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A Social Media Tree Falls in the Trade Show Forest

"If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?"

I spent some quality time participating in this week's Twitter #ExpoChat session centered around how show organizers and exhibitors define and measure success. The general sentiment was as expected: show organizers are looking at profitability, rebooking percentages, attendance volume, and attendee engagement. Exhibitors are evaluating quantity and quality of leads with some degree of subjectivity.

One of the common themes that emerged from participants from all perspectives - trade show organizers, exhibitors, and vendors alike - was that social media activity relating to the event provided a good opportunity for measurement of attendee engagement and lead qualification. But, while event-related social media measurement was identified as a good opportunity, there was some serious question as to whether or not people were actually doing it.

What does it matter if you don't measure it?

Domo just released their 2013 Data-Driven Marketing Survey, revealing the trouble marketers are having measuring social media return on investment (ROI). In fact, the study showed that 63% of marketers did not know the ROI for their social media tactics. At the same time, a recent Forbes article stated that marketers are expected to increase their share of social media spending from 6.6% to 15.8% of their budgets by 2018.

If a trade show organizer or exhibitor uses social media to post event-related content but doesn't measure its results, how effective can it really be? I'm just not sure that having a social media component in an event marketing campaign really matters if you're not measuring it.

Get out your measuring stick

Before launching a social media campaign surrounding an event, it is very important to know what your goal is. Social media isn't a strategy in and of itself. It is a part of the overall marketing mix that requires measurement just like any other traditional marketing method like direct mail or print ads.

What are you looking to accomplish? It could be buzz around the event for show organizers, or buzz around a brand or product for exhibitors. Perhaps you are targeting a specific amount of incremental social media site mentions, likes, shares, conversations, followers, or page views. You may be looking for event website referrals from social media network sources, which can be easily measured in Google Analytics. And, ultimately, you are likely hoping to obtain conversions from landing pages linked from social media posts.

There's also wide variety of measurement tools to choose from - some free, some for a fee. It's worth the time to look at each of these tools and what they offer in relation to your strategy.

An important consideration, though, is how your social media measurements integrate with your overall customer relationship management (CRM) software. It is very possible to collect information around specific individuals' interactions with your social media activity and connect that data to their account showing overall activity with that customer or prospect in your CRM system. Also, it is incredibly useful to use a lead fit scoring system to categorize the quality of each lead.

Lost in the world wide woods

It isn't enough to just throw event-related posts at a social media wall and hope they'll stick. There's a lot of content flying around out there and you need to make sure yours is relevant and being heard. Will your social media campaign resonate with your target audience? I'm not sure it matters if you're not paying attention to who's hearing the sound.

What do you think? I’d love to hear from you on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.

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