For exhibit and event professionals  

I’m not antisocial, but …

October 4, 2013 By Editor

I sense our trade show program is going to get the squeeze in favor of social media. Does anyone have a good argument proving social media needs something to talk about, and face-to-face experiences provide just that?

— Hayley, marketing manager

No Social MediaReaders of eConnections' September email newsletter responded to Haley's dilemma.

Face-to-face meetings and social media often have different, sometimes complementary, objectives, so substituting one for the other isn’t a good idea. But how do you convey this to your boss?

eConnections' readers think you should:

  • Discuss the value of the personal touch.
  • Compare the benefits of both.
  • Replace theory with facts.

Discuss the value of the personal touch

Few people familiar with marketing can deny the value of meeting clients and prospects in person.

A marketing assistant discusses how to use this concept to convince your boss that foregoing events in favor of social media is counterproductive.

“Explain to your boss that, with face-to-face meetings, you can answer all questions fully and anticipate clients’ needs by picking up on subtle, nonverbal clues. In addition, customers and prospects have a ‘face’ to put with your company, a human connection that can inspire the confidence in your brand that leads not only to sales but to customer loyalty.

“Social media can provide product and company information, but it’s no substitute for personal contact. To prove your point, do some online research. I’m sure you’ll be able to find plenty of articles that discuss the necessity of face-to-face contact in acquiring leads — and sales.”

Compare the benefits of both

Undoubtedly, social media and face-to-face contact have specific benefits. But a comparison of these can tilt the scales in favor of personal interactions.

An exhibits manager believes this objective approach may be your best bet.

“Social media contacts can develop into business relationships, but face-to-face meetings give you direct personal contact, and you can delve into a deeper level of communication. And, although social media may appear more cost effective, is it really? Someone has to manage the accounts, make daily/weekly posts, respond to comments, build content and keep it moving. How many employees does it take to do all that?

“My advice: Create a one-page document that objectively weighs the pros and cons of the two and present it to the powers that decide your trade show program’s fate. This way, you can educate them and let them think they came to their own conclusion.”

Replace theory with facts

Since managers like to see data, demonstrate the value of your program in terms your boss can readily grasp.

A conference manager provides a detailed plan that can produce the facts you need.

“If your company already has a social media program, ask the administrator for a list of companies with employees who visited your site(s), starting with the date of your last show and continuing out three months from then. Next, ask someone in marketing for a list of sales covering the same period.

“Compare your leads from the show to the names of companies that have done business with your company. Do the same with the social media list. Write down the dates for each sale and where it may have originated.

“This will give you cold, hard facts to evaluate your exhibiting vs. social media results. Also, write down how often social media participation was a result of your company participating in a show (the visits began after the show, not before).

“It’s going to take some work to do all this, but it should help prove using social media alone won’t produce the results your company gets now — with exhibiting as a main focus and social media as an adjunct.”

What do you think? Can face-to-face meetings and social media work together, or should one be chosen over the other?


  • Social media can provide information, but any “conversations” are pretty one-dimensional, without the clues or understanding that might lead to sales. Plus, words can easily be misinterpreted when they’re written in a vacuum. And, while social media has its place (e.g., announcing product launches, promoting sales, etc.), it can’t replace or replicate the relationships people can develop with each other when they interact face to face.

    Hayley should explain these facts to her boss and provide research to prove her point face-to-face meetings don’t just provide something to talk about via social media; they lay the groundwork for long-term, more productive business relationships.

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