Next Generation Trade Intelligence Portal

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Step 5: Social media integration

Learning points:

  • Impact of social media to a trade promotion organization.
  • How to connect social media to the expectations of your target groups.
  • Key success factors for a social media strategy.
  • Learn from the best to set-up and manage your social channels effectively.
  • Importance of and guidelines for blogging

The question is not WHETHER, but HOW to use social media

Social media have created a shift in the way we communicate. And they will continue to do so. Your stakeholders expect you to respond and to adapt your trade intelligence service because B2B professionals nowadays use social media to:

  • Find market opportunities, new technologies, new products.
  • Connect to buyers and suppliers.
  • Communicate with stakeholders.
  • Promote and market their services. 
  • Do research.

In this Step you will learn how to integrate social media to enhance the effectiveness of your Trade Intelligence Portal.

Social media: the extension of your Trade Intelligence Portal

The motto is: Be where your customers are! Instead of waiting for your target group to visit your Trade Intelligence Portal, social media offer you the possibility to connect to your target groups in their preferred social media environments.

In other words, social media can be considered the front-end of your Trade Intelligence Portal. Reaching out to customers, attracting the attention, engaging with them, developing an interest and pulling them to the Trade Intelligence Portal for the actual conversion. It is a functional part of the AIDAS principle as described in Step 4 on usability and functionalities.


Victoria Vera – ICEX, Spain on social media integration

“In our ambition to find the simplest and most agile way of distributing contents, we emphasize the use of social media to distribute portal contents via the most influential networks with a potentially high user impact. We integrate latest posts from Twitter and Facebook in a live zone in the portal, integrate video’s from our YouTube channel and stimulate social sharing by our users to their networks”

- Victoria Vera – ICEX, Spain, on social media integration

Keys to success

In order to use social media effectively as an extension of your Trade Intelligence Portal, there are a few critical success factors:

1. Always link to the portal

A critical rule! Your portal is for conversion, social media are first and foremost to connect and engage. So when you post in social media, always include a link directly to a news item or any other content on your portal.

2. Establish authority

Through frequent social media posting and presentation of opinions by means of experts you establish your organisation as an authority in the area, building credibility, tempting users to click for more information on the portal.

3. Original, creative content is queen

Focus on attractive content, with the right tone of voice. You should provide easily digestible teaser content, including benefits that make users respond to the call to action leading to the portal.

4. Visual content is king

Include visuals in your social media posts to attract the attention. People process pictures much faster than text and visuals (pictures, video, infographics) are driving social media communications.

Social media policy and strategy

Before jumping on the bandwagon of social media, it is important to agree on a policy and strategy. The use of social media should be incorporated in a broader strategic framework including online trade promotion and communication at large. Managers and employees should be clear about the purpose, selection of channels, governing rules and the resource implications that maintaining and monitoring the effort would entail.


Natalia Peces, ICEX, Spain, on social media management

“Social media are often considered something that you can do on the side. But it is a real job! You need experts that know how to do this…”

- Natalia Peces, ICEX, Spain, on social media management

Defining your social media strategy, as a trade promotion organization, means:

  • Identify your key clients.
  • Define your social media objectives.
  • Make a resource plan.
  • Measure the success / monitor and evaluate.
  • Decide on useful tools for social media management.
  • Develop a social media policy for your staff.


Download our tips and suggestions regarding these success factors for an effective social media strategy.

Entirely Social Media…. or integrated Social Media?

With the increasing usage of social media, the question may arise why not focus entirely on just social media and have no portal at all. At this stage, however, most trade promotion organizations would opt for an integration of social media with the portal.

Going one step further, the InterAmerican Development Bank has taken a visionary step forward to develop an online platform dedicated to international trade and development. It is in fact an online community. The Connect Americas initiative is set up as a social media platform, through which SME can:

  • Connect with other businesses, learn about their business profile and reputation, write and share reviews about them.
  • Learn about the export process and how to enter foreign markets, read about the latest trend and explore a database of international trade data.
  • Finance the export process by obtaining information about financial products and services approaching available banks by filling out one single easy-to-use form.

Video Good Practice(

Connect Americas as a social media platform

In this video, Francisco Estrazulas de Souza explains how Connect Americas is set-up. Not as a regular trade promotion and investment website, but with the key characteristics of a social media platform. 

– Francisco Estrazulas de Souza,
InterAmerican Development Bank

The right Social Media channels

What are the best social media channels to integrate with your Trade Intelligence Portal? There is an overwhelming number of social media with characteristics fit for different purposes. For trade promotion organizations the following four stand out. 



LinkedIn is the online network for professionals. How to use it for your trade intelligence service?


Make use of groups

With LinkedIn you can connect to experts, buyers, consultants and other resource persons, for instance to conduct market research or share your insights. In particular, penetrating in so-called ‘groups’, communities of interest, is very valuable. Not only for listening and engaging, but also for sharing information and starting discussions.

Build reputation – be visible

Join or initiate discussions in groups, respond to questions and show your expertise on certain sectors, topics or markets. Furthermore, share regular updates on your LinkedIn company page and start engaging with individuals that share updates. This is similar to ‘like’ or ‘share’ in Facebook.

