Strategic Social Media Marketing for Events

Strategic Social Media Marketing for Events

Social media has been around a long time, but are we tapping into its full potential when it comes to our events?

Monica Vila provides valuable insights, not only from her expertise in social media marketing, but also many years spent working in trade shows and events. In this rebroadcast of Virtual Lunch, you’ll discover how to enhance your social media marketing by:

  • Tapping influencer marketing within your audience
  • Learning from what consumer brands are doing
  • Building community in the right platforms for your audience
  • Introducing your audience from one platform to another

Here are links mentioned during the interview:

About Monica Vila

Monica Vila
Monica Vila

Monica Vila is Co-Founder and CMO at OM Media (or OMM as it’s known by its clients). OMM is one of the pioneer influencer and social marketing agencies launched in 2010 for consumer-facing and B2B brands working across all social platforms. Programs and activations for OMM’s clients run the gamut of platforms including Twitch, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Tik Tok, and Pinterest.

Prior to entering the social marketing world 11 years ago, Monica worked for years in the trade show industry at Reed, Blenheim, Miller Freeman, and Ziff Davis. She founded and sold two startups in the events space, and is comfortable across five languages.


[00:00:00.450] - Marlys Arnold

You're listening to the Trade Show Insights podcast, Season 16, Episode 11. I'm your host and exhibit marketing strategist, Marlys Arnold, bringing you tools to improve your exhibit results on today's episode, brought to you by the Exhibit Marketers Cafe, we've got a rebroadcast of our virtual lunch with a social media expert who also has a trade show background.

[00:01:02.990] - Marlys Arnold

Monica Vila is co-founder and CMO at OM Media, or OMM, as it's known by clients. OMM is one of the pioneer influencer and social media marketing agencies launched in 2010 for consumer facing and B2B brands working across all social platforms, programs and activation for OMM's clients run the gamut of platforms including Twitch, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Tic-Tac and Pinterest. Prior to entering the social marketing world 11 years ago, Monica worked for years in the trade show industry at Reed, Blenheim, Miller Freeman and Ziff Davis.

[00:01:40.010] - Marlys Arnold

She founded and sold to start ups in the event space and is comfortable across five languages. So, Monica, welcome to Virtual Lunch.

[00:01:49.630] - Monica Vila

Hey Marlys. How are you? Great to be here.

[00:01:52.040] - Marlys Arnold

Thanks. Thanks. It's great to have you. There is so much to talk about in the realm of social media. And I think where I want to start, though, is. I think a lot of events are not not utilizing social media to its best advantage, so talk a little, since you have that that combination of the social media and the events background, talk a little bit about what are some of the maybe what some of the things that events do wrong and what they could do better with their social media marketing.

[00:02:23.050] - Monica Vila

Also, the big question, yeah, yeah, I want to start by criticizing people now. I haven't quite honestly, I haven't been involved in trade shows or events in that form for a while. But when I launched OM Media Group about 10 years ago, in fact, I announced it in 2008 when the world basically caved in.

[00:02:52.810] - Marlys Arnold

Yeah, the last time.

[00:02:54.020] - Monica Vila

So although I did hear that, you know, recessions and events like that are great moments to launch new businesses like now or as it feels right now anyway. So I would say that what has happened is a lot of events have used social media as a way to recruit attendance because, you know, attendance, attendance, recruitment, people actually coming to our shows used to be perhaps one of the most challenging events like. It was really, really where we focused a lot of our spend and energies and strategy, at least for the events that I have been involved in.

[00:03:43.960] - Monica Vila

The last week show I ran actually was Comdex and Comdex in Las Vegas didn't really have that problem, but there were a multitude of Comdex versions around the world. And it was always a challenge to to make sure that the I.T. folks that we were hoping to invite to attend and walk those aisles would come. And so I've seen a lot of great events use social media to to invite and to actually extend the promotional efforts. And unfortunately, social media is not they're not really platforms designed or one way speak their platform for engagement.

[00:04:33.460] - Monica Vila

And as you know and as we've seen in the last year, a lot of what can happen live can happen online. We can see each other. We can talk to each other. We can negotiate. And so there's so much more that we can be doing for events with social platforms at the moment.

[00:04:56.380] - Marlys Arnold

Well, so let's talk a little bit. I know that what you do at OM Media is you focus a lot on influencer marketing in the trade show and events world. How do we tap into that influence your marketing concept?

[00:05:09.850] - Monica Vila

Yeah, it's it's really I get super excited about talking on this because it's still very underutilized. And I think the challenge is that everyone's an influencer these days, it's exploded as a platform. It's expected to be sort of billions of dollars marketer spending on influencers, but they're not all created equal. They're not all effective. And just because they have a million followers doesn't mean they're going to do the job for you for what you're hoping to accomplish. So I would actually say one of the clients that we've worked for, we did kind of a multiple step process for them.

