TL;DR: Tradeshows are typically targeted to an older audience who haven’t fully embraced social marketing, and in some cases, understand how it works. Well, this was the industry I was thrown into. My job was to move tradeshows onto social media and do it successfully.
An innovative and tactical social media strategy is important for every industry that wants to be successful in this fast-moving and social-focused era. Brands like Starbucks, Glossier, Apple and Coca-Cola are using social to gain traction. But what if we look at other industries, like events or more specifically tradeshows? This type of industry is targeted to an older audience who haven’t embraced social marketing, and in some cases, understand how it works. Well, this was the industry I was thrown into. My job was to move tradeshows onto social media and do it successfully.
For some background, I was offered a job before graduation at a large event, tradeshow and convention company. It was my first post-grad job, so I went in with a lot of gumption and energy to make social media work for the sector of tradeshows I was assigned to. These shows were gift and souvenir focused, meaning we hosted shows that sold the chachkies you buy on your yearly family beach trip. With Amazon being such a tremendous shopping platform, small retail shops were going out of business and so was the need for tradeshows. If they could buy merchandise online, why would they need to fly out to a tradeshow? So, as any social media strategist should, I began to layout the issues I needed to solve.
Attendance at tradeshows was decreasing
The target audience didn’t use social and, while this may seem harsh, were dying out
The items people attended tradeshows for were now widely available online
With these three issues outlined, I began developing a plan on how to use social media to revive the five gift and souvenir tradeshows I worked on. The first thing was to figure out what I could push on social that would entice someone to attend a tradeshow when they truly didn’t need to. There were two things that attendees could only get from visiting a tradeshow: networking and travel. Using high-quality imagery, excellent copywriting and hyper-focused targeting, I was able to highlight the aspects of tradeshows that still made them great.
Focusing on the destination appeal of our shows helped to reach audiences interested in attending for the ability to see somewhere new or have an unexpected adventure while still maintaining ROI. Part two was to highlight the opportunity to network, meet new vendors and talk with other buyers dealing with the same brick and mortar struggles they were. Combining the was the key to making this social strategy work. I took those few shiny pieces and ran with them. Adding those two focuses to a hyper-targeted audience of young decision-makers combatted the issues these shows were facing and helped to ensure the longevity of the shows.
Marketing on social isn’t always easy. Some brands and companies have products or services that seem destined to be marketed on social. Then, there are industries where social tactics and ideas pose challenges in successful marketing.
Outlining the goals or issues that your company would like to accomplish is the first step in coming up with a successful strategy. For tradeshows, being realistic on the challenges and finding the truly marketable aspects was key. I was aware of the fact that tradeshows weren’t as popular as they used to be, but I was continuously thinking about how we could reverse that trend. I was aware that our clientele wasn’t always using social, but I did have a goal to target a younger demographic to increase attendance with a target audience that is on social. Making sure you are focusing on both sides of the equation is the only way to find the bits and pieces that will make your strategy successful.