GateKeeper Social Management

GateKeeper is almost one year old! As the owner and developer of Gatekeeper Social Management, I’m curious to know what people think of the product. When I first launched this product in April 2011, I knew it would be a big success and I’m very proud to have been able to use years of experience in the areas of online marketing to develop a successful strategy. Please let me know what you think.

Economic Developers Should Use An Internal Social Media Workforce

How To: Use your own workforce to engage your community

Tip: Have an in-house strategy and process for your social media efforts and use local or internal resources to maximize your ROI and avoid future saturation or conflict of interest.

I ran across an article the other day entitled “Jump on board social media.” The article, detailing the successes of Hudson Valley Economic Development Corp., (HVEDC) is a great example of why Economic Development agencies need to participate in the world of online economic development.

It is extremely important for all industries, including economic development, to participate in the new world of media. After all, social media isn’t going anywhere; in fact, it is going to continue to explode and branch off into directions we haven’t even seen yet. (Think Google+ new interactive interface blowing Facebook out of the water.) In the ever-changing world of online economic development, if you’re not in the game, you’ve fallen behind.

HVEDC is ahead of the game and their ROI has been measured; their efforts have paid off. But what is at the root of their success. Is it the number of online tools they are using? Is it a combination of certain tools such as YouTube, Digg, Bit.ly, WordPress, Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter? Or, is it the dedication of those closest to HVEDC?

Let’s look at what Mike Oates, president and CEO of the HVEDC has to say [via the article]:

“I’ve personally been involved in it [social media] for a few years, but in February 2010, we basically made a concerted effort to get involved,” Oates said. “Just like anything else, you have to be aggressive. If you look at other economic development agencies around the state, we have more ‘fans’ following HVEDC than all the agencies combined. And you can’t beat the price: free.

HVEDC has made a concerted effort to get involved. Why is this important? Because as social media changes and evolves, HVEDC will be able to keep up with and navigate through the changes, including new tools, as they are relevant to their own unique situation. Their internal dedication will allow them to autonomously continue to engage their unique audience and learn first-hand knowledge enabling them to do so. HVEDC will intimately know its own engagement strategy.

Unlike HVEDC, many economic developers do not have the time or resources to continue this engagement though, so they turn to outside agencies to manage their social media personas for them. This may sound like a good idea, but in reality, it is not. Social media is about building genuine relationships. These relationships take time and commitment and they require a “real” person with loyalty and ambition to create a real return on investment and effectively tell a story.

When economic developers outsource their relationship building, they are placing these important relationships in the hands of people who do not truly understand their unique challenges and goals and are possibly managing several other communities, even competitors, at the same time. The process then, becomes a cookie-cutter solution. An outside resource may be able to put your community through a “process” and series of branding questions, similar to a Web site review, but, unlike the branding of a Web site, social media engagement is an on-going and ever-changing process.

Economic Developers need to nurture their own internal or local resources that will establish and grow their online presence long-term. These loyal individuals have a genuine interest in building online relationships for the betterment of their community, and they are not likely to walk away with all that knowledge and expertise, or worse, relationships, if the paycheck stops coming in.

But many economic development agencies do not have the internal resources necessary to create these relationships, and the resources they do have likely do not have the engagement or marketing skills necessary to learn how to properly use the tools of online relationship-building. What about local resources? Where do you find them- who are they- and how do you train them? I suggest looking back to Mike Oates’ wisdom [via the article]:

“Social media has engaged a young, vibrant workforce”, Oates said.

I believe the success of HVEDC lies in their ability to use sustainable local resources. With the economy placing constraints on already tightened budgets, too many people losing their jobs, fewer and fewer jobs being created, community seniors needing extra income, and recent college graduates unable to even begin their careers, communities can look to those local resources to tell their story like no one else can.

College grads and high school students have so much enthusiasm and technology expertise; seniors and out-of-work citizens either have too much time on their hands or need real-world re-training; community agencies need to save all the money they can and show ROI immediately. Investing in your own workforce is the best way to show immediate return on investment, while building community growth, engagement and interaction.

Successful training should be done by marketing professionals who can show valid proof of their own ROI. Lots of outside agencies are jumping into social media, attempting to create tutorials or provide training on tools, using resources that don’t truly understand the logistics and psychology of why they’re doing what they’re doing. My advice for training your local and internal workforce? Find legitimate marketing agencies that aren’t just filled with salesmen who know how to craft a promising story. Find marketing professionals. If they happen to also have expertise in economic development, that’s a bonus.

