Ideas To Attract The Social Media Generation

At the risk of sounding like a corny infomercial, I’m going to ask you a question that many show managers should be asking themselves…

Is my show out of touch with the younger modern crowd?

(Just saying that makes me feel old).

If you answered yes, then welcome to the club, you are not alone.

Industries have been fixated on attracting millennials (next up Generation Z) for years now.

Why?  Well for one, who wants to turn away a good source of business, but secondly the younger generation is taking the lead on how messages are being spread (hello, social media).

It is the younger generation that will determine the future of various industries and that is something you can’t afford to ignore.

New Mindset, New Results

When it comes to the trade show industry things have always been done old-school…it’s the “why fix it if it ain’t broken” mentality.

But what they don’t realize is that it’s already breaking, they just may not have felt the effects of it yet.  

It’s time to get ahead of the curve and start tapping into ways that are going to raise the level of engagement when it comes to your show.

It might be a challenge to approach things differently than you have in the past but making a connection won’t be difficult if you use the following suggestions…

Be Relational

Sometimes to get someone to engage with us we need to meet them where they are at; what I mean by this is millennials don’t want us to try to change how they communicate or express themselves.

What does that mean for us?  

We need to step up our game.  

That will mean speaking their language by using social media, providing entertainment and incorporating more technology to grab their attention.

In other words, make it fun and avoid falling into the trap of “been there, done that”…which will just make you look like you are trying too hard and failed.

Joining The Bandwagon

The concept of someone becoming an influencer by posting videos to youtube or other social media sites might still seem foreign to you…but it’s something that we need to learn to embrace.

After all, when in Rome…

Businesses are using influencers from all over to help sell their brand and that is something that you can tap into. Just remember your show is an “influencer”. People flock to your show to see what’s new and exciting.

Consider adding to your staff someone who can craft your message and has the time to create a campaign around your show. Look for someone who had a proven track record and can explain their methods to you. Someone who knows where the people you want to attract are searching, looking, and buying.

A word of caution, this isn’t an “intern” kind of thing. You want someone with experience and knows exactly what they are doing and you need to provide the resources they need to get your campaign off the ground.

This isn’t someone handling your social accounts. It’s much much more. Creating a buzz about your show is different than the marketing campaign for your shows. As such, while they might play on the same team – Team Greatest Trade Show Ever – they will have different ideas about how to achieve the goals you set for your show.

You can also hire an established “influencer” to help you tap into their audience.

Now Hiring Influencers

You can also hire an established “influencer” to help you tap into their audience.

The benefits of using an influencer are:

  • They can post their thoughts on trends that will be featured at your show
  • Advertising to their followers that will reach a previously unreached market (audience) for you
  • Shooting short videos that highlight your show, possibly interviews with other influential people in the industry.

One word of caution…the quality of the audience matters just as much as the quantity of the audience.  One million followers aren’t helpful if the audience consists mainly of teens that don’t own a credit card or have a checking account.  

And because there are cons to everything in life lets go over the potential pitfalls of using an influencer:

  • It has the potential to alienate some of your attendees, particularly ones who are older and more accustomed to doing things, ahem, a certain way.  There are ALWAYS exceptions, but generally speaking, an older gentleman isn’t likely to use social media nor does he care to. There are ways to help bridge the gap but the answer isn’t to placate the older generation by keeping things old school.
  • Words are being scrutinized like never before and if you are associated with an influencer that has said something even remotely controversial in the past or has the tendency to speak “off the cuff” you might want to reconsider hiring them.  You don’t want to be associated with even a hint of controversy.

An influencer doesn’t necessarily need to be young.  Older people can bring in both young and old people if it’s the right person, so don’t rule it out! Consider an established respected veteran of your business who can speak to those young AND old.

Who’s In Control?

You should always be evaluating every aspect of your show and that extends to who is on the board.

Is it reflective of who your core audience is?  

If you have a show dedicated to Solar Power, but everyone on your board is from the Coal & Oil industry, it may to time to look into a change in leadership on your board.

Sometimes people feel like they have to trend a certain way due to particular older loyalties (read the usual suspects of money, power, and influence) and that can be hard to break. Try to obtain a happy medium of youth, influence, and money, to poise your show for growth.

Goodbye Past, Hello Future

It’s time to take a good look at the core make-up of your show’s targets, board, and your own team. Align your trade show goals with those on your team. Making sure Team Greatest Trade Show Ever has the tools they need to reach the goals you set into motion to attract a younger audience and reach them where they are.

People resist change becasue it’s new. But new can be exciting and groundbreaking. And I don’t think I’ve ever met a show manager who wanted to be stale.