Money, Money, Money, Money, MONEY: Social Media Revenue Streams for Trade Shows and Conferences

You may not remember “For the Love of Money” by the O’Jays from listening to your own records, your parent’s or watching Soul Train on TV, but that’s what the quest for social media ROI reminds me of. Once the business model for social media provided event organizers with new revenue streams, it suddenly became more than a “shiny new object.”

For a cool multi-sensory blog experience, try playing the song in the background while you read this post. 


The Follow Me app from Core-Apps is a great example of the types of revenue opportunities available on smartphone platforms. There are two flavors of Follow Me. One is Web-based (an Internet connection is required but the app is free) and includes a show floor map, exhibitor search function, trade show alerts and local merchant/exhibitor advertising capabilities. 

An interactive, full-featured application that does not require an Internet connection costs $1.99 and includes all of the features of the Web-based application plus interactive scheduling, links to friends, interactive mapping and routing and the download of exhibitor brochures.

Follow Me offers revenue opportunities including application sales (downloads), exhibitor banner ads, click-through coupons, enhanced exhibitor information, local merchant advertising. Core-apps charges a one-time overhead fee but allows event organizers to recoup the fee at 50% of the captured revenue until the fee is recouped and 30% of the revenue after the overhead fee threshold is met.

ChirpE from A2Z, Inc., is another Web-based mobile application that offers revenue generation opportunities for exhibition organizers. It replaces the printed exhibitor guide eliminating some or all of the printing costs. 

ChirpE allows attendees to access exhibitor and conference session information, create a personalized itinerary, receive updates on event buzz (text messages posted on a ChirpE channel by a designated Community Reporter) and schedule changes.

ChirpE users can e-mail exhibitors directly and access exhibitor Web sites. Event details and personalized itineraries are synchronized in real-time between Facebook®, ChirpE and the event Web site. It also integrates LinkedIn® and Twitter® as well. 

A2Z, Inc. charges exhibition organizers a fee to access the premium version of the ChirpE platform, however a basic version is offered free to existing clients. Attendees can access both basic and premium services at no charge. Additional revenue can be generated through sponsorship opportunities and banner ads placed on ChirpE screens and notification emails.

Private social networking platforms 

It’s fair to say that most of the event-centric social networking platforms such as Zerista, Pathable, Crowdvine, TheSocialCollective and others offer revenue streams to event organizers. John Kanarowski of Zerista was kind enough to send me some specific information on the revenue options for his platform. “Keep in mind, these are incremental revenue opportunities that are not available to event organizers on general purpose social networks [such as Facebook and LinkedIn and YouTube],” he says. 

The primary revenue sources that Zerista offers event organizers include: 

  • Sponsorship of the entire networking platform for a specific event. Zerista packages custom banners, welcome messages, links within event related emails and data on exhibitor and attendee usage and interest patterns in the sponsorship offering. 
  • Exhibitor upgrades to a “virtual booth” within the event networking platform. The virtual booth is “an online space that provides additional communication and networking features,” Kanarowski says. Organizers can bundle the virtual booth upgrades into premium booth packages.
  • Access to conference content by virtual attendees. Zerista’s platform offers solutions for running a blended event (live and virtual) or virtual only event. Zerista’s platform allows the distribution of streamed and archived content as well as an ecommerce engine to sell and manage online access. 

Virtual Tradeshows and Conferences 

Aside from the usual sponsorship and advertising opportunities such as banners, sponsorship of the various components (speakers, rooms, networking, prizes, etc.) booths and other content that virtual events offer, VConferenceOnline is also offering a turnkey program to independent meeting planners. 

VConferenceOnline’s philosophy is that there are certain tasks that meeting planners have to do whether the conference is live or virtual such as coordinate speakers, manage content and handle registration. The company is developing an online conference called Virtual Event University scheduled for some time in October. The conference will define the role of the meeting planner in online event presentation and outline specific revenue opportunities such as a mark-up on the cost of the event. 


Twitter has infiltrated the minds of the entrepreneurial event marketing types with and without the use of third-party platforms. The Friday Pint blog highlights some of the Twitter-based revenue opportunities. “… at least two new sponsorship opportunities emerge: for starters, invite sponsorship of your tweetup. Forward-thinking trade shows have already benefited from displaying live tweets on a large screen at their event – offer sponsorship of the screen. Plus, a post-show write-up of the key themes emerging on twitter during the event sent to all attendees offers additional branding opportunity.”

The Takeaway:  If part of an event organizer’s social media strategy involves developing new revenue streams, there are seemingly unlimited ways to slice and dice the social media pie of offerings. Most of the opportunity lies with third-party event-centric platforms. Additionally, the limited ability to generate revenue streams from Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and others may make them less attractive even though the initial out-of-pocket costs are lower. Don’t blame me if the O’Jays song is stuck in your head now.


  1. says

    Hi Michelle,

    Thanks for pulling together this list and starting the conversation on Social Media Revenue Streams.

    I attended the Experient E4 Webcast on the Future of Meeting Technology. There were two revenue streams identified that are worth adding here:
    (1) Having Speakers Use Twitter to help drive attendance. Stephen Nold of Advon Technologies indicated that his event received an 8% increase in attendee revenue by having speakers twitter.
    (2) RD Whitney of Taurus Media said that his company had built an entire event from Social Media. They started by creating a virtual community – once it was big enough – they used that community to create a for-profit event. Without Social Media – they would not even have the event.

    You can read more details here:

    Since, social media is all about listening and conversations, I expect that we will start seeing events building sponsorship programs around this idea. Though, I don’t expect to see many of these initiatives until the numbers of people using social media at events is much higher than it is today.

    Great Post! Great Topic!

    – Sam

  2. says


    Thanks for the additional resources. I have heard of Stephen Nold’s experience with Twitter and wrote about it for another publication but was unfamiliar with Tarsus Media’s success. I hope I made the point clear in my post that developers are more ahead of the curve than users on the importance of providing revenue streams to their clients. There is a lot of innovation happening out there and I have some upcoming posts you might be interested in. Stay in touch.


  3. says

    @Michelle: Thanks for mentioning us!

    @samueljsmith: Coincidentally, we provided the private social network for Experient’s E4 conference here:

    We’re seeing similar revenue opportunities to the ones you mentioned in your excellent article. We’re also about to launch a standalone product for consumers that explores another revenue concept around running crowdsourcing campaigns (for events or not).

    Just because Twitter doesn’t have any revenue and FB and LI don’t offer revenue-generating opportunities for events certainly doesn’t mean that those opportunities don’t exist. Thanks for pointing that out in your blog.

  4. says

    Great post. You offer an insightful introduction to some of the solutions that are impacting our industry. The Experient e4 tech web panel was awesome, and Nicole Burgalio of Hanley Wood and Mike Immerwahr with Microsoft also had some great advice on using social media. Worth visiting the link if you are interesting in hearing how some of our colleagues are using these tools.

  5. says

    Michelle, Thx so much for posting this.

    One facet that has been getting a lot of discussion on the Twitter Chat #assnchat lately (see for schedule) is the idea of changing the mindset from an event that takes place at a single point in time to a community that is rejuvenated in a variety of ways.

    Your post inspired me to write about enhancing community through events: Enhancing value will when done well often lead to enhancing revenue.

Leave a Reply