[Posted by Jennifer Minko,
Sr. Manager, Field Marketing, Neolane, Inc.]
It seems I am constantly becoming a fan of someone’s company on Facebook, linking to new organizations through LinkedIn or following others on Twitter. But do these actions make me any more loyal or committed to a brand? Beyond getting company news and access to special offers, what other value can social media bring to a company’s marketing mix? In this post, I’d like to examine the use of social media as a key component of tradeshow and event planning and through a real-life example, show why pairing these marketing efforts is worth the extra attention to pre-show planning and organization.
After promoting Neolane’s attendance and sponsorship at a number of tradeshows over the past year, I have found myself following a typical events protocol. First, I list the event on the website, tweet about it, and then update my Facebook status on the company page and on my personal LinkedIn profile.
However, what I’ve come to realize is how important it is to break away from these patterns and really evaluate which social channels to leverage before, during and after each event. And most importantly, know when and how to use those channels at opportunistic times to maximize awareness that results in booth traffic and leads.
For example, prior to the October DMA2010 event held in San Francisco, I worked with Neolane’s social media specialist Alexis Karlin (@akarlin) to discuss creative strategies to promote Neolane’s presence at the show. As in past years, Neolane planned to create a fun, interactive booth experience at the show. This year we chose a “boardwalk” theme – giving attendees the opportunity to play skee ball, eat Cracker Jack’s and freshly made cotton candy, and win fun prizes. In addition to other marketing tools to help drive traffic to the booth, we took advantage of a mix of social channels (Twitter, blog, Facebook and LinkedIn) to enhance our presence at the event.
During the event, the Neolane booth staff was busy rounding up show attendees – in person and via Twitter – to try and beat the skee ball high score (currently held by @mikeystone), while chatting with visitors at the booth who were eager to learn about Neolane’s Conversational Marketing Technology. Throughout the event, the cotton candy machine would sporadically shoot out random puffs of pink and blue across the booth; part machine malfunction, part user error, but entirely fun. During one of these comical episodes, an amused attendee turned to me and said, “I love this booth. I feel like I’m in Candyland!” I decided to tweet this humorous outburst using the #DMA10 hash tag from the @Neolane handle and promoting our booth number. Within moments, I received a reply saying, “I need a sugar fix and will stop by your booth @Neolane.” Sure enough, within moments the attendee stops by for a freshly twirled cotton candy and a quick game of skee ball, but not before passing along her business card while discussing some of the marketing technology challenges she was hoping to solve. After a valuable discussion and quick sugar fix, the attendee was back on her way. As a result of our creative and opportunistic tweet, we generated a qualified lead who will remember Neolane and her experience with us at the show.
With all the current and emerging social media tools available today, Neolane is constantly looking for creative opportunities to test them as part of our own marketing mix. Our experience proves yet again that in the fast-paced business environment with sometimes only seconds to get someone’s attention, social media plays an important role in helping companies listen, converse and interact with customers and prospects, while helping to create favorable brand associations.
Have any creative examples of integrating social media with your trade-show planning? What has worked for you? Please feel free to share your thoughts and ideas below.