Major events often fire up lots of online chatter, which makes social media at such events so challenging. When numerous individuals and businesses are on social talking about the same thing, it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd and get social traction with your messaging. So how can your business rise above the noise to find social success during an event or conference? Perhaps the best way to learn is to examine how businesses fared at one of the biggest events of the year: the annual Consumer Electronics Show, or CES, which took place this January.

It’s the biggest tech event of the year and, this year featuring over 170,000 industry professionals with 3,600 major (and minor) technology companies exhibiting on the show floor. And, as you can imagine, a gathering this size of tech-savvy businesses — all with product updates and announcements to share — creates a lot of social chatter.

Just how’s a company to get noticed in all of the social noise surrounding such an event? Let’s find out by looking at two social wins from this year’s CES conference.

Surprise Helps Intel Top the Social Charts

Perhaps the biggest difficulty of breaking through the noise of a major social event is crafting a message that helps you stand out from the crowd. When you’re just saying what everyone else is saying, or simply what everyone expects you to say, it’s difficult to generate any excitement amongst your followers. At this year’s CES, Intel was widely considered to be the social winner, garnering more than 32,000 social mentions after its press conference.

But Intel didn’t generate that buzz by making the usual tech announcements. While Intel had plenty of new products on offer, what caught everyone’s attention was a surprise: a $300 million commitment to increasing diversity in the tech industry.

Firstly, this was a surprise announcement at an event where the focus is usually tech and gadgets rather than social causes. Secondly, in late 2014 Intel pulled advertisements in response to an online campaign that protested the company’s choice to advertise on sites that advocated diversity in the video games industry. That move generated further criticism and questions about the company’s stance on diversity. Intel wound up reinstating its ad campaign and the issue had mostly blown over by the time CES rolled around.

By this point, Intel could have gone without a response at all, much less one this large. Instead the company paid careful attention to the feedback it was receiving from its followers, and made a bold move on the CES stage, with the entire tech world watching. The fact that the news was such a shock is exactly what made it a viral sensation — called by some the most important announcement of this year’s convention — firing up social conversations that managed to overshadow all other announcements.

The social lesson to learn here is simple: if you follow lock-step with the rest of your industry, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. By announcing something radically different and beyond the scope of just new tech products, Intel became the most talked-about company of CES 2015, cementing the loyalty of existing fans and gaining the attention of new ones. Beyond that, the company’s timing, with a big announcement during the largest tech event of the year, was designed to grab the spotlight. If Intel had announced this in a press release last year, it certainly would have gotten some attention, but by announcing at CES it maximized its results and proved that it listens closely to its fans and followers.

Samsung Captures Attention Around TVs

Walking the show floor at CES, you’ll find the space dominated by televisions, often walls of them, as companies compete to have the largest, highest definition screens. This year, UltraHD was the most-discussed topic of CES, comprising 35.6 percent of the social conversations, according to social intelligence company Synthesio. But while many companies are making new, high-end televisions to show off on the CES floor, Samsung’s efforts stood out above the rest.

How did Samsung win out over this heated marketplace of competing technology? In this case, it was simply by having the most eye-catching display on the show floor, the crowning glory of which was a 110-inch, 8K resolution television with glasses-free 3D. This massive UltraHD screen caught the attention of many attendees — who in turn shared what they saw over social channels.

But the purpose of Samsung’s showcase of impressive TVs wasn’t — at least not directly — to sell televisions. Many of the models on the show floor were prototypes that won’t be on store shelves any time soon. Instead, Samsung had these high-end TVs on display for a reason anyone with some social-savvy will understand: to catch eyes. It doesn’t matter how compelling your message is; if you don’t have a good visual to accompany it, it simply won’t catch as much attention as it could. By putting its most compelling visuals on the CES floor, Samsung snagged a big social win, even in the crowded social space of CES.

The Social Takeaway for Events

If you’re working to get your message across at a major event,  you don’t need to totally rethink your social strategy — but you do need to make sure you’re playing at the top of your game. Instead of getting lost in the social noise, pay attention to these lessons from CES 2015:

  • Don’t follow the crowd. The best way to stand out is by not doing the same thing everyone else is doing. Pay attention to your competition and think about what you could do or say differently in order to get the social spotlight.
  • Plan ahead. Intel showed that paying careful attention to your fans and industry trends definitely pays off. Beyond Intel’s social stumble, every year there’s news and social commentary at CES about the lack of diversity, and this year Intel got to lead the conversation instead of being yet another business called out on it.
  • Make an impression with visuals. Social media is all about attracting attention, and Samsung’s show floor win is a perfect demonstration of how to do it right. Whether Samsung has the best UltraHD TVs at CES this year or not, their prototype models on the show floor caught more eyes — and thus generated more social messaging — than the competition.