By Marcie Waters
As a focus area for my time as a social media intern with Sarah Best Strategy, I chose live event coverage and community management. My lessons on these topics culminated in a business trip in July to Chicago to attend the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual event, IFT15.
Food scientists and food industry professionals travel to IFT’s annual event from all over the world to get a first-hand look at the latest trends, the newest products, and the most recent innovations driving the science of food. Sarah Best Strategy assisted IFT with on-the-ground social media listening, content preparation, and content curation during the event and work began weeks in advance.
Prepping for Live Social Media Coverage
My first major task was going through an extensive list of IFT15 exhibitors and following them on Twitter, so they would already be on our radar when the time came to interact during IFT15. I then began practicing community management skills. Via the social media management platform, Sprout Social, Sarah and I went through incoming messages for several Twitter accounts, which includes people who send incoming tweets, who newly follow an account, who retweet content, or who use a branded keyword or phrase.
Both Twitter and Instagram are important platforms for interacting with people during live events. We read and responded to each of these types of messages, answering their questions, thanking followers for sharing content, and encouraging them to use the official #IFT15 hashtag when tweeting about the event.
Community Management for a Pop Up Community of 23,000 Attendees
Everything amped up once we arrived at McCormick Place, where IFT15 was being held. There were over 23,000 attendees, and the building was crawling with activity. We set up our social media headquarters in the staff lounge, which had windows overlooking the expo floor, making it feel a bit like a control center. We immediately began going through the incoming social media messages; there was a high volume of messages now that the event had begun.
This time, we were not only keeping an eye out for followers with social media influence, or for retweets, but also for people seeking information from IFT through Twitter. Content curation is another aspect of what we did, so we also looked for quality posts and Instagram photos to retweet as part of our live event coverage.
At least once a day, Sarah and I took to the expo floor to learn about the exhibitors, take photos and videos, and sample some tasty food products. I used the knowledge and visuals I had gained to create a series of “From the Expo Floor” Twitter and Instagram posts to share what was happening in the exhibition hall.
What an Experience!
While I was exhausted by the end of my two days at IFT15, I was excited by the great learning experience I had just had. From my vantage point behind the Sprout Social account, I was able to witness the conversations that people were having about IFT15, whether they were industry experts, reporters at an educational panel, or food technology enthusiasts following along with the event from across the country.
It was fun to see so many people coming together over social media to discuss a common interest, to participate in their conversations, and to be able to act as a resource for them. At IFT15, I gained experience not only in performing community management, but also in creating social media posts in the fast-paced environment of live event coverage, an experience that I hope to repeat someday!