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Social Content Is King
As a part of its strategic planning process earlier this year, IAEE created a Future Trends Task Force. The task force identified 13 trends impacting the exhibitions and events industry. A white paper, to be released shortly, discusses these trends and includes an executive summary about creating year-round communities and engagement.
The current structure of the exhibitions and events industry is “episodic” in that a show or event takes place at a single, short time period in the year (assuming an annual show). The rest of the year the show is not available. The exhibition organizer typically stacks all of its marketing and subject area focus into this one time slot in the consciousness of its intended market. For the rest of the year the show is “out of sight, out of mind.”
Exhibitions today include social media sites on a pre-show and post-show basis. These links are generally run through the show’s website and represent the episodic nature of the show they represent. The growth in social media communities now enables shows and events to participate in these communities as active “members” on a year-round basis. Building these communities is a growing trend for show management.
The competitive need for year-round trade show related communities is driven by social media and its 24/7 competitive interaction with target audiences vs. a fixed-date trade show and its narrow interaction with its target audience.
For an exhibition to participate in this 24/7, social media interaction, an exhibition organizer needs an understanding of social media marketing and the development of an appropriate strategy for developing its specific target market community. Developing an appropriate strategy for each social media community, based upon that community’s unique features and characteristics, is critical to a show’s social media marketing success.
Implementing a social media marketing program requires the right technology, skilled personnel, consultants, vendors and an appropriate content strategy. Content is king in social media marketing. Generating and curating content are new skills, and capabilities that show organizers will need to understand and add into their ongoing show management processes. Adding these new skills will also have an impact on the show production budget.
The challenge for our industry is extending a show via social media presence to a 24/7 capability. As noted above, there are significant challenges and asset commitments to extend a show’s community interaction to a 365-day-per-year basis and across a diverse social media landscape. Given the emerging trends in marketing and audience engagement, the industry will have to master these skills in order to keep shows prominently featured in the total marketing mix.
David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA, is president & CEO of IAEE, the International Association of Exhibitions and Events.