Got a Trade Show Coming Up? How to Use Instagram While You're There

Rebecca Goldring
Rebecca Goldring



instagram_ads-1Think about the last time you put together a booth for a trade show or conference. You probably made sure your signage was noticeable, brochures were printed far ahead of time, and you had enough people to staff your area during the entire conference. You checked off every item on your to-do list so you could have a flawless booth.

Hate to break it to you, but you still forgot something. There's one very inboundy, inexpensive trade show tactic that you missed: an Instagram presence. Using this photo-sharing social network, you can better engage your booth attendees and maybe even grow your database with warm leads at the same time. 

So if you're curious about how to integrate Instagram into your other trade show activities, keep on reading. We'll walk you through all the things you need to do with the platform to make it successful for your business. 

1) Know the Event Hashtag

Find out the event hashtag before attending or establish one if you are hosting -- you want your photos to be easy to discover. Use the hashtag stream to find your prospects photos and ask them to visit your booth, like their photos to build on your lead nurturing process, and post your own photos to the hashtag, too. Just make sure to not go overboard on any one of the three -- you don't want t come across as spammy. In moderation, each of these tactics can help you better engage with event attendees. 

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2) Engage With Geo-Tags

Geo-tags link photos back to a specific place -- if you click on a geo-tag, you can see both a map and all other photos taken in that place. Unlike a hashtag, these geo-tags are easier for Instagram users to remember and activate -- so they're a great place for you to monitor and post to, too. 

At trade shows, make sure to not only tag your photos with the venue name but also click into it to like and comment on other exhibitors' photos. It’s a great way to encourage people to come visit your booth for a much more inbound interaction. You can even go further with your geo-tags by creating custom locations and linking to “Booth 22” or “Main Lobby” so attendees will know exactly where to find you.

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3) Build Your Database

The most powerful use of Instagram at trade shows is actually being able to passively build your database with it. To do this, you’ll need to create a landing page specific to the event you’re attending or hosting. You can use this checklist for powerful landing page copy to help you.

During the event, you’ll paste that landing page URL into the website area of your Instagram profile -- not in individual photos. (Links in photos aren't clickable.) When anyone finds your page, they will be able to click the link in your description, get taken to your website, and then fill out a form on your event-tailored landing page to add themselves to your database.

Bonus: If you're a HubSpot customer on the COS, your landing pages are already mobile optimized!

4) Amplify Your Reach

Photos are typically the best-performing content across most popular social networks, so you should maximize your reach and push your Instagram photos out to your other social platformsUnfortunately, it's not as simple as selecting the social networks you want to push this photo to right before you post the photo.

Photos sent from Instagram to Twitter attach as a link rather than showing the photo preview automatically and have a lower engagement rate. However, you can hack your Instagram by setting up a Zap on Zapier or IFTTT recipe to push your Instagram photos automatically to post as Twitter photo previews.

Sharing to a Facebook Page rather than an individual profile takes one extra step, too. Here's how to do it.

So if you want to amplify your reach at your next event, make sure you've set up these workarounds before you arrive -- you never know what the WiFi and/or cell coverage will be like at the event. 

5) Run a Contest

There are number of ways to engage your trade show attendees with an Instagram contest.

For light prospect interaction, take a well-composed photo including your logo, what you’re giving away, and the word “giveaway.” Ask followers to like, retweet, and follow your account for a chance to win.

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For moderate prospect interaction, ask followers to put their own spin on your brand. A good example of this is Madewell who asked users to show how they use their Madewell tote bags with the accompanying hashtag #totewell. The best photos got a $1,000 shopping spree! This type of contest requires participants to create images of their own which shows deeper brand engagement.


For deeper prospect interaction, have attendees take the photo at your booth with your mascot or logo and award the person with the most likes on their Instagram account a prize. You can monitor entries by refreshing the contest hashtag.

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No matter what type of contest you run, make sure you're following Instagram's contest rules. I'd also recommend making sure the prize can only be picked up (whether it be physical or not) at your booth -- that way you gain an in-person interaction as well as an online one.

6) Promote Your Photos After the Event

After the event is over, you shouldn't let all of your hard work go to waste. Figure out how you can reuse and repurpose some of the event's Instagram posts on your website. For example, a round-up of all the Instagram images taken at an event could make a great blog post. You could also add your Instagram feed to your website to either cycle through as a slideshow or display as a grid. However you decide to use Instagram after the event is over is up to you -- just don't forget about it!

7) Track Instagram ROI

The ROI of Instagram is typically measured by calculating new follower growth and average number of likes per photo. You can calculate this this manually, but I would recommend making your life a lot easier and downloading a free app called Followers+In addition to follower growth and average number of likes per photo, this app will give you insights like the number of followers lost and gained (and their usernames), number or total likes across all of your photos, and a list of users following you that you are not following back.

Additionally, if you've included a landing page in your account description, you should track how many views, submissions, and maybe even customers resulted from your Instagram activities. If you have closed-loop marketing software in place, tracking all of that should be very easy. 

What other ideas do you have for using Instagram at events? Share your ideas with us in the comments. 

event planning resources

Topics: Trade Shows

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