The following is a guest post from Cece Salomon-Lee.
As a marketer, one of my goals is to generate the right leads for my sales force as efficiently and quickly as possible. This requires constant evaluation of existing tools — emails, banner ads, and events — as well as new ones such as social media and virtual events. While webinars arguably are a standard part of a marketer’s lead gen toolbox, virtual tradeshows are just being considered. Part of the challenge is how to effectively drive qualified sales leads to your booth or virtual event.
Here are recommendations on how to leverage social media to market your next virtual tradeshow (Please note that these recommendations are for organizations who are hosting their own virtual tradeshows and may need to be amended for those exhibiting within a virtual event):
Identify Online Influencers
Each industry has influencers who yield a lot of sway with potential and existing customers. However, popularity – the number of followers or readers -is not necessarily a barometer of one’s online influence– the ability to drive a community of individuals to an action. Identifying the right influencers based on your objectives and audience will require research and time. When done well, these individuals will write or tweet about your upcoming event.
Here are some recommendations:
– Twitter Search: Use keywords to find those who tweet the most about your industry.
– Twinfluence: Not only does Twinfluence provides a list of the top 50 twitter users based on reach, velocity and social capital, but also can leverage this to determine the influence of those you researched via Twitter search.
– AllTop: While you can use Technorati to search for top ranked blogs, I recommend starting with Alltop, which categorizes blogs under separate topics. This will help narrow down the blogs most appropriate for your virtual tradeshow.
Engage in Conversations
Have you been in a middle of a conversation when a stranger suddenly interrupts and adds his two cents? Your initial reaction probably was “who is this guy?”. Well the same applies to online conversations. It’s important to engage in existing conversations BEFORE jumping in to promote your event and disappear. Rather, take time to monitor and participate in ancillary conversations weeks if not months before your event.
For example, research and join relevant groups on Facebook or LinkedIn related to your company, industry and/or solution. If there is a relevant question, avoid the temptation to market only your company or product. Rather, respond with valuable information that contributes to the conversation. This helps to position you and your company positively.
Social networks have a wealth of demographic and professional information regarding its members. This is a great opportunity to create ads that target specific age groups or professional titles. Facebook allows you to select age group, region and professional title when creating ads. Like Google adwords, you’ll want to create variations of your ads, test and refine to determine the best copy and attributes. If you’re targeting more than one professional level, I recommend creating separate ads with only that professional title to better determine who is clicking through. At this time, Facebook doesn’t provide detailed analysis by title.
While LinkedIn Premium Events service is coming soon, you can leverage the social networks’ Direct Ads service to target the network’s 76+ million members. Options include company size, job function, industry, seniority, gender, age and geography.
With the proliferation of information online, the challenge is to demonstrate the value of your virtual tradeshow to motivate people to register and attend. You can entice potential attendees by highlighting the types of information that is available at the tradeshow. For example:
– Blog Posting: Planning a white paper? Consider sharing a graph from the white paper and soliciting feedback to drive interest.
– Slideshare.net: Presenting in the virtual tradeshow? Upload the presentation slides to Slideshare and promote via Twitter, your blog, etc. Then invite people to submit questions that will be answered at the conference.
– YouTube: Have a product video? Consider posting to YouTube and embedding it on your website, blog, etc
In each instance, include information about your upcoming virtual tradeshow, such as dates, times, and a unique URL to track conversions.
Measurement and Tracking
So you’re tweeting the event, connecting with industry influencers and sharing content online. The next question is how to you track the effectiveness of your social media marketing? Most virtual event platforms should have a system for tracking and measuring media campaign effectiveness. At minimum, they should be able to provide a formula for tracking those who visit a landing page and register accordingly.
Assuming the above, I recommend:
1) Creating unique landing page URLs for each channel
2) Shorten the URL via a URL shortener service, such as Bitly, that tracks the number of clicks per URL
3) Measure, evaluate and update your marketing mix based on the a) click-through rate and b) conversion to registrations
One word of warning is to first research and evaluate before plunging in with a social media marketing program, especially when contacting individuals and bloggers or participating in online discussions. While social media marketing takes time and effort, when done well, the results can be spectacular!
What strategies or tactics have you used to drive virtual tradeshow attendance?
As Principal of PR Meets Marketing, Cece Salomon-Lee has over 15 years experience conceptualizing and executing successful strategies for public relations, customer communications, executive visibility, analyst relations, social media and virtual events. She has worked with start-up and established organizations in enterprise software, SaaS and digital entertainment, such as Blue-ray Disc Association, Cisco Systems, DreamWorks Animation, HP, Yahoo!, and MapQuest. Follow Cece at @csalomonlee or via email firstname.lastname@example.org.