8 Ways to Use Social Media Effectively at Trade Shows
The recent HFMA ANI show in Las Vegas is a favorite of the Billian’s HealthDATA team. It always presents a great opportunity to connect with customers, prospects, colleagues and friends in a setting more intimate than its more tech-savvy cousin, HIMSS. This year’s event was no different than last year’s in that regard. It was also similar in that the social media activity around the show was just as light as in 2011 – surprising, given that organizers report this year’s event was one of the best attended in its history.
A walk around the show floor found just two out of 400 exhibitors with any sort of collateral stamped with some sort of social media graphic. The tweet stream related to the #ANI2012 hashtag was similarly light. Exhibitors seemed to do the most tweeting, though as John Lynn related in a recent blog at EMRandEHR.com, attendees/providers were paying attention but not participating with tweets of their own – a marked contrast to the social media marketing and related activities at HIMSS just a few months earlier.
Barring the differences in the sheer size of the events, why the difference in social media activity? Are healthcare IT folks inherently more interested and engaged in these types of networks than their financial counterparts? Do attendee demographics have a part to play? Perhaps the answer to both questions is “yes,” but exhibitors at any show will still benefit from taking the time to include social media in their marketing materials and promotions – before, during and after events.
Here are a few, quick tips on effectively incorporating social networking into trade show activities:
1. Generate discussion around company participation in an event via social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+) – especially those affiliated with sponsoring organizations. Avoid comments related to giveaways, prizes, sales pitches, etc., which may violate group policy.
2. Find the event hashtag (such as #ANI2012 or the world-record #HIMSS12) and use it regularly before, during and after the event. This enables social connections to be made or shored up with fellow exhibitors and attendees (i.e. prospects and customers). A tweet stream is a safe place to mention what will be featured at exhibit booths, networking opportunities, giveaways, etc.
3. Make sure all marketing materials – banners, posters, business cards, in-booth videos - include social network icons so that passer-by know they have a way to easily connect after the event.
4. Don’t be afraid to write the company Twitter handle on show-issued name tags.
5. Listen, respond and share in real time via social networks. Pictures of creative give-aways, amusing booth entertainment (Anyone else notice the same carnival barker/magician from HIMSS was performing as a quiz show host at HFMA?), and long-lost colleagues always make for good social content.
6. As mentioned in last month’s post, always remember your Ps and Qs – be sure to post a thank you to the sponsoring organization and everyone who stopped by the booth.
7. Connect/follow/like appropriate prospects that have engaged in social networking around the event.
8. Get creative – check out Storify.com or create a board on Pinterest using social content generated at the event. (See “What Does the Future Hold for Innovation in Healthcare?” to view one example of how Storify can be used to curate tweets.)