Connect to foreign buyers, suppliers, experts and investors

LinkedIn is also a perfect platform to identify and connect to exporters, foreign buyers, investors and experts. Certainly if your target groups are in Western Europe or in the USA, LinkedIn is certainly recommended. Encourage your key staff to have a personal LinkedIn profile, and use it on behalf of your organisation. That way, their individual network becomes part of the institutional network.

Facilitate social sharing from your portal

A LinkedIn share button on your Trade Intelligence Portal is also a good way to encourage social sharing. Followers are key to driving word of mouth, recommendations, and referrals. The more quality followers you have, the easier it becomes to get viral reach and engagement.

LinkedIn facts
Total number of LinkedIn groups are 2.1 million


58% users access LinkedIn using their mobile
65% of LinkedIn users have their Bachelor’s or Graduate degree
On average LinkedIn users join 7 groups
8,000 new groups are created weekly
4 million LinkedIn Company Pages
10 billion LinkedIn endorsements
81% of B2B marketers that use LinkedIn for new product launches
88% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn

Source: (November 2016)

Good practice


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LinkedIn page Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI)

GTAI provides a good practice of active usage of LinkedIn. It publishes regular (almost daily) updates about trade developments, developments in key sectors, opportunities, events.

The GTAI LinkedIn page has more than 32,000 followers and more than 300 employees have their personal profile on LinkedIn.

More information

More information on using LinkedIn effectively:


Twitter is a form of microblogging. It lets users post entries up to 140 characters long. twitterIt has become the most popular platform for instant, real-time, news updates. It has even become a source of reference for many reputable news agencies.

 Like many trade promotion organisations, you can actively use Twitter as a channel for:

  • Sharing updates, always with a link to your portal.
  • Providing relevant and up-to-date information to international buyers and domestic exporters.
  • Conducting research and listening to what goes on.
  • Marketing your services.
  • Customer service – responding to inquiries.
Twitter facts

There are over 317 million monthly active users

82% or Twitter users access it from mobile
Over 500 million tweets per day 
307 is the average number of tweets per account

74% of people who follow SMEs on Twitter to product updates

52% of Twitter users say they have purchased a product they first heard of on Twitter
47%of people who followed a brand on Twitter are more likely to visit the company’s website 

Source: (November 2016)

Critical success factors Twitter
Targeting Consider creating different Twitter accounts for different types of information you want to share and different target markets and target groups you want to serve. A good practice can be found at the UK Department for International Trade. It manages multiple Twitter accounts to serve multiple markets (e.g. @tradegovuk, @tradegovukIND etc.). When targeting markets in different time zones, consider the time difference…. Tweet at the right time!
Be found For immediate attention, and to be found in the Twitter search engine, use #hashtags with relevant keywords on which users will search. For example, #foodtrends, or #ambiente for people searching on food trends or the Ambiente trade show. The use of #hashtags will increase the chances of your tweets being seen and acted upon.
Increase visibility Mentioning relevant parties in your tweet (e.g. @ITCnews), means your post will be seen by the party you mention as well as by the followers of that party. Your posts will attract the attention of a wider audience, among which there are potentially new followers.
Grow your network Follow relevant parties (influencers, bloggers, associations, trade fair organisers, market leaders, etc.), as well as their followers. Chances are high that they will start to follow you and become part of your network.
Increase interaction Visual content is king. The posts that include pictures or video receive much more interaction. Retweeting or favoriting is also a way to interact.
Link to the portal using a ‘link shrink’ Since you may use only 140 characters, you have to be short and still include to your portal. To save characters, use a ‘link shrink’ to shorten the URL you want to link to. A popular link shrink service is offered through bitly.

Good practice

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Twitter page ICEX

ICEX, the Spanish institute for foreign trade, offers a good practice in Twitter. It has a good number of followers, posts frequently and multiple times per day, uses snappy and visual content, hashtags and mentioning of relevant parties as well as the shortened url, linking to the portal for conversion.


YouTube is youtubeone of the most important social media channels in the world, and the usage thereof will continue to increase. It is currently the second largest search engine after Google, and the statistics are mind boggling:

YouTube facts
Nr of users (October 2016) 1 billion
Percentage of YouTube traffic from mobile >50%
Average nr of mobile video views per day (2013)  1 billion
Advertisement spent on You Tube (2013) $5.6 billion
Percentage of Google’s overall sales that You Tube contributed to in 2014 6%
Amount that advertisers spent on YouTube in 2013 $5.6 billion

Source: (November 2016)

As confirmed by the overwhelming majority of the ITC expert panel, video is an effective communication tool for reaching your target groups and will become even more important in the near future. YouTube offers an interesting platform for sharing your videos. Not only because it is one of the most visited places on the Internet where your target group can find the videos, but also because it let’s you embed the code of the video’s to show it in your Trade Intelligence Portal. So, hosting on the YouTube server and showing on your portal. That’s a proposition you can’t refuse!

