Saturday, October 30, 2010

Were Natural Products Expo East Participants Sharing?


Thanks to a friend of mine with a small start up in the healthy snacking space, I had a free pass to the Natural Products Expo East earlier this month. I was most curious about how brands present themselves in the physical space of the show and how (if) they connect this image to online social media interactions. Despite the fact that the show is for producers, distributors, retailers, and others in the natural products industry (not consumers) my assumption was that I'd see "follow us on twitter!" and "connect with us on Facebook!" signs in many booths...that was not the case (image from naturalproductsbiz.com).

I'd also heard that there were product samples galore at this event, so I packed a spare bag for what could be a good haul of new & familiar products to try.

I had good conversations with a few companies about social media, though my assumption about neon signs blinking "follow us" and "connect with us" was clearly misplaced. With so many companies and limited time I am sure I missed some interesting people and engagement projects. Of the conversations I did have, I appreciated the ones with ECOS Products, Champlain Orchards, and Crofter's Organic.

What was interesting to me was the variety of strategies (or lack thereof) for these brands' social media efforts. From having someone on staff as the Director of Social Media to someone wrapping the function into their existing responsibilities. It was clear that they understood that there was value in their social media efforts, but not clear about what that value is.

Integrating social media efforts into a customer relationship management strategy, marketing campaigns, and measuring the results is the interesting space. The measurement piece is what most companies are interested in, and the area that must be approached cautiously; it is crucial to establish relationships with customers & stakeholders maintaining the authenticity of the brand without turning social media into a PR channel.

Given the importance of word of mouth in purchasing decision-making and the speed with which WOM may travel in social networks, I was surprised that seeking to connect offline and online actions was seemingly not a priority.

For those social media advocates, professionals, and users that attended the event, what do you think? How much did I miss?

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