Every industry has its major conferences and trade shows. What most businesses do is simply send people to attend or maybe get an exhibitor booth. On the high end, perhaps they’ll even sponsor the conference, but that’s often ridiculously expensive.
There’s a better, and far cheaper, way using some cool digital tricks to maximize your conference results. You can actually run highly-targeted campaigns that generate awareness, booth attendance, and new leads. The coolest part? You don’t even have to attend the conference to pull these off! Read on to learn more.
The easiest way to do this is to break these down by platform.
Facebook is amazingly powerful in terms of targeting by both location and interests. What many businesses don’t know is just how targeted it can be.
We’re going to use The United States Conference of Mayors, which recently took place in Miami Beach, FL for our example.
Most marketers are aware they can target by location in Facebook. However, since Facebook removed the Local Awareness campaign option, it only appears to let you set a minimum target radius of 10 miles.
That gives us an audience size of 60,000 because it’s including everyone in and around the city. However it is not useful for us if we’re trying to only target conference attendees.
What most people don’t know is that you can actually target a smaller radius by using exact addresses. We can easily find out that this conference is located in the Miami Beach Convention Center located at 1901 Convention Center Dr.
Let’s put that in.
Voila! Now we can target down to as small as a 1-mile radius. This will often ensure we’re targeting just conference attendees.
However, in larger cities like New York, Vegas, L.A. and Miami Beach—as in our example—where population density is high, we may be including too many people that live nearby. In the upper-right, you can see the audience size is 110,000 people, which is obviously far more than just conference attendees.
So we need to narrow this targeting down further. Thankfully, Facebook also has the ability to separate out people living in the area versus those traveling. So let’s go ahead and filter our results by clicking on the drop down above location search.
Pretty sweet, right? So now let’s look at our audience size again.
We’re down to 14,000 people. Much better!
However, this is Miami Beach, and it’s unlikely that 14,000 people are attending a conference for mayors, so we still need to narrow this down in order to cut out other tourists. After all, Miami Beach has tons of people traveling to this location for reasons other than the conference.
So we just layer on some interest targeting.
There we go. That looks excellent. By adding in some detailed targeting, we now have an audience size of 2,700 people who are at the location of the conference, traveling from out of town, and interested in local government administration. It’s quite clear we’re hitting our targets.
An important note on audience size: you always want it in the green according to the meter Facebook provides. If it’s in the red, Facebook may not actually push out the ad. And since Facebook doesn’t provide data on new ads for between 12-24 hours, you’ll have no way of knowing if the ad is delivering until the next day.
Also, just an aside that many conferences attract people in the area, so you may not always want to limit your search to travelers. You’ll have to make a judgement based upon what you know about the conference attendees.
Here, I’m assuming no significant number of conference attendees live within a 1-mile radius of the convention center, which is a safe bet.
The best part about all of this? Your average cost-per-thousand-impressions (CPM) is $10-$20 on Facebook. So, at most, for your ad to reach all of these people, you only need to pay $60!
Compared to the several thousand it takes to sponsor a conference like this one, or even the $1,000+ attendance fee usually required, it is a deal.
You’ll still get in front of every attendee multiple times. Not only that, but you can send them a targeted offer or send them to a link to learn more. Something you can’t do with a traditional sponsorship.
As you can see, you don’t even need to attend the conference to do this. However, if you are attending the conference, you can create ads that direct people to your booth for more impact.
Pro-tip: It’s always best to offer them something to visit you as well. Give them a reason to stop by. You never just want to send a generic ad without offering some kind of value.
You can even set up a more personal ad, letting people know you are there and available to meet for dinner or drinks afterwards. Maybe you want to host an after-conference mixer. This is a great way to reach the people you want to attend.
Facebook is amazing for reaching everyone at the conference, but Twitter can be even more powerful in terms of engaging in real-time conversations with attendees.
Again, you don’t even need to be at the conference to do this. Almost every conference these days has a #hashtag in order for attendees to communicate via what’s usually called a backchannel.
At many conferences, you’ll see highly engaging conversations happening, especially during plenary speeches about whatever the presenter is talking about.
So how do you find the hashtag? Usually, it’s just the name or abbreviation of the conference plus the last two digits of the year. So, I’d guess The United States Conference of Mayors would be #USCM17.
And that works! I also recommend to always check out the abbreviation plus the full year as well, so #USCM2017. Conference attendees often goof this up, regardless of what conference organizers have specified. So you can usually find conversations happening across both hashtags.
But let’s say that this didn’t work. How would you find out how to get into these conversations? The answer is Tweetdeck.
If you haven’t used Tweetdeck before, it’s a free tool provided by Twitter. Just login to your Twitter account as usual and then go to www.tweetdeck.twitter.com.
Once you’re in, look for the search bar in the top left and type in a keyword related to the conference. For this one, “mayor” makes sense. Hit enter and it will create a unique column tracking real-time conversations around this keyword.
Now you’ll get a column that’s tracking all conversations around the world using this term, which isn’t helpful. We want to narrow it down to where the conference is located.
While you can target by exact address (read how to do that in my Ultimate Twitter Guide to Rock Local Business Growth), you really don’t need to spend the extra effort. Just target by the city. To do this, open up the drop down at the top of the column and choose location.