Critical success factors YouTube
Create and customize your own channel Create your own channel in YouTube and upload the videos here. Give the channel your corporate identity through the use of the artwork in the channel banner and the use of your logo and corporate pay-off. In the description (“About us”), present the core competences of the organisation and link to the portal.
Keep it short Do not make your video’s longer than 2 minutes. It is better to make a series of short videos than to make a long one. The attention span given by the users will seldom go beyond 2 minutes. Focus on the core issues!
Use the right keywords To be found in Google and the YouTube search engine, use the relevant keywords on which users will search. Include these in the title of the video, and the description.
Create play lists Organize your video’s in YouTube in relevant play lists, by topic, sector or market regions.
Embed Host your videos on the YouTube server, and embed to them to your portal.

Good practice

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YouTube channel NZTE

NZTE has a rich YouTube channel, with playlists featuring video’s highlighting opportunities in international markets for various sectors and video’s on how to succeed in different international markets. Most of the videos are less than 3 minutes.


Being the largesfacebookt social network with over 1 billion users, no doubt Facebook is relevant. It is an ideal environment for engagement with your target groups, providing trade intelligence updates and inviting interaction.

Facebook facts
1.66 billion mobile monthly active users
There are over 10 million Facebook apps so far
56% of facebook users check their account multiple times per day
400 million photos are uploaded every day
75% of possible engagement a post gets is in its first 5 hours
2 billion is the number of daily searches on Facebook.

92% of social marketers use Facebook advertising

Source: (November 2016) 

Critical success factors

  • Facebook is for engagement, the portal for conversion. Therefore, always link to the portal.
  • Use Facebook applications for an enhanced engagement experience and immediate actions. For example Twitter and YouTube apps provide for a one-stop-social media environment.
  • Embrace images and videos in your posts.
  • Keep your post short and to the point.
  • Use an attractive cover photo and add your value proposition.
  • Use milestones as bragging points / story telling.
  • Ask questions / for opinions / for likes / polls.
  • Use action-oriented words: like, share, tell us.
  • Interact promptly.
  • Make use of contests.

Good practice

Good Practices by HKTDC and APEX Brasil

The Hong Kong Trade and Development Council is very active on its Facebook page with daily updates and more than 60,000 likers. 

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Apex Brasil, with more than 56,000 likers, has nicely integrated Twitter and YouTube, to create a one-stop social media environment. It has also included a number of videos to focus the visitor’s attention on its programs to support companies to export and innovate and to draw the attention to the market reports APEX has available.


More info

Useful tools

There are various solutions to manage social media efficiently through dashboards, to help you:

  • Send posts to multiple channels at the same time.
  • Monitor what goes on (listening to ‘mentions’).
  • Analyze your social media metrics, what happens with your posts?
  • Schedule updates.
  • Include automatic ‘link shrink’.

Some examples of useful tools include: Hootsuite, Coosto, SproutSocial, Socialoomph.

And finally…. Have a blog! 

In addition to all these social channels, trade promotion organizations should definitely consider blogging on their own portal. This is to create fresh content regularly and establish authority on different trade related subjects.

Benefits of blogging

Blogging will become a very important tool for driving key clients to your portal. Besides, blogging with regular fresh content with the right keywords will:

  • help you to establish your authority as the expert in the field.
  • allow your key clients to engage in conversations with you and other key clients.
  • lead to high ranking in  search engine result pages.

Blogs can be about new developments, opportunities, events, and experiences. Blogs by experts, guest bloggers or interviews with experts are also highly valued. Blogs are also very suitable for story telling, that can have a strong impact to convince your key client.

More about persuasion and the power of storytelling can be found in this video.

Success factors for blogging

  • Use an attractive blog title that creates curiosity, promise a story.
  • Use a list: ‘5 secrets of …’ ‘10 tips for…’.
  • Use visuals, pictures or video in the postings.
  • One topic per blog post.
  • Consider the target audience, calls to action and keywords.
  • Blog regularly.
  • Offer a rating for the posts (*****).
  • Invite guest bloggers, refer to NZTE for example.
  • Keep the posts short (400-800 words).
  • Allow comments, but pre-publication moderation (approval) may be recommended.
  • Provide a set of commenting rules and a ‘click to accept’.
  • Provide a username /password login and/or social login for identification.
  • Use a ‘captcha’ (a challenge-response test) to avoid automated spamming in the comment zone.


Third party channels

There are many third party channels in the form of communities, blogs, catering to specific segments of users, with an interest in a specific sector or subject. These are very relevant to use for listening, sharing and engaging. Examples can be found in every sector ranging from fashion and home decoration (for example design blogs) to food (for example food safety blogs) and everything in between.

Highlights Step 5 – Social Media Integration

  • Be where your target groups are; definitely offer a social media service.
  • Use social media to do research, promote and market your services, attract attention, enhance relevancy and drive traffic to the portal.
  • Have a social media strategy, and integrate it with your portal strategy.
  • LinkedIn, Twitter, Youtube and Facebook are among the key social platforms for you.
  • Blogging is another key success factor, and increasingly applied by trade promotion organizations.


Relevant links:

Make use of ITC expertise

Want to know more about this step or how ITC can support you with your trade intelligence portal?

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