You can find anything on the Internet, and there’s no shortage of How-to guides explaining exactly how to use social media to your advantage at trade shows. Unfortunately for anyone that doesn’t like totally wasting their time, most of these guides aren’t worth the pixels they’re printed on.

We aren’t Luddites with a contrarian streak, so we won’t tell you that social media isn’t worth your time. It is. That being said, think of social media marketing as a way to support your trade show exhibits, not as a magic tool that can solve all your problems. That might seem obvious, but many marketers talk about social media as a cure that will solve any problem.

So how do you use social media the right way?

  1. Manage Expectations

Managing your expectations is the first key to successfully incorporating social media into your trade show strategy. Some brands, products and industries will perform better on social media platforms. Video game companies, household name brands, and movie studios won’t have much trouble gaining traction on social media platforms while a trenchless plumbing company will face an uphill battle getting their hashtag to trend.

  1. Include Social Media in Your Custom Exhibit Displays

Increasingly, trade show exhibit design firms like ours are finding that companies want social media handles or hashtags included in their trade show exhibit design. Additionally, if companies print out fliers or business cards to support their custom exhibits, then it’s wise to include Twitter, Instagram or Linkedin profiles in those graphics as well. If the event has a custom hashtag associated with it, then be sure to use that tag as you use social media during the event.

  1. Use Photos To Your Advantage

Visuals and graphics are key to standing out on social media platforms, and the best custom exhibit design firms know it. By creating attractive, eye-grabbing custom exhibit designs, your company’s space is more likely to appear in photos of the event. But that’s not the only way to use visuals to your advantage.

Increasingly, custom exhibit displays include an area specifically designed so attendees can take photos. Some trade show booth builders create giant Instagram-style frame cutouts for people to pose with. If your trade show exhibit has an interactive or participatory element, then encourage visitors to take photos and tag your company in their social media posts.

  1. Get off the Phone!

Yes, social media is important, just like an inviting custom exhibit design is important. But most business still occurs face to face, with a handshake, smile, and conversation. Don’t become so preoccupied with curating your social media feeds that you have less time to spend interacting with visitors.

Remember: social media can be a great way to support your exhibit and trade show strategy, but it’s only one small part of a winning exhibition.