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Failure to Plan Is a Plan for Failure

Anyone can have a similar experience when you participate in a community related to your industry. Companies who incorporate social media into their trade show strategy and are actively involved in their communities can see bigger returns on their exhibit program investments. Social media is not free; there is a cost involved. Sure, you don’t have to pay to be on Facebook or LinkedIn, but they do require an investment of someone’s time—and that does cost a company money. Although your customers can easily get a benefit just by being part of the community without having a plan in place, you, as an exhibitor, cannot afford this approach. When you decide to invest time in social media, like anything else, you need to have a plan. You need to set definitive measurable goals and objectives. You need to check in often to see whether you are meeting those goals. Where are you exceeding your objectives, and where are you falling short? As an exhibitor, you cannot afford to wing it.

Let’s take a look at some possible goals and objectives an exhibitor might have for his social media investment. This exhibitor is a software vendor who has a product used by corporate HR departments and will be attending the annual human resources convention in six months:

  • Really bad goal—Use Twitter.
  • Bad goal—Get 100 Twitter followers in one month.
  • Good goal step 1—Create company Twitter account and find and follow 25 HR directors. Listen to their conversation for two weeks.
  • Good goal step 2—Get 15 HR directors to follow the company account and connect at least weekly with them by the end of two months.
  • Good goal step 3—Find appropriate chat for HR directors and participate weekly. At the end of one month of chats, measure the increase in HR directors who follow us.

The first example is a bad goal because there is nothing to measure. The second goal, although it is measurable, is bad because it does not define a specific audience. Getting 100 followers serves no purpose if they are not influencers or purchasers of your product. The last three goals are good because they are specific and measurable.

If you really work this plan and at the end of two months you know only three HR directors, this might not be the best investment of your time. But without setting goals and checking in regularly, you’ll never know whether it’s working. Trust me, you can be very busy on social media without ever accomplishing anything. You can build up quite a following and suddenly realize that the only people who follow you are people who want to sell you something. That is not what you are trying to accomplish.

There also has to be an end game in sight. I see so many exhibitors creating a Facebook page a month before their show. They encourage people to friend them, and then come by the booth for a prize. In the booth they spend all their time focused on getting more Facebook friends. They forget they are supposed to be selling something. Then, when the show is over they enthusiastically post some show photos on their page to show all their new friends. Within weeks that enthusiasm wanes, and soon it’s weeks or months between posts. All their Facebook friends have forgotten about them and their page. When next year rolls around and they consider what booth activity they are going to do, they ditch Facebook because “that didn’t work.”

That’s not a social media strategy. That’s a gimmick much like using booth babes, contests, or dunk tanks in your booth. To avoid the trap of social media gimmicks, figure out first what you want to get out of using social media. Defining your goals will help you figure out what your social media strategy should be.

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