In the food ingredient industry, social media is becoming one of the most popular ways to engage with current/potential customers and trade media before, during and after trade shows. By successfully integrating social media into your trade show marketing strategy, your company will be better equipped to reach and engage with target customers and prospects, which can help generate more sales leads for your products and services.
Below, are steps you can take to maximize your trade show ROI through social media marketing.
- Develop a strategy – Like any other part of your integrated marketing plan, it’s important to establish a specific plan of action for trade show marketing on social media (i.e. what platforms to use, who will post what and when). Plan your course of action before the event so you and your team are on the same page.
- Set specific goals – Your strategy should include measurable goals and objectives to ensure the greatest ROI. With clear-cut goals, you’ll be able to gauge whether or not your efforts were successful and what might need to be adjusted in the future.
- Identify relevant trade show handles and hashtags – Many industry trade shows use unique hashtags (#) and handles to help connect attendees and exhibitors. You may also consider using your own hashtag(s), especially if you have interactive booth components or new product/brand launches. For example, Ardent Mills used the hashtag #theannexam to promote its new ingredients unit, The Annex by Ardent Mills at IFT’s Food Expo (IFT18). By encouraging booth attendees to share photos using the hashtag, the team was able to engage with more individuals at the show. Ardent Mills also tagged @IFT and @IFTMedia in several tweets to reach trade media and other contacts.
- Choose the right channel(s) – Each social media channel communicates with audiences differently. For example, LinkedIn is known to be more professional and works great for B2B engagement, while Twitter is a little more casual and offers more opportunity for real-time engagement. Facebook is quickly becoming more widely used by B2B companies, and many food industry companies have started using YouTube as a platform to upload videos and demos from the trade show floor. Additionally, Facebook offers a lot of flexibility and can be great for quick, daily recaps and photo uploads. Try experimenting on each platform to find the best times and channels for your target audience.
- Involve your entire team – Getting everyone involved in the messaging can help support company goals while allowing individuals to make their own, authentic connections. Encourage your team members to post content from their personal social media accounts and to share company updates. For example, many of our staff tweeted pictures from IFT18 using relevant hashtags (e.g. #IFT18) to help create engagement with trade show exhibitors and attendees. Additionally, you may want to consider sharing tweets from outside sources, including trade media and customers, leading up to the trade show to create more engagement.
- Position your company as a thought leader – It’s important to promote your booth number and what you’re sampling, but you also want to keep your followers interested by sharing a mix of original content, expert insights and industry articles. Corbion does a great job of mixing up its content calendar with various polls, helpful information and thought leadership content in order to keep the conversation alive and strong online. The team also shares industry articles and tags trade media for additional engagement.
- Schedule content in advance – Scheduling content (about 1-2 posts per day) before a trade show can help save your team valuable time at the event. This way, you’ll be able to engage with booth attendees, media contacts and other prospects in real time. After all, face-to-face interactions are extremely valuable nowadays, especially at events like industry trade shows.
- Join in on conversations – It can be also beneficial to share a few live posts with pictures of your booth, staff and/or any samples you are serving up at the show to create real-time engagement with trade show attendees and anyone following along from home. Don’t be afraid to respond to or start conversations with current and prospective contacts as time allows. Engaging with attendees early and often can help increase your trade show marketing ROI.
- Evaluate and monitor results – When the trade show is over, continue interacting with current and potential contacts in order to keep the conversation going strong. Updating your social media channels regularly can help your company maintain top of mind awareness for its brand and products.
- Implement an integrated marketing communications plan – When implemented as part of an integrated marketing communications plan, B2B social media marketing can help build awareness and visibility by providing another platform through which you can engage with your target audience. Nevertheless, it’s only one of many important trade show marketing tactics that can help drive B2B decision makers.
Apply these tips to your overall marketing plan and soon your team will be on its way to building a successful social media presence at food industry trade shows. For more information on trade show best practices, download our report.