Believe it or not, social media is a significant driver of discussions in the economic development industry. I know, I know – there are still a few of you saying, “I just don’t get it! Who’s using it and are any communities getting deals as a result?” The answer is that many communities are successfully connecting to audiences and telling their stories. So, what’s the problem? How could communities do a better job and enjoy the benefits of an active so-me program? Here are several very common fails and my recommendations for jump starting your efforts:
1. Unrealistic expectations
Do you really think that by launching a social media effort your community will suddenly catapult to the top of list of communities being considered for projects? Come on, that’s just not realistic. The real benefit of social media is to make a connection that raises awareness of your community’s brand. Just being active on a daily basis is half the battle.
2. Far too much self-promo
I am an avid follower of Twitter headlines. I love that I can do a quick hashtag search and find out what’s going on in the areas of #econdev, #manufacturing, #workforce, #logistics, #bizRE, #innovation, #siteselection, and numerous other relevant topics.
What I’ve noticed is that many economic developers share nothing but self-promotional content. Like those weekly shopper newspapers full of nothing but ads, many social media messages offer little or no value to prospective readers. At Brand Acceleration, our approach is to share content that is educational, entertaining, and interesting to audiences. Maybe 10% to 20% of what we share is self-promotional. Just like a newspaper, radio station, or web news service, there is a balance of beneficial content to advertising. If all you put out there is self-promo, viewers will consider you a consummate promoter and simply ignore you.
Here’s an idea: Look at the trade associations and trade publications and websites serving your target industries. They are great providers of content that your followers may enjoy. Don’t expect the articles to be about land, site selection, or economic development topics. Look for content that your followers may find of value. By following this approach, you may be seen as a valuable source of information. Then, your occasional self-promo is much more likely to be well received.
3. Focusing content on the wrong audiences
As important as your local stakeholders are, they are not your key audience. Sure, local folks should be on your list of followers, but your economic development social media effort should be focused heavily on prospects with the potential of bringing jobs and investment to your area.
From our on-going research of site consultants, corporate executives, and others, we know they are strongly driven by information about sites, buildings, workforce, education and training, economic trends, and other relevant topics. Tweets about your Halloween parade or corn maze are probably not going to entice them to click or consider your area for investment. It’s best to leave such content to the Chamber of Commerce and local media.
4. Making all the wrong connections
Just as content can be too localized, so can your connections. In addition to your board of directors, investors, and area stakeholders, you should make connections with site consultants, corporate executives, national and regional real estate brokers, and target industry leaders and influencers. I suggest making as many connections as possible. I’m talking hundreds, not dozens.
5. Failing to be part of the discussion
A great way to get involved is by joining and participating in LinkedIn discussion groups. If you’re not active in this area, you’re missing a huge opportunity.
On your LinkedIn page, go to INTERESTS and then find GROUPS. You can follow as many as fifty, and I’d suggest joining as many as possible. There are great groups in economic development, manufacturing, food, logistics, workforce, and many others. Join, read, comment, and be involved. Your professional expertise and community brand will grow. But remember, don’t just be a promoter of your community. Share content that is helpful to others. By giving, you will receive.
Bonus subject: Social media is not for amateurs
I’ve heard many people say that they were going to hire an intern or student to manage their social media program. The logic is a belief that young people grew up with it so they would be ideal to run a community so-me effort. Here’s the problem with that approach. Most students and interns know almost nothing about economic development, manufacturing, workforce development, incentives, transportation assets, or other topics of importance to key audiences. This is a task that needs to be given the attention of an economic development professional. One of our services is social media management, so if you’d like to hand off the responsibility to a team who knows how it’s done, just give me a call.
Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions. I’d love to hear from you. Also, be sure to make a social media connection. If you’re going to attend the International Economic Development Council Annual Conference in Fort Worth, please look us up in the exhibit hall.