Fashion Week Show Demonstrates Why Your Trade Show Marketing Needs Instagram

We wanted to discuss how Instagram has suddenly appeared on a lot of radars, and why your trade show marketing needs Instagram.

As people are increasingly coming to discover, the world of social media is constantly changing, with services appearing, disappearing, or shifting in status every few months. Facebook continues to lead the way in terms of total usersbut brands of all types are discovering a very serious issue with engaging those users.

Basically, users on Facebook (and Twitter and most of the others) don't tend to comment on, like, or share branded content. In fact, according to some recent studies, the “top” social media sites tend to deliver less than .1% percent engagement rates on any piece of branded content. And please note that's point-one percent. Millions might be exposed to a post, but only hundreds actually engage with it.

Post images like this on instagram to promote your trade show

The exception is Instagram.

Instagram sees engagement rates above four percent, which is amazing for a social media marketing outlet. For whatever reason, Instagram users are far more willing to share and engage with official branded content, and we saw that vividly displayed throughout this year's New York Fashion Week. As one of the biggest trade shows / experiences in the world, it's a trendsetter in more than just clothing.

What Is This Instagram Thing Anyway?

If you're over the age of thirty-five or so, you may have only heard of Instagram in passing. For the last few years, even among those in the industry, it was disregarded as a “kiddie” social media platform, as it was largely embraced by teenagers and college-age students trying to get away from Facebook.

Since, of course, the more Boomers and Xers began using Facebook, the fewer Ys and Millennials wanted to hang around their older relatives.

Instagram began simply as a photo-sharing site, something like 500px or Flickr. Its key draw was simplicity. It has apps for every mobile device in existence, and made photo uploads effectively instantaneous. Point, Shoot, Upload, Tag. These were paired with chat areas for each photo, which allowed it to act as a social site..

Later on, support for short 15-second videos were added as well, plus an ever-growing list of photo filters that could be instantly applied to produce different effects, like sepia-tones or psychedelic flourishes.

Instagram is now the biggest photo-sharing site in the world, with over a hundred million registered users.   Delving into its demographics reveals a few interesting numbers:

  • 90% of users are under 36, but the average age of use is increasing steadily, and not simply because the early adopters are aging.
  • Like Pinterest, it skews female, but not to the same degree. Pinterest is 85%+ used by females, whereas the ratio is more like 66% for Instagram.
  • Usage is pretty evenly split between the major hardware and OS brands. There's no heavy tilt towards either Apple or Android.
  • Usage is greater in metropolitan areas, but this tends to be true of all social media platforms.
  • Instagram users are generally well-educated. The most common usage groups are those with “Some College” (23%) and “College Graduate.” (18%)
  • One-quarter of Instagram users access the site multiple times per day.
  • While exact percentages aren't available, Instagram has been widely noted for its popularity among celebrities, especially those in youth pop culture. All the most-popular accounts are owned by celebs with names like Beiber, Kardashian and Jenner.
  • Users generally seem to be middle-class, although the numbers are skewed by the relatively large number of celebs and other millionaires using it for self-promotion.

Finally, perhaps as solid proof that Instagram has “arrived” as a top-tier social media platform, it recently began accepting and using advertisements within the site. Clearly, it's become big business.

Fashion Week And Instagram

So what does all this have to do with your trade show marketing? Well, just look at the numbers coming out of Fashion Week.

  • Overall Instagram engagement doubled over last year.
  • More than 115,000 Fashion Week-related posts went out, just surveying the most popular hashtags, with nearly 11 Million recorded engagements. (Which, again, is either Sharing, Liking, and/or Commenting)
  • The top brands saw engagement rates well above the 1% mark, with the best clearing 2.5%. It's lower than the average, but there was a lot more competition for engagement as well.
  • Independent bloggers and commentators did nearly as well as the major brands, with several “indies” breaking into the top tiers of interest and engagement.

No studies have found anything close to this level of engagement in other platforms, even those that also have a strong visual focus. Fashion Week on Instagram seems to have hit a perfect mixture of Gen Y/Millennial interest, big business, and celebrity participation.

The great performance of the indie bloggers is an especially good sign, as it means Instagram has not been “captured” by huge businesses. (Yet?) Instagram users appear to be relatively agnostic about the sources of the images they share. If it's pretty or interesting, they'll share it, without much regard to whether it's officially branded or not.

A Photo from Comic Con Trade Show that could be posted on instagram to promote your event

Putting Instagram To Work At Your Next Trade Show

So, pulling it all together, here are our tips if you want to integrate Instagram into your exposition display promotion over the course of the next year or so.

1 – Tell people! If your market is over 35, they're probably not using Instagram. Include plenty of invitations to follow you on Instagram in your other promotional messaging.

2 – Get to snapping! Without getting too extreme about this, quantity is going to generally be better than quality on Instagram. Your cream will rise to the top naturally, through people's engagement. Don't feel like you have to agonize over finding The One Perfect Picture.

3 – Be spontaneous. Instagram is for recording a snapshot of a moment in time. It's best for live activities and interesting gatherings and bizarre selfies, not for clearly-posed PR photos. “Keep it real.”

4 – Go backstage. Another interesting finding about the Fashion Week results is that backstage photos were nearly as popular as those on the runway. Turns out people like to watch other people having makeup applied. (Don't ask me why.) The same will likely be true of your own “backstage” activity, whatever it might be.

5 – Use video to show processes. The 15-second limit to video requires creativity to utilize well. Think of them as snapshots of time. For example, a machine shop might capture its conveyor belts in action, quickly changing a lengthy assembly process into an easily-digestible quick video.

As always, keep in mind the social media market is highly volatile. Advice that sounds good here in September 2014 is likely to be outdated by March 2015. Such is the nature of the Internet these days. None the less, Instagram has shown incredible growth over the last three years, so there's little reason to think it's going to fade away any time soon.

Smart trade show display marketing requires making use of the latest in communications techniques, to ensure your messages are heard above the roar of the online crowd. With Instagram currently rocketing upwards in popularity, it's going to be an increasingly popular venue for trade show marketing for at least the next year. Make the most of it!