Then just add the city and adjust the radius to ensure it encompasses the location of the conference (sometime conference centers are located outside city limits, so you might want to double check).
Now, we’re getting tweets most likely coming from the conference. We can do a couple things here. We can see who is tweeting and add them as a new column to follow by clicking on their name and then clicking on Tweets on the next screen.
You can also simply scroll through their tweets and see if there is a hashtag people are using. If you click on the hashtag, Tweetdeck will automatically create a separate column for it.
Finally, a lot of conferences these days have their own Twitter accounts. So if you look on the conference website, you’ll probably see a Twitter link and can pull that up and add them as a column as well.
So you’ll see I’ve now got 4 main columns I’m following: 1) #uscm17, 2) #uscm2017, 3) the official conference account @usmayors and 4) the keyword “mayor” narrowed down by location—not all conference attendees know how to hashtag or will remember, so it’s important to keep this column up.
Now all you need to do is join the conversation!
And a word to the wise. This method should not be used for spamming with offers. People on Twitter appreciate value and conversation. If you want your organization or brand to be successful using this method, simply add value to conversations that are already happening.
Most people who are interested in learning more will check out your profile. So just make sure your profile is set up correctly with a description, link to your website, and a Pinned Tweet (here you could add an offer). If you’re not sure how to do all of that, I’d again refer you to my Ultimate Twitter Guide.
Now you can also do something similar with Twitter Ads that you did with Facebook.
I would recommend the live tweeting strategy above first as you’ll be able to connect with all active users in real-time, which is a hell of a lot better option.
But maybe you or your staff don’t have time to be constantly checking Twitter that day. In that case, you could set up an ad.
To do that, just log into your Twitter Campaign Manager and create an ad that’s targeted by both Location and Keyword. You could also target by Follower, for example the main conference account.
As you can see on the right, we’ve got an audience size of between 2.8K and 4.2K. That’s good enough for our purposes. Now, this may not push out much because Twitter considers it a small audience and small audiences don’t always get priority. But it’s always worth a try.
If your audience is in the green on the right, then you’ll be OK for sure.
You can actually target Instagram the same exact way we did with Facebook. The only difference is, when creating your Facebook ad, just Edit Placements to choose only Instagram.
However, that’s not the real power of Instagram for conferences. Its true strength lies in creating special moments for followers and attendees.
Instagram for conferences is all about the hashtags. We already have the hashtag for the conference as we identified using Twitter above, so that should be the same across channels.
Then, I’m sure you also already have a brand hashtag.
You want to create some kind of fun contest for attendees who use your brand hashtag and the conference hashtag to take pictures and upload to Instagram.
Similar to how you track a real-time conversation in Twitter, many younger attendees will follow the conference hashtags. To do this yourself, just click Search and then type in the hashtag. This can work especially well for festivals.
You may be surprised to learn the US Conference of Mayors did actually have some posts going up as you can see below.
This is a great way to build excitement and make your customers feel like they’re part of your story and brand.
You can also comment on the individual pictures put up by others at the conference in order to attract new people.
Instagram is a win for everybody at a conference. The real keys to a winning strategy here are:
If you need some help with understanding how to do any of this, I’d also recommend my extensive guide on How to Use Instagram for Local Business. It’s a step-by-step guide with screenshots on how to succeed in any localized campaign or outreach strategy.
Finally, there’s Snapchat. A Snapchat strategy will cater to a younger crowd who are heavier users of Snapchat and, in particular, Snapchat filters.
The great thing about these is that they’re often very cheap. You can get a geo-fenced filter for as low as $10 a day, although this all depends on the size of the area and amount of competition.
You can pay someone to design a custom filter for you, which isn’t too expensive. Or you can use Snapchat’s template builder.
Here’s an example of how to use their template builder. First, go to www.snapchat/geofilters.com and click on Create Your Geofilter.
Choose Create Online.
Choose Business again.
Design the filter you want. As you can see here, I just chose a ready-made template from the left, picked a new color scheme on the right, and then edited the text to relate to the conference.
Choose the date range you want it to run.
Finally, choose the location for the geofilter. You can just type in the exact address in the upper-left. From there, you click on Draw Fence.
You’re going to make a square around the area you’d like to geofence (you can do more complicated polygons as well to fence of things like city quarters). Click once where you’d like the first corner of your geofence to be. Then drag and click to create your square around the area you’d like to encompass.
You’ll end up a green, fenced-in area as in the picture below.
You’ll notice the cost for our geofence for the 2 days is $94.62, so about $50 per day. Quite reasonable!
Protip: Not just for conferences, this is a fabulous strategy for local businesses. Say you own a coffee shop, bar, or restaurant that many young people attend and take snaps at. You can actually geofence a competitor (if they haven’t already fenced of the area themselves) and add something like a discount on the filter.
Add text like “Visit Café X for BOGO”.
It’s a great way to acquire business from competitors in the local area. If you’re a local business owner that caters to a younger audience, you can thank me later.
All of these strategies are excellent uses of various social media platforms and digital marketing techniques to maximize your conference attendance or be top-of-mind to attendees even if you’re not there.
Try them out and let me know how it goes in the comments or send me a tweet. I look forward to hearing from you.
This article was first published on Integrated Marketing Association.