Influencer relations are gaining more importance in trade fair communication, as well as in the communication and content marketing strategies of many companies. At the same time, the social web has significantly changed the media landscape, in which companies and trade fair organizers operate. An interview with Thimo Schwenzfeier.
Bloggers and, in the past few years, new influencers with a broad reach in the social web, have been enriching the range of possibilities for reaching one’s target groups with media. We spoke with Thimo Schwenzfeier to gain a clearer overview of the various options. He is Head of Marketing Communications for Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH’s textiles & textile technologies events including Heimtextil, Techtextil, Ethical Fashion Show and the Greenshowroom during the Fashion Week in Berlin.
Mr Schwenzfeier, blogs are now being published for a growing number of events at Messe Frankfurt. What strategies lie behind this and how are target groups responding to these offers?
The task of trade fair organizers has always consisted of creating platforms that represent the market and make its development tangible, promote the exchange between exhibitors and visitors, and provide impetus in the form of content to all involved. In the past, this took place on an analogue level, but now it is becoming increasingly digital and thus extending far beyond the time limit ons the actual trade fair dates.
The attractiveness of each event greatly depends on the offer and the presented topics. As such, the mechanics of what is now referred to as content marketing always played a big role. With the digital transformation and the advent of the social web, the requirements in this regard have continued to rise. Our range of tasks therefore includes an increasingly digitalised processing of informational and entertainment content as well as the distribution of this content to exhibitors, visitors, associations, media outlets and the social communities of our events.
The often conventional websites of trade fairs make it difficult to provide a wide variety of information, present it in an emotionally captivating way and easily connect it to the cosmos of the social web. At Messe Frankfurt, we therefore starting using blogs and blog technologies early on, because they are quite easy to implement and use. They are also perfectly suited to be used as content hubs for structuring multimedia content and provide exceptional options for connecting to the mechanics of the social web (likes, shares, links, comments,…).
In addition to this, our blogs serve as landing pages for our newsletters and our social web channels, thus integrating our email and social marketing activities. We now operate blogs for the automotive industry, security issues, home textiles, textile technologies, entertainment industry technologies and interior design, for example.
What type of content do your blogs include?
The dilemma facing many event organizers is that they have little of their own communicable content and have primarily limited themselves to bundling information from exhibitors or industry associations. The real stories involve the exhibitors and visitors. Like many of our fellow trade fair organizers, we at Messe Frankfurt have therefore always created special spaces in the form of showcases that we create together with associations, exhibitors, and other to focus on current issues and also gain great future-oriented content for our own communication.
A few good examples of this include topics areas such as the future of shopping, offers like the Tendence Academy, the Hypermotion event or our most recent initiative, Living in Space. In close cooperation with the European Space Agency, the special exhibition “Living in Space” at the Techtextil strikingly demonstrated how textile technologies for space projects can be used in the areas of architecture, civilization, clothing, and mobility. The tremendous media response worldwide and the positive reactions of the visitors have clearly proven the success of taking this approach.
In order to represent the breadth of topics in an informative and entertaining way, we include contributions from other market participants and experts in our blog offerings alongside our own content. This not only extends the range of topics, but also ensures more credibility and appeal for our readers.
So, you not only have to maintain your own blogs, but increasingly also have to deal with bloggers and other new influencers on the social web? What role do these intermediaries play and how do you work with them?
Yes, the media structure is changing and the importance of bloggers and influencers is increasing, especially in the consumer segment but also in B2B markets. I can speak for the issues in the field of textiles & textile technologies, and preferably with regard to B2B relationships. We make very clear distinctions here between bloggers, influencer relations and influencer marketing.
For us, bloggers have become a self-evident element of the increasingly diverse media landscape. The professional bloggers that are relevant for our topics have a high level of intrinsic interest in the topics, are often very knowledgeable, and perform their own researching, writing, photographing and filming. They often have considerable reach themselves on the social web. This is, of course, interesting for us and for our exhibitors. Good examples of such bloggers or networks include thisisjanewayne.com, peppermynta.de and fairaporter.com
For their work, bloggers need require information and quickly usable material, as well as easy access to the experts from exhibitors or from our team. We or our exhibitors have organized special, well-attended blogger lounges or tours in the past. However, we are also increasingly integrating bloggers in our comprehensive press service, because their way of working is increasingly similar to that of journalists. Even if virtually all the doors are now open to bloggers, certain offers like free access to the press centre are not being adopted as expected.
On the whole, we are very satisfied with our long-term blogger relations and, at the same time, we are witnessing growing expertise in the blogger community, which is meeting with growing interest among readers.
What role are the new influencers playing as the stars and starlets of the social web?
The hype about this new “advertising medium” is tremendous especially in the area of fashion & lifestyle, but is of lesser importance when it comes to our B2B topics. However, this is not a temporary phenomenon and we have to deal with it. We distinguish here between influencer marketing and influencer relations.
We do not engage in influencer marketing in the form of just purchasing product placement coupled with reach. Even if this is considered by some exhibitors to be a very successful way to address end customers, we don’t see enough genuine interest in our issues, and therefore question the credibility and sustainability of this way of marketing. We therefore focus on influencer relations to develop long-term win-win relationships like we already have with bloggers. By the way, Onalytica has provided a very good description of the difference between influencer marketing and influencer relations.
When it comes to topics close to consumers, like our Heimtextil, Greenshowroom or ethical fashion show events, we usually engage in long-term partnerships with celebrity testimonials like Eva Padberg or Jessica Schwarz. Of course, when entering partnerships with these brand ambassadors, their social media reach and engagement are playing increasingly important roles.
What recommendations would you give exhibitors, who would like to engage more with bloggers and increase their influencer relations activities surrounding trade fairs?
They should view content marketing as marketing that is truly driven by content. This means that it will be hard to sustainably position themselves among influencers and other target groups in the flood of information surrounding a trade fair.
Our experience also shows that exhibitors often wait too long before contacting the trade fair communication teams or don’t contact them at all, in order to become part of the infrastructure and flow of news of the organiser or other trade fair participants. This is a missed opportunity, because organizers are constantly seeking good topics and partners early on to gain more momentum for the event.
And finally, marketing and communication on the web and social media need to have a thought-out strategy and a good infrastructure that is capable of the connecting with the social web and continuously providing interesting content. Social media engagement is mandatory and, in fact, one of the basic requirements for understanding the influencers and bloggers, and developing serious relationships with them. A strategy is required.
Blogger and influencer relations are relatively new subjects, but they are also highly relevant for older companies. Those exhibitors, who have questions, should just get in touch with us or read the interview “Social media and trade fairs – a perfect symbiosis”.