In this week’s post, I will be summarizing the use of social media and integrated marketing communications to promote Catersource Event Solutions Trade Show held in Las Vegas, Nevada, March 8 – 11, 2015. This was written for academic purposes only and while I live in Las Vegas, I did not attend the expo.
Revenue in the catering industry has doubled in the last 10 years,” as stated on catersource.com. Additional industry stats state, “The catering industry contributed $45 billion to the economy,” as shown on brandongaille.com. Caterers across the country attend and exhibit at Catersource to increase sales and market share, generate leads and to discover and explore new industry trends.
Social media is a key element in maximizing your event marketing. Catersource Magazine, Conference and Trade Show has profiles on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest and Instagram. They used Twitter, Instagram and Facebook as their main social channels to promote the event.
Before the Event
The Catersource team used Twitter and Facebook leading up to the event to boost interest and share information about the conference and trade show. Posts and tweets included links to download the trade show app, purchase tickets to special events during the show and book lodging in Las Vegas. Schedules were shared along with bios of award recipients and notes from keynote speakers. Notably on Twitter, Catersource shared articles related to industry trends to generate interest and also retweeted photos of attendees on their way to the conference to rev up excitement. These are all good examples of ways to brand your event using social media while providing interactive touch points for your users to learn about the event. These posts probably succeeded in generating pre-show buzz.
During the Event
Facebook was used during the four day event to post photos, reminders and links to download the app. My favorite posts during the event were the Good Morning posts which greeted attendees, occasionally recapped event from the prior evening and shared info about breakfast and the morning conference sessions. These were friendly, personable and had a relaxed tone. Each day an album of photo recaps was posted on this channel. This channel was a valuable platform for information about the event as it was happening.
At first look, Twitter was the main platform used during the event. There were constant updates throughout the entire four day event. But almost, in my opinion, too many tweets. Day One – 28 tweets, day two – 26 tweets, day three – 34 tweets and day four – 22 tweets. I felt it was a little excessive and some followers may find this amount of posting frustrating and overwhelming. Most of these tweets only garnered single digit retweets or favorites. So it could be argued that this level of communication wasn’t as effective as planned.
Some great things they used their Twitter channel for included a sponsored post and cross promotion of their other social channels. A tweet went out on day three promoting an exhibitor’s booth at the trade show. Mercer Culinary was having a Blow Out Sale at Booth 1549. This is a prime example of Twitter working during an event to drive traffic to certain locations inside the event. Not only was this tactic used to increase flow for the Mercer booth, this type of promotion was used to direct attention and traffic to the contests held at the event.
Catersource used social media to tweet updates on the Diced competition taking place, including tweets leading up to the event, thank you to sponsors of the competition and announcements of judges and the winners. Catersource also used their Twitter channel to share photos they originally posted on Instagram.
The most active channel for engagement was Instagram, which was used to execute 50 posts over the four days and most of those images received double digit double taps.
It should also be noted that Catersource pinned to the conference board on their Pinterest profile seven times and did not use their Google+ account at all. They appeared to have one preview video on YouTube months before the event and this would be a good opportunity to use this channel in the coming weeks to share recap videos.
Overall, their branding was consistent across all three channels and carried the theme and look of the event. They used their chosen hashtag, #CSES2015, on all their channels and posts making it easy for attendees to follow the conversation and get information about the show. e Catersource team shared content promoting their exhibitor and sponsors but could have added a spotlight or two about those companies that made their event possible. Most posts included images and/or links and many included tags of a sponsor, exhibitor, speaker or winner. They were also sure to incorporate retweets of what their attendees were sharing.
An additional source of integrated marketing communication was the Catersource website. This is where anything and everything related to the the conference and trade show was housed. Video recorded conference sessions are being offered on-demand for a fee which is an excellent way to offer conference content to any who could not attend. I opted in to their emails and newsletter from this site while the show was in session but didn’t receive anything directly related to the event.
What Stood Out
In researching how Catersource promoted their event in the months before arriving in Las Vegas, I discovered Catersource’s 12 Days of Holiday Giving on Instagram. For 12 business days last December, Catersource offered a daily prize drawing to boost registration for the event. This promotion capitalized on the holiday season while promoting their event and encouraging a call to action.
What Was Missing
After the Event
At the time this post was made, Catersource had yet to do any follow up of the event on their social media channels. The show ended with one tweet thanking the sponsors and attendees for a great show and see you next year. This post didn’t make it to their other two channels though. There wasn’t a single Facebook post on the last day of the show. That channel was completely silent on day four. This is not to say they didn’t rock the last day of the show on Twitter and Instagram. But once the show was over, communication ceased. This is something to be very careful of while promoting an event. Don’t drop the ball once the event is over even though your entire team may be exhausted. Have post planned and schedule to capitalize on the momentum from the show to begin promoting next year’s event or recapping the highlights of this one.