[00:05:55.480] - Monica Vila

It was a big event and we did an audit of how they were using their social media strategy. How was that being deployed? Looked at their handles. We did an in-depth analysis, really of where they were. They had a Facebook page. They had a Twitter account. They had dabbled in new platforms, newer platforms, video platforms. And so we did a full audit, the same. What are you hoping to what what business goal are you hoping to support?

[00:06:26.680] - Monica Vila

And so that's a great start. And, um, I find social platforms and maybe I was trained by someone who was so single minded around sales. His name was Bob Cracoff. Some people might know him. He died too young, really for my taste. But his focus was always, how does it support your revenue objectives? Really, because it's nice to have a big social presence and to have a lot of conversation perhaps going on. But really, how does it support your business goals?

[00:07:01.060] - Monica Vila

And so we focus a lot on that. So, for example, this event I'm talking about, I'm not allowed to actually share which one it is, but

[00:07:09.320] - Marlys Arnold

Well, sure.

[00:07:11.260] - Monica Vila

What you know, at some point. It was basically business goals. So sales let's talk about sales, sponsorship, sales, exhibit sales and. How do you offer additional reach with your own social platforms, with your own handles to support, say, your top five sponsors, because you can really measure, reach and impressions in CPM conversations, digital marketing, you can't really live without CPM metrics.

[00:07:48.240] - Monica Vila

And now you can speak that language really? Because in the past, trade shows were all about the flesh, know pound the flesh. How many people are walking the aisles, the busier the better. We used to say, you know, at Comdex, if you can't walk down the aisle, that's a successful event. I can't imagine anything worse these days. Certainly post pandemic, but we emerge from that. And you mentioned it in your credits, right?

[00:08:19.030] - Monica Vila

It's people are skittish about getting too close to people. And so and then, quite honestly, Comdex, we realized so many attendees were coming from the southern desert of Nevada. And so that's great. That's a lot of people. But are you really giving value to your exhibitors and your sponsors by adding so many bodies that are not really.

[00:08:46.080] - Marlys Arnold

Exactly. Well, and that's one thing I've always said is just because you've got bodies walking the aisles doesn't mean they're buyers. Because, you know, just I would rather have a smaller attendance of really highly qualified people, which, by the way, is a benefit right now because of the people who actually are coming to the shows are the ones who are the most serious. And that's the one thing I've been hearing from exhibitors across the board. So let's talk a little bit about some examples, maybe from consumer brands, because, you know, maybe maybe some of the trade shows haven't quite got it mastered yet.

[00:09:22.650] - Marlys Arnold

But the other day when we had our conversation, you mentioned peloton, for one example. So talk a little bit about what some of the consumer brands are doing that trade shows could copy.

[00:09:32.790] - Monica Vila

Yeah, but yeah, I mean, I think in the issue of influencer marketing, we've done this work now across brands for the NFL, for Verizon. We've launched a few new products, tech. We've supported Swiffer really across the board. And the bottom line is, in the case of influencer marketing, if you spend one dollar, you'll get seven dollars back. And that's extensively researched by McKinsey and many other brands. What consumer brands are doing that I think Trade Shows could copy is engage a targeted group of influencers in that space that may communicate with your exhibitors customers to buy into the concept of your show.

[00:10:26.310] - Monica Vila

And so, for example, take if Verizon is launching a new smartphone with Samsung and it's a 5G enabled device, that what is 5G mean and 5G for a gamer means that they can have almost no lag in in an online game, for example. And so if you engage gaming influencers, people that are constantly say on Twitch, these are by the way, they're not couch basement types anymore. You know, gamers are among us. They're people like.

[00:11:06.460] - Monica Vila

And so if you find those influencers that have, you know, potentially a great feed, they could be photographers, they could have other day jobs, but they're also gamers and they're going to talk about the product in the context of what it means to them. You really have a very powerful connection between your product, say, in the case of a show and your exhibitors products. I don't know about the kitchen and bath show, and many of these may not even exist anymore.

[00:11:36.990] - Monica Vila

But say the kitchen and bath show your top sponsors, you know, some new appliances and you have people that are actually using them prior to the show and talking about how they connect to the Internet and how you go to the grocery store. And now your refrigerator is telling your smartphone that you don't have any milk. So you can really be showcasing exhibitor products the way consumer brands are showcasing their own products through the use of influencers. But in ways that describe the value, what does it mean?

