Saturday, May 16, 2009

Fingers may be sorer than feet this NRA show

Let it be noted that this is the year social media changed the dynamics of the NRA show.

The convention hasn’t even officially started, yet Twitter and Facebook are already being used with all the ordinariness of breathing to make acquaintances, tout products, provide weather updates, share travel tips, recommend cocktails, bemoan hectic schedules, flag good parties, and promote educational events.

Twitter will be used to solicit questions for show speakers and to cover the convention, by media old and new. There’s an official Tweet Up, as well as a meeting of Fohboh, one of the industry’s social media. Meanwhile, the tweets keep coming, highlighting the mundane, the hilarious, and genuinely rich fodder for thought.

It’s as if one big conversation is underway as everyone goes about their usual show business. And anyone can tune in, with no introduction needed. Eavesdropping is encouraged.

It’s an instant interconnection the industry has never seen before—still small, but used enough already to be felt at the show.

But the phenomenon could prove more than just a curious new means of instant communication. It could be a way to bolster the show’s effectiveness by bringing seeker more readily together with provider. Tweet a need, be it information, a product or a contact, and a 140-character lead could be provided rapid-fire by someone who’s monitoring this extensive and hyperactive foodservice party line.

It could also draw more young people off the sidelines and into the game. Because social media is a preferred form of interaction for industry members of a tender vintage, it’s a comfortable way of plugging into the restaurant community, which in turn can foster involvement—going to shows, participating in associations, working on common causes, sounding off on shared threats, thinking about larger industry issues. In short, contributing more than 140 characters of input on restaurant issues.

But it’s late on Friday night, and I need to be fresh for tomorrow’s inaugural show event: A sessions for chain executives on the use of social networks and other word-of-mouth media. Which, by the way, I'm tweeting.

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