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Photos can make your exhibit a social media star


“Visual marketing” has always played a starring role at tradeshows.

As brands learn to “show, not tell” their stories through social media, visual marketing has begun stealing the scene on social networks as well.

tsl_072013_photo_booth_bjamesIt’s little wonder – visuals have become the social media user’s default mode for sorting and absorbing information. According to ROI Research, 44 percent of social media users are more likely to engage with a brand if its marketers post photographs.

So how can exhibitors cash in on this insatiable craze for online visuals?

By posting in-booth photos—and lots of them—on the major social networks, says Rajiv Jain, president and CEO of Columbia, Maryland-based tradeshow-management software provider a2z Inc. Among many products, Jain’s firm offers ChirpE Photo Booth, a plug-and-play traffic-driver that integrates an iPad with the exhibitor’s Facebook photo album and Twitter media gallery.

Besides stockpiling leads, exhibitors participate in shows to boost their market presence, according to Jain.

“That presence has both a physical and a digital aspect,” said Jain. “While the physical tradeshow attracts only a certain portion of your target audience to your booth, with so many potential customers following the event on social networks, you can reach a much broader audience with photos.”

Photos appeal to show-goers because “most people are visual,” according to Jain.

“A photo can communicate more effectively and quickly than a text-based message,” proclaimed Jain. “The expression you see on someone’s face in a photo is more real than any words could ever be, and more attractive to audiences.

You don’t have to be an Annie Leibovitz to snap presentable photos of visitors, but you do want to apply some craft to the activity, he advised.

“In-booth photos can be fun, but exhibit marketers need to make sure those photos communicate their brands effectively. It helps if your photos feature your company’s logo or some other expressive background. And if you can allow visitors not only to take a photo, but write on top of it—so that a text message is embedded within the photo itself—you’ll give the photos a lot more power.”

Where should all those fabulous in-booth photos be posted? While one might automatically think LinkedIn, photographs were made for Facebook and Twitter, proclaimed Jain.

“Even though we say LinkedIn is the network of choice for B2B, the reality is that Facebook and Twitter are more vibrant, more dynamic and attract far more people than LinkedIn,” said Jain. That zest and reach make Facebook and Twitter “the most powerful social networks for exhibitors.”

But reaching the target audience is only half the social media equation. The other half is nudging the photo-posts to “go viral.”

“Facebook and Twitter both have a very strong viral component,” said Jain. “But so do Instagram, Pinterest and Flickr. It’s important to learn through trial and error which social networks give you the greatest viral outreach.”

It’s easy to see how viral your visual posts are, because each social media platform provides metrics, Jain says. “Facebook has a very powerful tool called Insights, with specific measures for outreach: The number of people who are talking about your content, the number of people you have reached who have seen your content and the number of impressions. Similarly, Twitter gives you two metrics: counts and impressions.”

The probable spend for a photo-based social media campaign will run from a few hundred dollars to just under $10,000, according to Jain.

“The dollar investment is really the smaller part of it,” he counsels. “It’s more about the people. Do you have members on your team who understand social media? Can they make sure you have a dedicated album or section on Facebook for the event that you’re participating in? Then, as you’re posting the photos, how’s the team driving people to those albums? What are you having them do there? Are you making it easy for them to share your photos on their own timelines? Are you encouraging them to tag your photos, so they have to ‘like’ your page?”

The intricacies aside, if you’re not yet posting in-booth photos on the social media networks, now is the time to start, Jain cautions. As social media becomes more central to everyone’s professional life, visual marketing through social networks is likely to become part of every exhibit marketer’s job.

Bob James is Vice President, Marketing for ITN, an event analytics company known for pioneering the use of NFC (short-range wireless) within the exhibitions industry. With operations in China, New Zealand, the UK and the U.S., ITN provides exhibitors with innovative lead management solutions based on NFC.

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