It's trade show season once again. January through April marks one of the highest concentrations in trade shows and events each year. Almost every major industry will have a show or event during this time period. Some of them, like the auto industry, will hold multiple events. In the trade show world, today more than ever, social media is playing a big role - and there are lots of things that you can do to cut down on costs and use social media to help you extend your outreach.
In my opinion, there is almost no reason to do the old-fashioned paper press kit anymore. The costs to print, maintain, ship and update these kits are expensive. Today, you can simply post the content of your trade show press kit online. Many companies are now devoting a section of their media room to a specific trade show which they will be attending. You want to, of course, make sure that all of the content that is there is easy to share. You can do this by simply enacting some of the social media tools for sharing such as ShareThis or AddThis.
There are also lots of options for your press kits. A new trend is to use online tools for press kits - some of which are for purchase like MediaRoom ShowCase - and then there is what HP tried recently at CES for the blogger lounge called CntrStg at CES in which they utilized the free online service FriendFeed to create a room for people to post all kinds of feeds and content about the show. Tools like this can be open or closed. Consider creating different types of content from a show for your brand - photo feeds via Flickr, video shot from the floor using any kind of digital camera and uploaded to a YouTube channel created for your brand and maybe even a feed from Technorati or Google Blog Search of a set up search for related blog posts or news about your brand and the show - and then having all of these feeds directed to a service like FriendFeed or even a NetVibes Universe, where anyone can access all of that up-to-the-minute content about your brand and the trade show.
Social networking has come to the trade show world. Many shows are creating ways for attendees to start connecting with each other far in advance of the show. Recently, the Game Developers Conference has done just that with the myGDC. They have created an avenue for people that are attending to plan out their conference in advance, connect with other attendees and even connect with people that will be presenting at the conference. However, the network doesn't just start and stop when the conference is over. The conference has created a way for people to be involved year round. This is something that I think we will be seeing more and more. Some conferences have also created Fan Pages in Facebook. They've done so because this is a network in which many people are already involved. The Web 2.0 Expo has taken this approach with their Web 2.0 Expo Facebook Fan Page, but they haven't just stopped there. They have utilized other networking applications to help create multiple communities online where people can interact, post content and share information, such as the Web 2.0 Expo Flickr Group and the Web 2.0 Expo LinkedIn Group.
Make sure that you are utilizing all of the tools that you can to not only listen to what is happening at a trade show - especially in regard to your brand - but also to utilize the tools to promote your brand to the media (traditional and non-traditional). Use Twitter to promote what's happening at your booth live from the trade show floor. If you are sending out a news release from the trade show, consider using photos and video in a Multimedia News Release (MNR) - and then send out a note via Twitter about your announcement. Consider what SanDisk did for their news at the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show in which they released their news via a SanDisk MNR. The release video and multiple photos were then utilized by both traditional media and bloggers and the content was also linked to and talked about by many people via Twitter. This was a huge success for SanDisk.
Trade shows themselves are changing in order to take advantage of better ways to start the conversation earlier and keep them going year round. The opportunities and tools to engage social media for your news and content via trade shows are vast. My best advice for you is to not be afraid to try something new - and the best part of all is that most of this costs little more than just your time but can yield great results.
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