10 Social Media Best Practices for Tradeshows

By Justin Schier, Livecube

At today's tradeshows and live events, I dare you to separate attendees from their smart devices, and specifically their social media accounts.

I'm not talking about an addiction, or behavior that needs changing. On the contrary, people are getting more than ever out of the events they attend by engaging at deeper levels through technology. 

The bottom line is that we need to value their time and equip them with the tools they need to engage. By following these best practices, your attendees will make the most of the time they spend at your next event and will be remembered for their high-quality posts and reposts on social media.

1. Embrace social media.

 - Today's attendees are savvy. They'll bring their mobile devices, and they want to be social.

 - Exhibitors and sponsors want to participate in social media too. Make sure you have a strategy that includes everyone.

2. Think about how attendees typically use technology and social media at events.

 - Remember demographics - young people use technology and social media much differently than older people.

 - If you don't know, ask! Send a handful of personal emails to early registrants asking what you need to know.

3. Get enough Wi-Fi bandwidth and available connections.

 - Most people use up to three different devices, and will get frustrated if they don't have ready Internet access. The Wi-Fi signal must be sufficient to fill the space. 

-  Use a reputable provider, and make sure you know how strong the cell coverage is in the different parts of your event space. Further, make sure attendees have access to the available networks and passwords.

4. Don't waste your attendees' time.

 - Sharing ideas and meeting people is why they attend. Make sure to encourage them on both fronts.

 - Provide spaces and tech to help them connect with each other.

5. Don't bore people.

 - Attendees have emails and other activities to occupy them if you don't keep them engaged.

 - Encourage sponsors to offer some fun of their own through social media (e.g. interactive surveys). Reward attendees who engage with a repost or invite them to exclusive events.

6. Choose ONE short, concise hashtag for your entire event. Publish it everywhere.

 - Don't use multiple hashtags unless you have a very good reason. Keeping it short makes it easier to spell and eats up less character count.

 - Before choosing a hashtag, search social media to see if and how it's already been used.

 - Make sure exhibitors and sponsors know and use the main event hashtag in their posts.

 - Understand that people will make up many variations of hashtags for your event anyway.

 - Searching for these variations, and reposting with the correct hashtag will help the conversation stay on track.

 - Make it easy for people join in at any time.

7. Pay attention to others' posts.

 - Keep the conversation upbeat when you do post, and encourage attendees to post and repost interesting ideas. Welcome their contributions.

 - Your main social media account should be actively listening to the conversation by using a live hashtag search or another tool that tracks the conversation in real time.

 - Repost or favorite the best posts.

 - Thank especially eloquent or active posters with a direct message.

 - After the event, build relationships with attendees by sending a recap email, asking for feedback, and keeping them in the loop for future events.

8. Check the metrics.

 - Many tools give you social media metrics within the first hour of an event. Don't wait until the end of the event to check them. You might gain valuable insights early and be able to make adjustments. For example, if nobody's using the hashtag, maybe you need to make special announcements at the beginning of every morning session.

 - Identify what's going well and what's not working during the event and make course corrections.

 - After the event, use the metrics to construct a clear picture of what worked and what didn't. Don't be afraid to throw out strategies that didn't work -- new tools, apps and social media networks emerge all the time.

9. Moderate posts, but keep a light touch. Let the community police itself for the most part.

 - Nobody likes to feel like Big Brother is watching. You want to protect your brand, but make sure you have a really good reason to take down a post.

 - Have faith in your attendees and the power of self-moderation. Make sure you have a code of conduct and attendees are aware of it.

 - Make sure there's a self-moderation feature with your social media so attendees can flag inappropriate posts. After a few flags or complaints, the post should automatically disappear.

10. Have fun.

 - Sometimes the addition of a lightweight game mechanic can make all the difference.

 - There are many ways to add some friendly competition, ranging from low to high tech. Get creative.

 - Again, know your audience. Executives are going to respond differently than college students, but everybody loves to be rewarded with prizes that are thoughtful and valuable to them. Try offering innovative, low-cost prizes that are based on direct participation, like a secret small group session or lunch with the keynote speaker.

JUSTIN SCHIER (@justinschier), Livecube's CEO, is a hybrid designer and developer with more than 15 years of direct experience in the Engagement space. He led the design and development efforts for Livecube (https://livecube.co), an innovative, enterprise-grade gamified social Web app designed for live events and tradeshows. He lives in New York City.