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ILLUSTRATION: MARK FISHER
Q.
I'm currently developing a social-media plan for our next big trade show. How can I ensure that our tactics tie into – and work in tandem with – the existing social-media tactics used by show management?

A.
Bravo for simply broaching this topic! Many exhibit managers and event planners create their social-media strategies in a vacuum, paying little attention to what the show already has in place. But if you don't piggyback off the show's social-media efforts, you're missing the opportunity to tap into its massive audience. After all, your individual campaign, no matter how well executed, will probably only reach a fraction of the audience that show organizers already have at their fingertips. So the fact that you're trying to marry your plans with any existing strategies puts you a step ahead of most other exhibitors.

To solidify this marriage and reap its rewards, start by opening a conversation with show management. Ask your rep about the show's social-media goals, strategies, tactics, etc. Inquire about everything from official Facebook pages and Twitter hashtags to specific campaign launch dates and messaging. Are there key messages you can incorporate into your campaign? Is there a massive tactic launching at a specific time that might provide a window of opportunity to get your own messages heard? Are there key words or phrases you can incorporate into your campaign to align yourself with the event?

Simply taking the time to learn what's already going on will give you valuable insight for your own campaign. But also share your goals, objectives, and tentative plans with organizers, and ask if show management can help further them. Your rep might be able to integrate your company's messages into scheduled tweets, or he or she could even add mention of your booth activities (e.g., a high-value drawing, celebrity appearance, or just a really cool traffic builder) to the show's social-media campaign. After all, your success is the show's success.

On the other hand, your representative may be able to identify flaws in your strategy. For example, maybe your tactics will be in direct competition with existing plans for some of the show's behemoth exhibitors, and you could avoid any overlap (and comparisons) by making a few schedule changes.

If show management seems reluctant to help you, remind your rep that you're likely reaching an audience beyond the show. That is, the people following your company may or may not be attending the show, making your audience of "nonattendees" a valuable untapped market.

It's well worth your time to try and dovetail your social-media efforts with those of show management. Doing so can help you create a more effective strategy and perhaps a larger audience for your messages.


— Dana Tilghman, CTSM, CMP, senior trade show and events planner, Minitab Inc., State College, PA
Help Wanted
Send your tough questions about exhibiting to Linda Armstrong, larmstrong@exhibitormagazine.com.

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