Harnessing The Hashtag To Improve Trade Show and Event Marketing
September 8, 2016
By: Shawn Lacagnina, Skyline Exhibits Houston
In the minds of many business owners, social media marketing and trade show marketing are two entirely separate fields. Smartphones changed everything. Social media has intertwined itself into every aspect of marketing and ignoring it can be a costly mistake. Social media marketing is a fairly complicated field, but even a small business can use some of its most basic functions to boost its bottom line. With a minimal amount of work, you can use social media to improve your results in trade show marketing, and your trade show marketing efforts will cause your social media exposure to grow, so your business gets a greater return on all of its marketing investments.
WHAT ARE HASHTAGS GOOD FOR, ANYWAY?
Hashtags are everywhere. A hashtag—written with a # symbol—is used to index keywords or topics on social media. This function was created on Twitter, and allows people to easily follow topics they are interested in. You can’t go online without seeing dozens of them, they’re plastered on the sides of transit buses and commuter trains, they’re on our cereal boxes and our coffee packages, we see them in the movies and on little badges in the corners of our TV programs. Most everyone has a vague idea what they are for, however, many business owners mistakenly believe that they don’t need to worry about learning all this hashtag and social media “stuff” because Millennials are not their target demographic. That may have been true at one time, but social media is continually and quickly evolving, and hashtags are no exception. Large corporations have been spending a lot of time and money researching and developing new ways to use social media in general and the hashtag in particular to generate more profits. Experimental programs are already in place with Twitter, Amazon, and American Express to allow customers to make purchases using hashtags. Whether you love them or despise them, hashtags are here to stay.
HOW CAN HASHTAGS HELP MY BUSINESS?
By using hashtags to promote your trade show marketing efforts, and using hashtags as part of those efforts at trade shows, you can expand your brand and message exposure exponentially. Since the hashtagged word becomes an index of conversations around a specific word, you gain more insight into who’s talking about your brand and products. Hashtags are used on virtually every social media channel, for easier insight into what consumers are saying, where they are, and how they’re using social media. All of these things can help you target your future marketing efforts even more precisely. By planning and putting in some effective research up front, your marketing exposure will begin to grow and gain momentum on its own, going forward. Here are some thoughts for starting your own marketing snowball:
- Choose Carefully – When you choose hashtags for your brand, your products, or your promotions, you need to use some care. It’s best to choose the simplest, shortest hashtag possible. Once you have some ideas in mind, search for it on each social medium, and on Google. See if it’s in use, and check to see if any likely misspellings of your proposed hashtag are in use. You may find that one of those is in use by something you don’t want your customers accidentally being directed to. Another important consideration is misreading. Hashtags are not case-sensitive, but often they’re written with capital letters to help readers understand and remember them. Realize that people will type your hashtag out with all lowercase or different capitalization than you intended, so it’s important that the meaning not depends on capitalization. For example, one hashtag-gone-wrong used the country code CH to promote The Hobbit in Switzerland. The creators wrote #HobbitCH. Oops. There are no spaces in hashtags, so also consider what will happen if a reader envisions the spacing of the hashtag differently from what you had in mind – like Susan Boyle’s debut album party, which was #Susanalbumparty. Ummm.. No, thank you.
- Hitch A Ride – Whenever you make a post with your hashtag, think about what other hashtags you might include on the post. Don’t go crazy: two or three per post is enough depending on the social media channel. But if, for example, you’re promoting a new product at South by Southwest, include #SXSW in your post, because that better-known and more popular tag will get your post and your own hashtag much bigger exposure than it would get on its own. Also, events and trade shows promote their own hashtags so you will maximize your efforts by using theirs. If your post involves a giveaway, include #entertowin as a tag, and it will start circulating on its own! Be careful not to jump on every hashtag trend out there. Attaching yourself to a trending hashtag can be negatively perceived, especially if that hashtag has nothing to do with your company, product or event.
- Give Them Something To Talk About – Creating something post-worthy at a trade show doesn’t have to involve a 10-story Ferris wheel or a supermodel. Last fall in Utah, one exhibitor placed a single banner stand on the outside of their booth. The banner was simply a photo of a giant crocodile with a hashtag on it. The aisle was jammed with people waiting to take a picture with the crocodile! You can use photographs or drawings, or even well designed graphical banners with funny, motivational, or philosophical sayings on them. How about a selfie from inside your exhibit to win a prize every hour? Be creative.
Hashtags allow you to create a collection of social media posts around the same or similar topic by making it easier to search, find, and share those thoughts. It allows you to connect with and engage other social media users around a common theme or interest.
Try using Hashtags to promote your next trade show or event – Before, During, and After the show or event! Incorporate the show’s existing #s with one of your own. (For example: Hey, check out the newest widget in booth 5555 at Widget Show next month! #worldsgreatestwidget #WidgetShow ) Encourage everyone in your organization to use them in related social media posts. It costs nothing outside the time to think through the process and implementation. The payoff could be priceless.