[00:12:14.610] - Monica Vila

So 5G means something different to a fifty five plus person that wants to be safe. Wants to be able to get in a car and drive and know that his or her phone will stay connected, then what it means to be a gamer, as we said, or what it means to a young mom. And the trick is not to use social media so that you can say you're actually on social media and maybe you get three re-tweets or or 10 comments.

[00:12:44.460] - Monica Vila

It's more about really explaining the benefits. What what job are you getting done through social platforms?

[00:12:53.970] - Marlys Arnold

Well, and I love that because like you said, when you've got actual audience members who are using the products and talking about, it's so much more authentic and real because it's not it's not just all the show is putting out all of this information and just all the exhibitors themselves and just promoting themselves. But it's coming from the actual audience and the actual users. And I think that's what's so valuable. And that's another one of the trends that has come out of the past year that is going to be ongoing is that people look to even celebrities, they're looking to them now to be more authentic and more transparent.

[00:13:33.270] - Marlys Arnold

And I think that is key on what you were just talking about, is tapping into that authentic, real, real life. Hey, this is what I do. I remember several years ago Kristen Bell and her husband, I can't remember what his name was, but they were doing the commercials for the refrigerators. And, you know, and just so you kind of felt like your behind the scenes, you're watching them just doing things in their house or whatever.

[00:13:56.670] - Marlys Arnold

And I think people really related to that. And so I think that's one thing, like you said, that that shows need to to grasp that having these influencers that are just, you know, not even powerful, but necessarily but just real world people in the audience. So that I think that's really cool. I want to shift gears a little bit just because it's kind of it was like a hot thing. And then now maybe not so hot is what's called audio marketing.

[00:14:28.650] - Marlys Arnold

And so, of course, Club House was the big thing. And I know last year it was like we were all jealous of everybody who could get on and while we couldn't. And then I finally got on this spring and I feel like about the time I got on, everything kind of slowed down. But maybe maybe it really hasn't. And then I know there's Twitter spaces, which you told me about and I tried to get on, but it seems like with that one you have to have somebody you follow who's doing a space currently in order to get in.

[00:14:55.440] - Marlys Arnold

And I every time I tried to get in, I couldn't. So so talk a little bit about do you think this is going to pick back up? Do you think Twitter Space's is going to take off or where do we go from here?

[00:15:07.650] - Monica Vila

So I feel like that conversation is a little bit like, do I need this conference table? If it's so interesting to me and it's a fair question, everybody asks the question and I, I kind of go back to. What are you hoping to accomplish? You know, we talked about peloton is it's a it's a stationary bike without its community and the focus is build the community. And where is your community going to be? Where can you grow it?

[00:15:42.130] - Monica Vila

Where can you get yourself known and add value? And that's the platform that you go for. If you think about Pinterest, Pinterest has been around for such a long time since the beginning of social platforms, and it's probably one of the most successful platforms lately. Right. They've done so many right things. Is that the right platform for you? We can't just keep going to the newest, shiniest object because, yes, audio is an important space.

[00:16:15.190] - Monica Vila

We see on the explosion of podcasts. You have a very successful platform yourself, but it starts with and again, do you need that conference table? It's not about it's not about how you do it. It's what are you trying to do and how are you going to build a community if you don't have a community around your event and around your product, even if it's small, you probably don't have a lot of long life with it. It's going to it's not easy to innovate.

[00:16:48.790] - Monica Vila

It's not easy to really communicate directly. And I'm really talking a little bit more here about consumer, the consumer space. As far as B2B, there are some very powerful groups meeting regularly on clubhouse. If that's a community, for example, VCs a lot of well, then that could make sense. And so there's communities. Did you know, for example, that Twitch has a thriving music community? No, they're not even gaming. Twitch has perhaps 14 or so.

[00:17:26.230] - Monica Vila

It's like 13 or 14 thriving categories. Burberry's did a fashion show on Twitch.

[00:17:33.800] - Marlys Arnold

Oh, really?

[00:17:34.760] - Monica Vila

They weren't targeting gamers. So this is kind of a little bit of the work that we do is we look at on a product by product or event by event and say what what is the underlying way in which you want to build a community and have direct contact with your attendees and your exhibitors, that you can be in a position of being a thought leader as the event producer and and communicate and build that conversation and engagement.

[00:18:06.940] - Monica Vila

So when you have the live event, you've probably secured ten influencers to start talking about new products, because one thing that hasn't gone away is that. It's a little bit like 30 percent or even a little more than 30 percent of attendees are coming to a trade show or a consumer show to see what's new.

[00:18:26.540] - Marlys Arnold


[00:18:27.290] - Monica Vila

And it may be new to them. So it's not necessarily a product that's just been introduced. It could be it could be a product they haven't seen before.

