By Kelly Trush of Cooking with Caitlin
IHA Show Partner and Twitter Maven
When we arrived in Chicago that first weekend in March, we knew we’d be talking kitchen tools for the next few days ahead. We knew we’d have a lot to report to our hungry friends and followers. And, having prepared for and hyped it to our audience for months and months before, we knew they were anxious for the scoop. But we never could have known how the International Home + Housewares Show 2011 would really play out.
Spatulas, whisks, and pans, oh my! It had never occurred to us that we would be privy to the colors and lines and concepts of tomorrow. That the most fashionable accessory we would wear each day would be the “photographer” ribbons attached to our badges. And we certainly never guessed that in our daily romps through the kitchenware of the future we would be building relationships. But that’s exactly how it happened.
When we signed on with IHA to bring a special series of Foodies’ Night In Twitter chats (#FNIchat), with our partner in the event, The Savvy Host, we spent months planning three one-hour exchanges, one each day of the Show. Each gathering had a theme, hot housewares giveaways, and a super spectacular celebrity chef – Sunday with Stephanie Izard, Monday with Rick Bayless, Tuesday with Paul Virant. We crafted a framework of questions in advance and marked each related tweet with the hashtags #housewares and #FNIchat. The goal was to engage, through the clever use of social media, the food-focused consumer (the very pointed #FNIchat audience) in the happenings of the Show even though they weren’t there.
I do believe it’s safe to say our goals were achieved. From the moment we hopped off the early morning shuttle to the time we stepped right back onto it each evening, Facebook and the Twitterverse were on fire with #housewares excitement. In fact, energy bubbled over during the actual chef #FNIchats, but was high throughout the day, and well beyond the times our own technology was even on. How very delighted we were each morning to see the hashtags a-blazin’ before we had even arrived at McCormick Place.
Each of the three days found at least a pair from our team on the Show floor at all times. With our badges in plain view, we snapped pictures, filmed demos, and scribbled notes on all the wonder we could see. The rest of the crew was stationed at our booth, “Social Media Central,” relaying our finds in real time. With candid photos, casual videos, and a steady stream of 140-character bites, we facilitated and intensified uncommonly intimate exchanges between brands large and small and the people who buy their products.
Today, nearly a month later, the tornado of #housewares tweets has calmed to a flurry. We haven’t walked the bridge to the Lakeside Center in weeks, and we haven’t rubbed elbows with a celeb chef in a while either, but we frequently catch ourselves speaking 140 characters at a time and see hashtags everywhere. The most wonderful spillover from our social media spin through the Show, however, is the steady stream of conversation that continues to flow. Daily we are seeing not only Twitter and Facebook notes, but also blog posts, and video snippets stemming from the relationships hatched at the Show. Shoppers and foodies especially are energized – in a new way – about the brands and products with which they are now connected.
The International Home + #Housewares Show 2012 will be here before we know it. #bringiton