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Leveraging Trade Shows Beyond the Hashtag: How Economic Development Organizations Can Host a Twitter Chat


Twitter Chat


Twitter is one of the best social media platforms to start a conversation with people attending trade shows. In addition to using a trade show hashtag to promote your booth and organization during an event, hosting a Twitter chat will allow you to engage with prospective investors, industry leaders, site selectors, media and other relevant contacts. A number of economic development organizations (EDOs) are testing Twitter chats as stand-alone social media initiatives, but we have not seen this tactic used much in association with trade shows. Here’s how to open the doors for your EDO to stand out by using a Twitter chat at a trade show.

Picking a Hashtag for Your Twitter Chat

The hashtag your EDO uses for a Twitter chat should be separate from the trade show hashtag. If the trade show hashtag is short, you can add your EDO’s acronym on to it, in the format of #[ORG]at[SHOW] or #[SHOW][ORG]. Thinking ahead to hosting chats in the future, you may want to consider your organization acronym in the hashtag form of #[ORG]chat or simply whatever hashtag you’ve already created to promote your organization so that you can use it again. Whatever you pick, make sure to do an online search to make sure the hashtag isn’t already being used prominently – you want it to be unique to your chat. The use of a hashtag will allow all users participating in your Twitter chat to follow the conversation easily.

When to Host Your Twitter Chat

  • The Pre-Trade Show Twitter Chat: Chats before a trade show are a great way to find out what companies are attending a trade show, while also promoting your booth to attendees who might not otherwise have thought to stop by.
  • The During-Trade Show Twitter Chat: Chats during a trade show have the power to leverage the trade show’s hashtag while a large audience is following it. EDOs have the opportunity to attract trade show-goers to its booth, while following up quickly afterword. The other advantage? You can live stream tweets from the chat on laptops, iPads or a projector at your booth during the trade show.
  • The Post-Trade show Twitter Chat: Chats after a trade show are a great way to drive traffic back to your website and set up more in-depth meetings, with prospective companies you may or may not have met with during a show.

Organizing Your Twitter Chat

An early step in planning a Twitter chat is deciding on a moderator.  This could be your EDO’s Twitter handle, an executive from your EDO, the Twitter handle of a partner organization or a combination of all. Whichever handle you decide on will be the account that tweets each discussion question, moderates the time and retweets helpful answers.

Successful Twitter chats are always planned out to the minute. Most include five to six questions – enough for about eight minutes per question, plus introduction and conclusion. Each question should include “Q1, Q2, Q3,” etc. and each answer will include “A1, A2, A3,” etc. so that users can follow the conversation (in addition to using the hashtag decided upon above, in all tweets). 

What to Discuss During Your Twitter Chat

The aim of any organization’s Twitter chat is to moderate a conversation around something it’s knowledgeable in. For EDOs, this means having some key messaging tweets ready to lead and weave in the conversation, while letting users converse naturally.

  • General Company Expansion Questions: Ask your Twitter audience what they are looking for in a location expansion or their goals of attending the trade show. Have prepared key messaging answers on why your location can provide what they need.
  • State of the Industry: Ask your Twitter audience for commentary on recent news relating to whatever industry is represented at the trade show your EDO is attending. During answers, have a recent example of industry news in your region.
  • Workforce: If your Twitter chatters are companies that will be at the trade show, ask about the most innovative workforce initiatives they’ve seen to grow their employment or what would help their corporation. Be sure to include an answer about how your region is fueling talent growth.

Whatever you do, make sure that the conversations your EDO decides on for its chat are conversational and not too promotional. For each question, you should have a few strong talking points while also keeping the conversation informative and industry specific so that users don’t see it as biased.

Promoting Your Twitter Chat

Promoting a Twitter chat will be achieved in many of the ways you already market your EDO digitally. In addition to posting on social media with the designated trade show hashtag, a quick e-newsletter will draw additional exposure from people who may not have seen your EDO’s social media posts. Whether you sent a monthly recap of investments in your community, industry specific news blasts or special promotional newsletters, including the date, time and hashtag for your Twitter chat is a sure way to have people get it on their calendar. Using Twitter’s paid advertising is another option for getting the word out about the chat to users to whom your EDO may not have otherwise had access.

After the Twitter Chat

Twitter chats provide further opportunity to market your organization. Use Storify (basically a slideshow for social media conversations) to compile the best tweets and discussion from your Twitter chat. Your Storify can then be shared on social media and repurposed into blog content for your website or a recap e-newsletter. After all is said and done, thank participants in the chat. Depending how many people followed, you can send them personalized tweets or general recognition. Finally, don’t forget to pull your social media statistics to review the increased engagement and impressions with your EDO’s Twitter account.

Twitter chats are a great way to virtually connect with a large target audience. Have you hosted a Twitter chat in conjunction with a trade show your organization attended? Did you utilize any of the above strategies or have more to add? We’d love to hear from you – tweet @AboutDCI or drop me an email.

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