Social events

How can social media help you get the most out of an exhibition?

WHILE there is a degree of scrutiny around the continuing relevance of exhibitions in the flooring industry, it’s undeniable they perform a unique function that really isn’t served anywhere else.

Events like The Flooring Show, Domotex and the Surface Design Show are the only times of the year you’ll find the top flooring manufacturers all occupying the same room. The potential of exhibitions to put showcase new products, industry developments and foster meaningful discussion is unmatched, and it’s difficult to imagine them losing their prominent place on the collective industry calendar any time soon.

Despite the overall importance of these occasions, offsetting the cost of exhibiting and extracting real value from presenting at an event can be a challenge for individual companies. This means equally important as the construction of their stand, or even the products on show, is the way a company markets their presence at an exhibition. There are many ways to accomplish this goal, but the most compelling tend to be short, visual and time-sensitive, making social media the ideal space to promote for an event. With the Flooring Show coming up, we thought it might be useful to talk about a few of the ways you can make use of the different social networks to enhance your exhibiting experience.

Arguably the most ubiquitous social network, particularly in a business context, Twitter is practically tailor-made to assist the kind of promotion that works best for events. The strict character limit forces directness, an asset when conveying a simple message, like the idea that people should visit your stand. Moreover, while it restricts the amount that can be said about a new launch or product, the upshot of this is that Twitter becomes the perfect place to entice people into finding out more. By giving away just a small amount of information about a new product, it’s possible to both raise awareness of that product in the short term, while subtly encouraging people to return to the account or stand later on to discover the rest.

Another facet of the platform to take advantage of is its expediency. As Twitter updates in real time, and as it’s so easily accessible on mobile, it’s not unlikely that people will be using it while at an event. With that in mind, one strategy is to tweet out a picture taken on your phone camera during the exhibition. This style of guerilla marketing works especially well on social media where the audience is typically wary of staged photos and campaigns.

Perhaps most important to keep in mind when using Twitter to market your presence at an event is its communicative capacity. It’s key to make sure a member of your stand is keeping one eye on the Twitter timeline to respond to comments or queries from potential customers. This is particularly relevant in relation to exhibitions, as it gives people who might not be able to make it to the event itself the opportunity to communicate with representatives from their favourite brands and experience the atmosphere vicariously. Using Twitter in this way doesn’t require a lot of effort, but it can massively increase the reach and value you would have otherwise gotten from exhibiting at an event.

The heavily design-centric image sharing site is less universal in popularity than Twitter or Facebook, but there is value to be gained in its use during events, particularly as part of a broader social media strategy. Like Twitter and the late Vine, Instagram has found fantastic success despite strictly limiting what users can post. This is because, like those apps, its limitations force content to be focused, and encourage greater creativity. In addition, Instagram represents specific advantages that ought to be leveraged when using it for events.

Compared to the majority of social networks, Instagram typically sees a far higher average level of engagement. With this in mind, some of the best posts to make on the platform will be ones which have a social focus, team photos or people visiting the stand for example. These posts take advantage of the culture and sociability of Instagram, while still ensuring that your brand and presence is marketed effectively. As previously noted, the most significant benefit that exhibitions offer is the potential for interaction and communication, and with an Instagram post, it’s possible to extend that potential to anyone who follows you.

There is a wide suite of aesthetic options the app offers natively, which are important to make use of to make sure your posts are as engaging as possible. Exhibitions are inherently visual occasions, which means conveying the information and concept of your stand requires careful use of visual media. Luckily, between the huge selection of filters that can be applied to images and the collaging of multiple photos Instagram supports, there’s no site more suited to visually recreating the impact of your stand for a global online audience.

Facebook simultaneously offers the least unique benefits and the least restrictions as a platform. This means while people won’t be visiting for aesthetic inspiration or quick information, they might come to your Facebook page for more detail and a broader view of who you are. In this sense, a Facebook page is best used like a company website that can be updated in real time, where you upload the entirety of what you reveal or promote during an exhibition. One of the most difficult things to do online is to convince people to click onto a new site, but with Facebook this isn’t necessary, it’s possible to deliver all the content you want to a central online location.

As with the previously mentioned apps, it is key to include a visual element to any post you make on Facebook, however unlike Twitter and Instagram it is best to include all of the supplementary detail that goes with it. This could include different variations of colour and design that are offered, or explaining the technical benefits that a new product provides. The site also incorporates a much more visible comment section, allowing you to publicly respond to any queries or suggestions. Once again, this takes the sociability and atmosphere that has already been identified as the primary benefit of exhibitions, and extends it to a far larger group, effectively expanding the value of your stand by the same amount.