[00:18:36.320] - Monica Vila

And so you have to if you cater to that one goal in your event, then social platforms are going to be extremely powerful to help you build that buzz and get more people to come. But also, if you're streaming, you get more people to join your streams. And to me, that is actually more important. Build a community that's going to give you a quality about your product that you may not already have. And again, that peloton versus just the bike we all had.

[00:19:09.800] - Monica Vila

Stationary bikes are incredible coathangers. But Pelton and let me tell you, if you don't get on your peloton in a week and you've been getting on once or twice, they're chasing you. They're sending you emails and they're like, hey, we haven't seen you in a while. And where have you been?

[00:19:27.560] - Marlys Arnold

The guilt factor?

[00:19:28.540] - Monica Vila

It's, well, little guilt, but also little like, hey, we have this new, you know, five videos from your favorite instructor and you have yoga.

[00:19:38.900] - Monica Vila

Would you like to join this class? So that's a community to me, you know, and it's not just the product. And I think that social platforms, any of them and any combination, you know, I tend to stay away from Facebook. I'm a little biased. I prefer other platforms. Again, like Twitch can really support that goal at the very least of what's new.

[00:20:08.040] - Marlys Arnold

Well, and I think it probably all goes back to maybe a good place to start is to survey your your audience for your show and find out what platforms they're on, because like Burberry doing a fashion show on Twitch, I mean, how did they ever come up with that idea?

[00:20:23.250] - Marlys Arnold

Yeah, so, no, I think just figuring out which platforms you need to focus on because we can't like I haven't done TicTok. I haven't done to which I haven't even done Instagram because I focus on like the big four of Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Facebook because that's where I feel like my audience is. But maybe I'm missing a whole crowd of people on Twitch and TicTok I don't know

[00:20:49.740] - Monica Vila

Well, it's possible. But you're right, you need to find out where they are.

[00:20:54.060] - Monica Vila

But don't don't forget that if you, for example, do a stream on YouTube and you're opening your show and it's your first day, so you have a live stream on YouTube and you introduce them to your Twitch channel or you introduce them there to your Facebook page, or you create a private Facebook group for your community. Those are the kinds of things that you can actually bring an audience from one place to another. People that are online that are in a platform, it's it's a great way to start for sure to survey them.

[00:21:29.940] - Monica Vila

But once you start adding value, once they see, oh, I don't want to miss this tweet, we all have those people that we check and we go, I don't want to miss this one. This one's too funny. I never want to miss those Instagram posts from this one guy who I cry laughing every single morning and he puts one up every single day and I inevitably cry laughing It's too funny. So you want to be that that's the goal.

[00:21:55.200] - Monica Vila

Is you want to be that resource, when someone's like, OK, let me check out my industry news, which is what I use Twitter for it. To be honest, I can't afford to read stuff I need to read. But with Twitter I get curated resources. You want to be as an event, you want to be one of those curated resources for your exhibitors, for your sponsors and for your attendees.

[00:22:17.610] - Marlys Arnold

And I love that. I love that. I think that's a perfect point to end with because that is true. That is what especially going forward, building that community and curating the content is where it's going to be for event organizers going forward. Monica, thank you so much. Alan's going to put up your website link here, but tell us how people can get in touch with you or how you can help them going forward. I know you had something you'd mentioned to me previously.

[00:22:44.880] - Monica Vila

Oh, no, thank you. Yeah. I'm Monica J. Vila on LinkedIn. So look me up and send me a send me a connection request. I'd love to. Yeah, I'd love to meet I I really miss my trade show days. I'm grateful for Marco Barazi, who I stay in touch with. He's like a brother to me and I'm so grateful that I'm still in touch with him. But yeah, absolutely. If you if anybody needs a quick audit and some quick time, I'd love to spend some time with with that medium that I've grown up in. Really.

[00:23:26.840] - Marlys Arnold

You can find all the links mentioned during our interview in this episode, show notes at And if you'd like to join us for an upcoming virtual lunch, you'll find info on that at

[00:23:53.250] - Marlys Arnold

If you enjoyed today's episode and would like more, you can subscribe to the podcast and automatically receive future episodes on your chosen device, simply search for Trade Show Insights in Apple, Spotify, Stitcher or virtually anywhere else that podcasts are found. Then click the subscribe button. Trade Show Insights is protected by the Creative Commons copyright license, you may feel free to share this recording with colleagues or embed it on your own blog as long as it's shared in its entirety and is not used for commercial purposes.

[00:24:28.010] - Marlys Arnold

To learn more, please see the link in the sidebar, the show notes at Well, that's it for this episode of Trade Show Insights. Be sure to check out our show Notes and Archives at You can also connect with me using the social media links or the contact page on the site. I'm Marlys Arnold. Thanks for listening and be sure to join us next time for more tools to improve your exhibit results.


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