If you are a vendor that’s using social media at conferences merely as a broadcast channel for company messages, you are being tuned out AND you may also be harming your reputation.
Social media can be a fantastic way to enhance and augment your presence as a vendor at conferences. When done right, it can help bring people into your booth and leave a lasting impression with attendees. Sadly, most vendors fall into the trap of using social media (Twitter and Instagram especially) to send out completely useless booth cattle-calls:
- Come to booth 1234 for a demo of Product X and be entered for a chance to win Gadget A
- Tired of dealing with X? We have the solution. Stop by booth 1234 and we’ll show you how
- Be sure to hear our Product Leader explain how AI chatbots can save you $$$. Booth 1234
HIMSS is one of the largest healthcare conferences in North America with over 45,000 attendees and 1,300 vendors. As such, the annual HIMSS hashtag on Twitter (this year it’s #HIMSS19) is flooded with so many booth cattle-calls that it renders the main conference feed almost useless.
Even worse, many vendors repeatedly broadcast the same message multiple times each day with only small modifications to avoid Twitter’s spam blocker. What these vendors don’t realize is that this behavior gets noticed and reflects poorly on them.
Social media, especially healthcare social media, is what many influencers use to connect and engage with like-minded individuals. When a vendor pops up and starts spewing corporate marketing messages, it has the exact opposite effect on influencers. Instead of attracting them to their booth, it repels them.
Seriously, just think about it. When was the last time you visited a vendor’s booth because of the standard marketing message they sent out via social media?
So what can a vendor do on social media to attract attention, differentiate themselves from their competitors and be seen in a positive light? I was recently asked this question by a vendor who will be at the upcoming HIMSS19 conference.
Here are 5 tips that I shared with them.
Use unexpected pictures
One way to make your tweets, Instagram and Facebook posts stand out is by using an unexpected picture.
At conferences, most people expect pictures of a vendor’s booth, people standing around the booth, people getting demos, brochures on tables, etc. Most conference goers, especially at HIMSS, have become inured to this type of image. An unexpected picture, however, will make them stop and take notice.
For example, a picture of a comfy chair in your booth with a fun caption like “Exclusive for #HIMSS19: this foot-saving medical device provides guaranteed results and doesn’t require batteries! Interested? 1234” would be memorable and a morsel of fun in an otherwise boring stream of vendor messages.
Here is an example from a different conference:
— Letty Kluttz (@SHRMLetty) June 14, 2018
Some other photo tips:
- Don’t be afraid to tilt your camera. Pictures don’t always have to be squared up.
- Extreme close-ups of interesting objects in your booth make great photos
- Add a simple filter or make your picture black & white
Share useful resources
HIMSS attendees always appreciate good articles. If you share relevant articles about hot topics like: AI, Machine Learning, industry consolidation, consumerism, etc, you will establish yourself as a vendor that is interested in more than just booth scans. When you share something valuable, people appreciate it.
Here’s a pro tip: share articles written by the conference speakers or by other people from the speaker’s organization. This shows that you made the effort to research the speakers and that you cared enough to time your posts to coincide with when they were speaking (hint hint).
In case you were wondering, it is okay to share your own resources, but I recommend that you only link to your own material 1 out of every 10 times that you share a resource. Anything more, and you will look like you are just interested in shilling your own products to the exclusion of everything else.
Turn interesting stats into punchy graphics
Healthcare is an evidence-based industry. As such, healthcare attendees are always attracted to statistics. Smart vendors tap into this love of numbers.
A great way to stand out from other vendors is to turn interesting statistics into punchy, bright-colored graphics. Not a full-on infographic (though those are cool too, but a little too much to digest when running between conference sessions), but rather something akin to a PowerPoint slide.
Here is an example:
The CBO estimates that spending on #MedicarePartD benefits will total $99 billion in 2019, or 15% of net Medicare spending. Federal law prohibits HHS from interfering in drug price negotiations between Part D plan sponsors and drug manufacturers. https://t.co/dHnH58xtly pic.twitter.com/zTv17CVs2m
— Kaiser Family Foundation (@KaiserFamFound) January 17, 2019
The color is bold, the graphics are simple and the statistic is interesting. A post or tweet like this generates engagement (likes, RTs, replies) and is eye-catching.
Avoid using the word “booth”
A lot of savvy conference goers that use social media have learned of the “hack” that removes most of the standard social shares from vendors. They simply filter out anything with the word “booth” in their feeds. In an ironic twist, the people who use this filter are likely influencers or high-level prospects that vendors would love to connect with.
My advice is to just list the number of your booth without using the word “booth”. Since you are using the conference hashtag already, everyone will know it’s your booth number without you having to spell it out. This will get you past the filter.
Stand out with random acts of kindness
Finally, adding an element of unexpected kindness to your social media posts will help you stand out, generate goodwill and If another active social media user happens to be in the area of your booth, they will stop by to acknowledge the photo.
During a conference the size of HIMSS, there will likely be moments in and around your booth where a member of your team will help a random attendee. It can be helping someone with directions, letting them throw something away in the booth garbage can, sharing the printed conference agenda with them, or assisting a fellow vendor to carry something to their booth. Keep your eyes open and your camera ready. Snap a photo and put the spotlight on your teammate.
You don’t even have to mention your booth number if you are all wearing uniforms.
Here are some examples of random acts that I’ve tweeted about to help generate attention/awareness:
- Randomly giving away Uber or Lyft gift cards to someone who got a demo
- Buying coffee for the next 5 people in line (makes for a great photo!)
- Saying thank you to the security/cleaning crews for the work they do
So there you have it, 5 tips to help you use social media at conferences to stand out and generate results. The booth cattle-calls for HIMSS19 have already started. Thankfully I’ve already got my “booth” filter in place. See you in Orlando.
- Use unexpected pictures
- Share useful resources
- Turn interesting stats into punchy graphics
- Avoid using the word “booth”
- Stand out with random acts of kindness