations using VR/AR, and photo opportunities with branded backdrops. Other options are interactive games, touchscreen displays, interactive stations, and virtual consultations. By incorporating these elements, you can create an immersive experience that boosts brand awareness, strengthens customer relationships, and encourages attendees to share their experiences online.

4. Engage with your audience

A simple and effective way to increase engagement is to respond promptly to comments, messages, and tags from attendees and your online audience. Encourage attendees to share their experiences at your booth using your branded hashtag. And when they do, engage with their posts and you can even share them on your social media channels.

Post-Show Social Media Activities for Trade Show

Now that all your hard work during the trade show is done, it’s time to show it off. Let’s see how.

Wrap it up! 

Post recaps of your experience exhibiting at the trade show– share photos and videos of your booth, interactions with attendees and other exhibitors, and key sessions you attended/ delivered. Tag your star attendees in the posts. Consider writing a blog sharing your experience and sharing it on social media. If you delivered any sessions during the trade show, you can share your presentations online with key insights. Posting about your learning, key trends you discovered, and any other knowledge you may have acquired is also a great way to establish your expertise.

Another great way to keep traction is by sharing your visitors’ experiences at your booth.

What next? Start following up with all the leads you generated during the trade show. Stay tuned for best practices on following up with trade show leads. Keep checking this space for more cool stuff like this!

Article published by
Shreya Srivastava
Content Marketing Associate
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