9 Tips To Make Social Media Work For You At Conventions

There is nothing wrong with an awkward selfie when used to promote a brand or to let the world know you just discovered amazing pepper jelly.

There is nothing wrong with an awkward selfie when used to promote a brand or to let the world know you just discovered amazing pepper jelly.

Last week (Sept. 25-28) more than 1,200 vendors attended Natural Products Expo East to attract the attention of retailers and bloggers while also winning some valued name recognition for their brands.

Surprisingly, only a handful of vendors used social media to truly maximize their advantage.

I’ve attended many conferences and conventions and I follow some simple social media steps for events.  I urge many of the brands I met with at Expo East to review the following tips and plan to incorporate them next September in Baltimore or in March 2014 in Anaheim for Expo West. Because of its profound reach, extensive use in business and dexterity of messaging, these tips focus on using Twitter, but could be adapted for Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Pinterest and others.

Twitter Screen Shot

1. Tell the World Where You’ll Be

About 45 days before the show, tweet from your company Twitter handle that you will be in attendance. Use the show’s hashtag (usually #ExpoEast or #ExpoWest; other shows will include this info. in registration materials), your booth number and invite people to visit your booth at the show. For example: We’re thrilled to be attending #ExpoWest in Anaheim in March. You can find us at Booth #3100.

2. Make a Social Media Plan for the Show

Conference attendees cling to their smartphones. Task someone to monitor, post and respond to social media during the show in real-time. Either on the floor or back at the home office, participating on social media will help garner attention for you long after the tradeshow floor closes.

3. Give Followers a Behind the Scenes Look

Tweet behind-the-scenes pictures and video of your team preparing for the show, traveling to the show and setting up your booth. People like to get to know the brands they love, and feel included. Be sure to include show hashtags and your booth number.

4. Give Attendees a Reason To Seek You Out

Entice attendees to visit you by offering samples, raffles or exclusive news on upcoming brand news. Make it worth attendees’ time to find your booth in the crowd. And, of course, use the show hashtag and your booth number. For example: If you’re attending #ExpoWest, stop by Booth #3100 for free samples of our new mango and coffee-flavored smoothies.

5. Recruit Attendees to Be Your Ambassadors

People share content in which they are featured. Invite interested attendees to take a photo with you and your booth. Then you can tweet the picture, with the attendee’s Twitter handle and the show’s hashtag with a “Thanks for stopping by” or other conversation-relevant comment. Retailers might not partake, but bloggers and brand enthusiasts will – and they share!

6. Comment on Show Happenings

You’re at the convention. Make sure you are aware of educational and training sessions taking place, who the guest speakers are, and what events attendees are talking about most. Tweet content related to each – with images where possible. For example: Willy Wonka’s talk on the health benefits of sugar at #ExpoWest has fired attendees up. What’s the most interesting seminar you’ve attended today?

7. Respond To Those Who Tweet About/To You

It’s just like a conversation. You wouldn’t ignore someone who said hello to your or complimented you, so don’t do it on social media. If someone tweets at or about you, tweet them back with a tailored thank you (i.e., don’t just say ‘Thanks’).

8. Spelling Counts

Proper spelling is key, especially for people’s names and Twitter handles. It demonstrates professionalism as well as being able to react correctly to real-time events with aplomb.

9. If It Goes Badly, Get It Offline

If someone tweets a complaint or comments negatively about your product, let them know you are sorry they are unhappy, and that you would like to speak with them (by email, cell phone or in person) right away to try to help. Do not engage in a back-and-forth dialogue via social media. Get the conversation off of social media as quickly as possible. For example: We’re sorry you had a bad experience. Email willy@willywonka.com and let us help or stop by booth #3100 & give us a chance to make it right.

There is a lot of good that can come from live social media posts at a conference or convention. Retailers search the related hashtags to see what brands are trending, and what attendees liked and didn’t like. And whether you use social media or not, if you are a vendor at a show like Natural Products Expo, you are being talked about on social media. So make sure you are taking an active role to help shape that conversation.

If you have questions or would like to create a social media plan for Anaheim or Baltimore in 2014, email me at rhughes@kimballpr.com to learn how the team at Kimball Communications can help. Or tweet us at @KimballPR.

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Best of Show: Standout Products of Natural Products Expo East 2013

ExpoEast2013Panarama

If you haven’t been to either Natural Products Expo East or West yet, it’s a must attend for good-for-you-foodies as well as those looking for products that take an environmentally friendly approach to consumerism.

With thousands of vendors and products to see and only four days to try to see them all, here are just a few standouts from the food category I came across in Baltimore while there on behalf of Kimball Communications:

B’More Organic When I heard “organic skyr smoothie” my skepticism kicked into high gear. Then I was told it was ideal for those, like my brother, who are lactose intolerant. Sure, I thought. Then I tried their Mango Banana Skyr Smoothie. Stunningly good, loaded with protein and good for you. I took a bottle for the road-trip home.

Conti Gourmet Coffee I can’t say enough good things. Roberto “The Coffee Man” serves a great cup of coffee, keeping me fueled for the entire show. I’m ruined for Starbucks from here on out.

Epic This was the biggest surprise for me at Expo East. Epic’s 100 percent grass-fed, animal-based protein bar caused me some hesitation. However, at the urging of others, I tried the Bison bar and was remarkably surprised at how good it tasted. I’ll be ordering a box this week.

Gelato Fiasco This group from Maine was a lot of fun. We talked a little about social media, and a lot about their awesome gelato. While they are primarily in New England right now, I fully expect to see them on a store shelf here in Pennsylvania area soon. They are definitely worth stopping for the next time you are in Massachusetts or Vermont.

Late July Organic Snacks Celebrating 10 years in the organic, non-Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) snack space, this established player still has the power to surprise with its new a tangy and impressive new Sub-Lime Multigrain Snack Chip. I’ll be looking for this one in my local grocery store.

NoTatoes This super-young start-up made quite a big buzz at Expo East with delicious Cassava Tortilla Chips. Keep an eye on this company. I have no doubt you’ll be seeing them in a lot more stores soon.

Sibu Sura A micro-batch chocolate producer out of Maryland (using 100 percent organic and fair trade cacao beans from Peru), Sibu Sura not only offers some of the best chocolate from Expo East (I tried just about all of the chocolate available), but their mission of social good and environmental friendly packaging make them a distinctive standout in any crowd, including at Expo East.

Suzanne’s Kitchen Amazing pepper jelly. I’m a connoisseur of sorts where pepper jelly is concerned. I once drove to Virginia because I heard a company there did a good job with pepper jelly and I wanted to verify it.  By far, Suzanne’s is the best I’ve ever tried. I picked up a jar of Pepper Jelly Heaven from my local Whole Foods on Sunday night to snack on while watching the finale of Breaking Bad.

Wild Poppy Juice Company I gave up soda and fruit drinks almost 20 years ago, but this organic craft fruit drink – which offers just a hint of soda-esque texture – made me think I was missing something amazing. The Organic Peppermint Lemonade was a surprising discovery, and one worthy of singling out as a Best of Show from Expo East.

There are so many others worthy of a mention, but only so much you’ll want to read on your tablet or smartphone. Be sure to check out our video round-up (posting shortly) of other impressive stand-outs from Expo East.