Social Media Marketing at Industry Trade Shows

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.

Maximize Trade Show ROI Through Social Media Marketing

Develop a Social Media Marketing Strategy

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. 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.

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 opportunities for real-time engagement. Facebook is becoming more widely used by B2B companies, and many food industry companies have started using YouTube 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 your target audience’s best times and channels.

Involve Your Entire Team

Getting everyone involved in the messaging can help support company goals while allowing individuals to make 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

Promoting your booth number and what you’re sampling is important, 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.

See Related: Developing a Successful Food Ingredient Marketing Plan

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 also be 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. Regularly updating your social media channels can help your company maintain top-of-mind awareness of 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 important trade show marketing tactic 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.