May 07, 2018 / in Comms Best Practices / by Erienne Muldoon

Before making an important decision in your life, who do you go to for advice? It’s probably your partner, family member, or longtime friend. We trust the people closest to us because we have established relationships with them and know that they have our best interests at heart.

When you’re making lighter decisions, like where to go for brunch or what brand of hiking shoes to buy, you might step out of your inner circle to ask for recommendations. We are far more likely to take action when someone we know vouches for a company than we are when confronted by a traditional ad. People are skeptical of promises from brands, but not friends.

This is why influencer marketing is so successful — and critical to growing key trade show or event metrics.

Who is Considered an Influencer?

An influencer is someone with a specialized passion, expertise, or topical authority who has significant power to affect the purchasing decisions of others.

While there are many types of influential personas — and quite a bit of debate amongst marketers about who technically fits under the “influencer” umbrella — there are a few groups that stand out.

Celebrities, journalists, bloggers and social media stars are the most obvious choices. However, any individual with the ability to shape the opinions, conversations, trends and actions of their audience can be considered an influencer.

Niche “micro influencers” represent the Goldilocks zone for many brands. Not only do they command a substantial number of active followers, but they’re also far more familiar and relatable than a superstar.

For example, “Sweet John” Muehlbauer of Rocksauce Studios was one of the lucky few to participate in HBO’s Westworld activation at SXSW in advance of the show’s season 2 premiere. As a brand that relies on word-of-mouth marketing, HBO was counting on social chatter from influencers to create buzz about the show — and it worked. @SweetJohn shared a live stream on Twitter that let his 2,400+ followers experience some of the event’s magic:

On the other end of the spectrum, Tim Burton—better known as “Shmee150”—is an auto industry influencer who commands 1 million+ Instagram followers alone. He regularly attends auto shows and meetups, previewing the coolest cars and latest technology for his audience. At the Geneva International Motor Show (GIMS), he gave a coveted #firstlook at new vehicles like this one

Who the best influencers are for your brand will be contingent on your industry, target audience and campaign goals.  For example, if you’re looking to generate awareness about a new event, your influencer search will look a lot different than if your goal is to sell tickets quickly.

The good news is that most events are naturally in the business of working with influencers already; they can usually be found giving keynote addresses or moderating and participating in panel discussions.

What Are The Benefits of Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing inspires action: 74 percent of consumers say word-of-mouth recommendations are key influencers in their purchasing decisions. Therefore, it’s probably not surprising that “influencer marketing content delivers 11X higher ROI than traditional forms of digital marketing.”

If that hasn’t swayed you already, influencer marketing can also result in:

  • New, original content creation: Influencers can create authentic content in the medium that resonates best with their audiences, such as blog posts. Product reviews are the most common type of content that we expect to see from influencers for consumer brands, but many other formats are just as persuasive. Stunning Instagram images, live video streams, and consistent tweets can all drive social proof (even in a B2B space).

  • Quality audience reach: An influencer’s following is coveted because it is loyal, active and engaged. What're 100,000 impressions, especially if they’re from the wrong demographic/firmographic and couldn’t care less about the content? Influencers will amplify a brand’s message (in their own way, of course) by putting it in front of a target audience that is invested in everything the influencer has to say — efficiently reaching exponentially more potential customers than the company would on its own.

  • Authentic action: Providing value is at the heart of every brand’s mission. The best influencers will be in tune with the needs, concerns and wishes of their followers. When these two types of titans come together in a genuine partnership, each party benefits. An engaged follower will be primed to visit a website, sign up for a newsletter, spread the word, or even make an immediate purchase.

Ryan ToysReview is an extremely popular YouTube channel starring a young child, Ryan, who reviews toys. With 13 million subscribers, it’s not surprising that toy brands want his seal of approval. At Toy Fair — a B2B trade-only event where children are normally not permitted — Ryan was able to attend and try out all the hottest toys. With 2.25 million views and counting, these brands got a lot of consumer exposure from his video:

Whether you’re looking to move the needle on awareness or see a spike in registrations, an influencer marketing partnership can make a big impact on your bottom line.

How Can Influencers Shape Events?

As an event organizer, think about your hallmarks for success. You probably want to see attendance go up, booth space sell out, sponsorships increase and panels expand — all while creating a memorable, productive experience. Influencer marketing can help you check off all of those boxes.

Influencers can be your brand’s ticket to:

  • Local leverage. Whether your event is in Las Vegas, New York, or anywhere in between, consider adding a local influencer to the headliners. Not only will this help draw in more attendees from the area, but it can give you a boost in local news coverage. Plus, if your event changes locations each year or is debuting in a new city, a local influencer relationship can help with rapport.

  • Earned media. Did you know that audiences view earned media as the most authentic form of marketing? If your event struggles to attract media attention or is looking for new story angles, an influencer partnership can be the newsworthy jumpstart you need. For example, involve the influencer in educational event programming or other content tracks. This can generate pre-show buzz about a core part of the show — bringing in larger crowds who will benefit from the influencer’s perspective.

  • Digital longevity. Face-to-face experiences are invaluable. However, an online component can amplify those experiences and give them staying power. Almost all influencers will have a solid digital footprint that can be leveraged in various ways. Whether they do live blogging, streaming, or otherwise document and recap the event through their lens, your event will take on new life. Bonus: those who couldn’t attend will still get some exposure to the show, whetting their appetite for next year’s event.

The best events are malleable; they evolve with the industry and are receptive to changing audiences. While it’s tempting to be hesitant about working with influencers, this tactic is not just for consumer brands – it’s for any business that wants a stronger community.

In an industry that hinges on relationships, connections, and experiences, influencer marketing is crucial to making trade shows even more personal.


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About Erienne Muldoon

Erienne Muldoon is a senior customer content specialist for Virtual Press Office, PR Newswire’s trade show marketing solutions division. When she's not advising clients on storytelling best practices, you can find her tweeting about Cleveland, PR, and video games @ECMuldoon.