You’ve got a big trade show this spring that you really hope to make the most of. You’ve spent almost $10,000 on a top-notch booth that showcases your brand. You’ve worked with your marketing agency to breathe new life into your messaging and marketing collateral that you can’t wait to proudly hand out. You already know of a few prospects in your pipeline who will be attending. Your social media plan for the show is…hmm.

That’s the thing we forgot,” you say as a light bulb faintly flickers above your head. If you’ve failed to consider how to generate leads using social media, we’ve got you covered with a few tips and easy wins for lead generation and lead nurturing in this week’s blog.

Before The Show

Develop goals. Like any other channel or marketing tactic, focus on a few metrics that will determine if the investment in social media lead generation is worthwhile. A simple example is follower or fan growth–a general uptick in people who follow your brand based on your attendance and posts during the trade show. If you prepare some content, and plan to interact with other attendees, you should expect to receive a bump in your baseline follower number. This tactic should be designed for awareness, as these will likely be “top of funnel” prospects.

If you know of a few potential clients or accounts that will be attending, find them, follow them, and interact with them a bit on social media–perhaps “like” one of their photos, retweet some of their recent news or subscribe to their newsletter. These actions will help build awareness, which will translate into recognition if by chance you meet in person at the show–which you should try to do.

After engaging with your prospects, message your account contact directly, letting them know your booth number and where you might be hanging out on the trade show floor. Encourage trade show attendees to interact with you on social media when they stop by your booth. Consider adding signage to your booth to reinforce the idea.

You don’t need to spend the entire trade show glued to your phone. Since you are going to be having a great time meeting people in person, listening to speakers and enjoying the merriment of networking, schedule a few social posts ahead of time so you don’t forget. We recommend using an automated scheduling program, such as Hootsuite, to schedule your posts. If you want easy access to all of the social posts sent by your contacts that are attending the conference, set up a segmented social list–either within your scheduling program or directly within your social network. By being able to quickly view all of the posts relevant to the trade show from the people you follow, you can interact in a timely and meaningful way that can make lead nurturing easier.

At The Show

Use Twitter’s mobile app to follow the user accounts following the event’s hash tag. As the Marketing Over Coffee podcast details, the follow-back percentage rate for event hash tag users is roughly 70%. That means that seven out of 10 people paying attention to this event have now elected to receive your content by association.

With lots of new eyeballs now on your social profiles, be sure to encourage them to say “hello” in person by sharing your location–booth number, floor section, or nearest trade show landmarks. If you have several people attending a conference, and they will each be attending different programming, allow them to “take over” the company account to give followers a peek into their experience at the conference. During the sessions they attend during their take over, they can share photos, quotes and takeaways.

When posting about your experiences at a conference or trade show, make sure to tag fellow attendees and use the event hash tag so that other attendees can easily find you, your company and your colleagues. Specificity trumps vagueness, so be sure to let everyone know exactly what you’ve been up to.

Bad example: We’re having fun in Boston at the HubSpot Inbound Conference!

Good example: @jilwilso and @charlieanadler from @SmpleMachines about to check out keynote speaker @danielpink at #Inbound2015

After The Show

Once the trade show is over, it’s time to reconnect with the people you’ve met at the event. There are a number of ways to reconnect with your trade show leads, including letting them know it was great meeting them at the event, sharing an article that serves as a follow-up for a topic you discussed during the event, or just letting them know you look forward to talking with them in the future.

Example: Great meeting @yournewcontact at #Inbound2015! Looking forward to chatting more with you about inbound marketing strategies.

While these might not be watershed moments of marketing for your company, having a social media lead generation strategy in place when you attend events is low-cost, has a low barrier to entry, and can be differentiating for your brand. Using social media to engage with event participants encourages real action to take place: Simple Machines client A Piece of The Game saw a 140% monthly increase in the number of leads (fans submitting photos of their sports memorabilia for the “Whaddayagot” segment of their TV show) thanks to the successful execution of their social media lead generation strategy during The National Sports Collectors Convention. Their strategy wasn’t complicated: they scheduled social posts in advance, used the event hashtag, shared updates from the event and interacted with people attending the event.

With just a bit of planning, strategy and timely engagement, you’ll be prepared to use social media to generate and nurture more trade show leads at your next event.

Want to create a stronger plan of action for your next trade show? Check out our Manufacturer’s Guide to Trade Shows for everything you need to know!

Image via SC Hargis/Flickr

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