I did a little research and came across an agency that appears to have their act together. In addition, it appears they are established and have combined seasoned economic development professionals with legitimate marketing professionals to help communities with their online engagement efforts. You can find a listing of their training Webinars here: http://bit.ly/j40jwo

The worst thing that economic developers can do is listen to the well-crafted song of sirens who sing that their solution will save time and money in the long run. These sirens know that economic developers are worried about their own jobs and are looking for quick fixes to their short-term problem. Unfortunately, if economic developers get into long-term contracts for services, they won’t be able to truly gauge real ROI until many months into the game. If it becomes apparent then that there is no real ROI, precious time and money will have been wasted; that’s when it’s time to worry.

If you’d like to read the article on HVEDC’s social media success, written by Kathy Kahn, you may find it here:  Jump on board social media.

Cheers!

InteractiveMary

Your own FREE personalized, cross-promotional, social media marketing strategy :: a few simple steps

There are a lot of companies out there trying to sell people, organizations and communities online marketing services they don’t need with money they don’t have. My suggestion is: Don’t be fooled! There are so many free tools out there, and if you know how to utilize them correctly, you will have your very own online marketing strategy for free. It’s simple really.

Think cross-promotion and building credibility!

I have worked diligently to formulate a total online cross-promotional, social media marketing strategy that can really work. This strategy is a culmination of years of marketing, social media, software tools and psychology expertise and knowledge to filter out the very best process possible. Here are some tips to get started:

1. Set up as many relevant social media tools as necessary and brand with a consistent URL (twitter.com/YourCompany; linkedin.com/in/YourCompany; facebook.com/YourCompany etc. REMEMBER: Not every tool will make sense for you. Focus on the specific tools that will work best with your target demographic and your specific needs.

2. Create a WordPress blog. I suggest a self-hosted blog as it is much more powerful, produces better SEO results and easily customizable design template etc. But you can also create a WordPress.com account for free and use that.

3. Create a Hootsuite.com account; link 5 (you can do more if you pay a fee) of your social accounts; Twitter, Facebook, Facebook Page, WordPress, Foursquare, LinkedIn

4. If you have FireFox, install Hootbar (if you have an Android phone you can scan the QR code on the site to easily install this on your phone as well). With Hootbar, you can now push and schedule content to push to all five of these social networks with little work on your part.

5. Set up Google alerts and have them delivered to your e-mail. Create a paper.li and publicize it via your cross-promotional channels.

6. Create a 24/7 Press Release account and you can push out as many as 1 press release per day for free, with the potential to be picked up by known venues. Also re-post your press releases to your blog, changing the title slightly so your pr is not scraped.

7. Utilize the full power of LinkedIn. Pump up your company page with sliding photos and request recommendations from industry pros. Join as many relevant LI groups as you can and post solicited advice and comments where possible. Create LI events and invite others to join. Also, link your profile to TripIt and begin building your professional travel itinerary history.

8. Push out community events, stories, news etc through your channels; basically everything you post on your Web site can be re-posted through your social media channels.

9. Use e-mail marketing to promote news and happenings and then re-post via your channels. I suggest MailChimp as it is free and easy to use.

10. Mobile. Mobile. Mobile. Get to know bit.ly and create a QR code. Install social media apps on your mobile device and use them diligently to connect with other professionals in person, check-in to industry events, professional meetings, or anywhere else you happen to be. You never know what kind of connections you may make this way.

11. Read “Now Revolution” by Jay Baer. (in your free time!)

12. Begin using Nixle. It’s not just for police and community responders. It’s a great way to engage and inform your community.

13. Create your digital business card. Have a QR code printed on your business card. You can even track the QR code to find out when your card is scanned. Point the code to a Web page that contains your contact information and is easy to update.

14. Get your business found on Google via Google Places. Also don’t forget to look into Google+, the new, interactive social platform.

15. Get listed! Don’t forget to get listed on Manta.com and CrunchBase.com as well as ednames.com, the only mobile directory for economic development.

Obviously, there is so much more, and I suggest training on each individual tool so that you are able to fully realize the potential of your personalized cross-promotion strategy.

There are, of course, certain questions that may help your specific situation, related to desired industries, site selectors, type of communication etc. (typical branding questions). For instance, with Twitter, there are targeted things you can do to grow your reach if you know your specific target demographic. You can also use Twitter as a customer service platform. Also consider creating an auto-generated response promoting other channels.

Here is what I would suggest you do first: Set up Hootsuite and Hootbar and give it a try. If you have questions, write them down. When you have your questions on paper either Google the answer or contact me. I can show you some of the tools more in-depth, pinpointing the best of each tool maximized for your specific needs.

You can reach me at twitter.com/InteractiveMary if you have questions or you would like training on specific tools. Also, connect with me on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/interactivemary.

Cheers!

@InteractiveMary

Copyright @2011 Interactive Mary