The Social Show

Nowhere is the brave new world braver than in its embrace of social media. Tyronne O’Callaghan, Director of Brand and Strategy at Pico Global Services maintains that social media tactics can be a real show-stopper when used in a creative way to target and engage with audiences at events and exhibitions.

The traditional well-established order required stands, booths, stages and well-primed frontline staff to make the most of those precious few minutes of ‘face time’ with prospects. Things are different now, and the new order does not confine events or exhibitions to a start or end date. Quickly, trends evolving in the online social community are making their way to shows – and audiences are engaging with zest and enthusiasm. Events and exhibitions, bound by geographical chains for so long, have burst free from the constraints of physical walls, roofs and agenda’s.

Exhibitors, for instance, have long sought out a multitude of engagement techniques to capture the attention of famously fickle audiences – from distributing highly sought-after souvenirs, to presenting live activities to, more recently, facilitating on-stand interactive ‘experiences’ like augmented reality. Although the traditional approaches do work under the right circumstances, new approaches to exhibition floor engagement are already harnessing the modern habits of audiences to enable exhibitors to incorporate social media elements in the on-stand experience.

Understanding the power of social networks, and how they can be tactically channeled, can go a long way to generating results above and beyond the status quo. By taking key learnings from the average Facebook and Twitter user, the trick is to leverage the show environment to create experiences which engage with delegates and which they can share with their networks and beyond.

To better activate brands, messages and content at events and exhibitions, marketers can invite community networks to rate, caption, vote and comment on uploaded user-generated content. More elaborate campaigns can also be waged by using the show as the staging ground for a live versus online community competition.

A case in point is Pico client Ford, who teamed up with Team Detroit and with social game developer Zynga to host what has been dubbed the world’s largest Words with Friends – a Scrabble-like social game in which players compete against each other by creating words – to promote its 2013 Escape model. The game was made available on Facebook, as well as iPhone and Android devices; thus, in one foul swoop, the brand was proactively able to engage millions of prospects.

However, what about your typical event and exhibition?  For marketers planning their next exhibition or event, these simple steps will help develop a ‘social show’,

  1. At the planning stage, consider the question: What do I check, share, post or tweet in my daily life whether at work or at play? This exercise will help isolate some simple approaches that plug into the ‘normal behaviour’ of today’s show delegate.  From there, you can easily harness the power of social communities while driving focal attention to the physical presence of the brand at a particular exhibition or conference. For example, ‘checking-in’ is becoming a popular practice. Leverage it at a show to let social networks know who is on your stand or at your keynote. To encourage people to broadcast their location competitions can be used to encourage check-in. Simple, cost effective, but progressive.
  2. Consider what your company is already doing from a social media marketing perspective. Many companies today conduct social media activity in some shape or form. Explore opportunities to integrate your show floor presence with the social media story for your brand. The future here is particularly exciting. With innovative companies like Salesforce leading the way, soon you will be able to tap into your company’s social connections with your customers, identify who is at the event or exhibition, invite them to your stand or VIP function and then pre-design on-stand engagements based on your profile of them in real-time. Now that would be something to talk about!

The Social Show is not a dream, but a modern day reality. Whether it is B2B or B2C, the opportunities to grow your brand’s footprint beyond the walls of an event or exhibition are ready for the taking. Challenge your teams and your agencies to view your events or exhibitions as just another social engagement between your brand and its audience.

Source: Campaign Asia Online dated 19 December 2011

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