Trade Show PR: Tweeting, Posting and ‘Liking’—Oh, No!

By Suzanne Shelton Comments
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Oh, yes! Effective trade show participation should absolutely include social media. You should still be sending out news releases in advance of the show, but you should also email your customers and trade editors telling them that you “look forward to seeing them in Las Vegas."You can use the event as a news hook for your social media to create buzz with your "friends" and followers who aren’t there. A comprehensive public relations (PR) approach to a trade show should include all those components.

Let’s start with basics:

Once you have identified the focus in your booth, develop a news release describing the new products, experts available, iPad giveaway and whatever else you have going on. Do not forget the booth number (you’d be amazed…)! Get that out to the print trade publications two months before the show. Send it to the online trades the week before the show.

Take the same copy, friendly it up a bit and send out an email blast to your list. Don’t forget the link to your website where they can find more information about your new products if they aren’t attending or are working on show editorial in advance.

Identify the editors you should meet with and reach out to them several weeks before the show to set something up. If there are people who write about your company and products regularly, offer to buy them lunch, dinner or a drink to say thank you. If you don’t have a relationship with a particular publication, a trade show is an excellent place to initiate one. Not all the trade publications send an editor to every show, but reach out to them anyway. Don’t be surprised if some editors bring a salesperson to your meeting, just make sure you distinguish between paid advertising and editorial mentions in the conversation. And just FYI, most trade magazines take really good care editorially of their advertisers, so you want to spread those advertising dollars around.

Your trade show-related social media participation should reflect the fact that not all of your followers are at the show. You can use Twitter and Facebook to stay in touch with people at the show, but also use social media to generate excitement for new products with people who aren’t in the building. You could tweet a photo of a new product, or post a photo on Facebook of your customer whose finished products will soon offer your new, patented science-backed ingredient.

You are on Twitter and Facebook, right? If not, let’s take a moment to talk about why you should be. And I mean YOU—not just “someone" in your marketing department.

I had an interesting revelation recently watching the new Natural Products Association (NPA) executive director and CEO John Shaw interact with people he was meeting for the first time. As he talked about NPA, he mentioned NPA’s robust social media platform and went into detail. He specifically said all the House and the Senate staffers they interact with are fairly young, and Twitter is how they communicate and find out what’s going on. He also mentioned NPA members communicating via Twitter. Some of the people Shaw was speaking with, who I estimate were all north of 50 years old, looked both impressed and noticeably lost at the same time. This means they are not using social media, at least not for business. I could almost hear them thinking, “We have to get someone at our company to start doing that." However, they themselves should engage in social media.

A new report from CEO.com and the business intelligence firm DOMO highlighted that social media is pervasive among consumers: more than 50 percent of the population currently uses Facebook, and more than 37 percent use Twitter. The BRANDfog 2012 CEO, Social Media and Leadership Survey said, “More than 82 percent of respondents are likely or much more likely to trust a company whose CEO and team engage in social media." The study also reports 77 percent of respondents are likely or much more willing to buy from a company whose mission and values are defined through their leaderships' involvement in social media. A large majority of the corporate respondents believe CEOs and senior-level executives can use social media channels to improve engagement with multiple stakeholders across their organizations. Building better connections with customers topped the list at 89.3 percent, but engagement with employees (84.7 percent) and investors (66.3 percent) also came in strong.

Social media is now vital for business, but companies whose commitment to social media comes from the top are at an advantage in their relative rarity, for now. A recent IBM survey of 1,709 CEOs found only 16 percent are participating in social media, but the percentage is expected to grow to 57 percent within five years. I think this is conservative—keep in mind that actual social media growth rates have far exceeded predictions in the past.

The IBM report predicted social media will become one of the two most important forms of interaction with employees and customers, the other being face-to-face engagement. According to this study, “CEOs are adding a powerful dose of openness, transparency and employee empowerment to the command-and-control ethos that has characterized the modern corporation for more than a century." And here’s a fun, motivating fact: companies that outperform peers are 30-percent more likely to identify openness, epitomized by use of social media, as a vital influence on their organization.

So pull out that smart phone and sign up for Twitter so you can keep your followers updated on what is happening with you at trade shows and beyond. It’s easy. I once saw a regulatory attorney get a Twitter account up and running over dinner via his iPhone. @StvShapiro was coached through it by @HeatherGranato, @VIRGOPub.

Suzanne Shelton (@SuzanneShelton), CEO of The Shelton Group PR, Chicago, has provided public relations services to international and domestic dietary supplement and natural products manufacturers, suppliers and associations since 1988. In 2005, she received an Nutrition Business Journal award for Efforts on Behalf of Industry and in, 2006 a Crusader award from the Natural Products Association (NPA). She was a founding board and executive committee member of the Natural Products Foundation, and is communications committee chair of the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA).

 Learn more about marketing through social media marketing  at the "SupplySide Marketing Insights Summit" on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 1 to 5 p.m. in Las Vegas. Or check out the INSIDER Slide Show on Social Media Marketing.

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