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Simple Tips to Use Social Marketing
By: Dr. Jessica O'Reilly
Whether you work in sales, management or logistics, you are well aware that digital platforms have transformed the way brands interact with consumers. For those working in events and exhibition management, it’s likely that you’ve heard from clients who have redirected development dollars toward digital programming. Precipitated by the lure of low-cost inbound opportunities and sophisticated output metrics, this shift has prompted a reduction in event-focused spending with clients touting a “focus on digital” as the cause.
But digital and event-based sales are not mutually exclusive, but rather mutually beneficial.
Research shows that digital investment not only boosts efficacy across other marketing platforms (by 51% for outdoor ads for example), but also drives word-of-mouth sales and in-person purchase decisions. And because the cost-per-conversion is significantly lower than traditional media buys, integrating digital strategy into your next event to both attract and support clients is a no-brainer.
At the CAEM Annual Conference in June, we’ll examine in-depth approaches to effective and collaborative social strategy for large-scale events. As a primer for the upcoming event in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, check out these simple tips to leverage social media to increase consumer attendance, engagement and spending at your next event:
1.     Be the topic of conversation.

Across the globe, 92% of consumers trust word-of-mouth endorsements over all other forms of advertising and the “social share” is the new word-of-mouth. Get your fans talking about you and their friends and family will follow suit. Effective social marketing creates conversations, so start with one of these strategies to get your clients talking:

-Crowd source. Solicit advice on programming, speakers, formats or another detail that elicits a variety of responses via online voting/feedback (e.g. what topic should we cover in our opening keynote?). You can use an app like Doodle or PollDaddy which integrates your social accounts or simply post directly on your brand’s page.
-Offer a registration or ticket discount to those who share your page, profile or promotion with their networks.
-Run a contest which requires that entrants tag a friend who might like your product/offer on your social post or blog. Be sure to also require your event’s official hashtag and consider using Rafflecopter or another widget that utilizes various social platforms and allows you to assign entries based on action (e.g. 1 contest entry for an RT, 2 contest entries for sharing on Facebook). When entering contests, users tend to include statements of support (e.g. Can’t wait for this event!) likely driven by the subconscious belief that it increases their chances of winning.
-Collaborate with influencers with unique discount codes specific to their networks; this also allows you to track individual conversion rates.
-Provide vendors, sponsors, partners and speakers with support (e.g. prewritten tweets) that include your event information, handle and hashtag. Utilize a calendar assistant like Boomerang to schedule reminder emails with hyperlinks to make it easy for them to share their support in one or two clicks.
2.     Solicit reviews from your fans and followers.

After word-of-mouth advertising, online reviews rank as the second most trusted source of “advertising” according to Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising Survey of over 28,000 respondents. Seventy percent of global consumers trust online reviews versus a mere 47% who trust television, magazine and newspaper ads

Whether you solicit reviews on your Facebook Page, website or via an exit survey (every event should ask guests to complete a simple, accessible exit survey!), make the collection of these reviews a priority. Share the positive ones and respond to the less-than-positive ones diplomatically. Send a personal thank-you to reviewers if possible and create a “What people are saying” section on your website.
3.     Integrate social strategy into the event experience so that attendees can’t help but share with their networks. Some potential approaches might include:

-Hide prizes at the event and share a photo of their locations so that attendees follow your account and share their experience.
-Run a contest for the best photo of the hour/day/event requiring entrants to tag your handle and official hashtag.
-Create an offer for guests who check-in on social media (e.g. contest, freebie or discount).
-Post event photos in real time and be sure to tag all relevant parties (i.e. sponsors, relevant brands, individuals in each photo).
-Host a branded social media lounge accessible to all attendees. Depending on the event type, you might structure the lounge as a bar, classroom or interactive exhibit where you broadcast live feeds from Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.
4.     Provide detailed post-event metrics.

One reason brands turn to digital opportunities in lieu of event-based programs involves the ability to accurately gauge outcomes. Conversion rates are clearly quantified by a host of measures ranging from cost-per-click to click-through-rates, so event-based programs need to offer similar reports. These reports might include details related to the demographics of attendees (e.g. income level), total related sales volume, advertisement expenditures, media coverage, digital impressions (i.e. blog traffic, social media engagement) and attendee feedback. You might also consider offering digital advertising options to sponsors/partners as part of the exhibition package, as the associated outcome metrics can be easily sourced and packaged into quantitative reports. Even if these packages produce a zero-net return in isolation (without considering corollary revenue), the value of associated data and spending is likely to produce positive returns. Brands want to identify the measurable results of their investment beyond the event/exhibition itself, so be sure to send a detailed, easy-to-read report within ten days of your event.

I look forward to meeting you at CAEM in June to develop manageable action plans for the upcoming year!
Jessica O’Reilly is an author, speaker and television personality whose advice reaches millions weekly. As the founder of Happier Couples Inc.  she works with executives and power couples across the globe to improve communication, satisfaction and performance. Catch her on Tuesday mornings at 8am on GlobalTV’s The Morning Show or follow her adventures on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook