Not that long ago, it was standard protocol to leave a stack of forms outside of your trade show booth and hope that your guests would be able to provide you with actionable feedback that you could apply to your next presentation. Not only did these forms contribute to the 600,000 tons of waste produced each year at trade shows, but they were also likely to be inaccurate.
With the rise of social media, business professionals are far more likely to share their opinions about trade show presenters on the internet, where the eyes of the entire world can see. If you hit a homerun with your presentation, you'll get a positive PR boost online. But what about if your guests have criticisms about you in the aftermath of a show? How can you protect your reputation online, while also learning how you can improve for your next show?
Social media monitoring is a real-time, inexpensive approach you should consider. More than half of the respondents to a recent State of Search study said that they spent $100 per month on social media monitoring. Here's how you can join them:
1) Twitter Event Hashtags
There's no more real-time social media platform than Twitter. If you're constantly on Twitter during a trade show and someone uses the event-assigned hashtag to criticize your company, you'll know about it before he or she can reach the other side of the hall. This isn't to say that people talking about you will necessarily use the event hashtag. You may want to try searching your company name too.
2) Google Alerts
Just like Twitter searches, Google Alerts are completely free and quite effective. All you have to do is enter specific search terms (i.e., your company, the name of the trade show) and you'll get an email each time content that includes those phrases appears online. Alerts may not be as up-to-the-second as Twitter searches, but they are likely to capture discussions taking place even in deepest corners of the internet.
3) RSS Feeds
If you know that certain news sources are always posting about your industry, you should add them to your RSS feed so that you'll immediately know if they mention your company's trade show appearance, or an issue you have knowledge of. The first step to becoming a respected thought leader in your industry is staying apprised of hot industry topics.
4) Comments and Forums
Comment Sniper, ccComment, Board Reader and Google Trends are some of the most valuable monitoring tools at your disposal. Comment threads and forums could be full of criticisms for your brand after a trade show, so it's important for you to be proactive in engaging with these business professionals. Some of these tools help you monitor forums, while others alert you when a relevant news topic is posted, so that you can be the first and (hopefully) the most-viewed comment on the page.
If you're managing your online reputation yourself using a number of different tools, you need a landing spot for all of the information to be held. With Evernote, which has other trade show benefits, you can use a computer or your mobile device to pool screenshots of tweets, headlines of relevant news stories and countless other content items as they appear. This allows you to go back and analyze the information in your own time.
Is your business doing enough to protect its online reputation?
A PR Newswire survey earlier this year found that even though less than 40 percent of businesses monitor online conversations about them daily, only 3 percent don't do it at all. Companies are on the right track. Still, there's always room for improvement, especially immediately after trade shows.
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