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Social Media Monitoring for Economic Development

If you are in the business of attracting or retaining business for your community, chances are your customers – whether site selectors, business owners or creative people who invent new products and services – are active on social networks and sites.

How widely are such sites used in the economic development world?  We don’t really know, because research just can’t keep up with the rapid changes.  The most often cited statistic is that 57 per cent of members of the International Economic Development Council surveyed by the IEDC and Development Counsellors International (DCI) said they were using social media tools.  But that was in 2009, a lifetime ago in Internet years.

More recently a survey of 3,800 marketers from all industries, carried out for the 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report published by SocialMediaExaminer.com, found that 83 per cent of respondents said that social media was important for their business.  The survey also found that the Number 1 reported benefit of social media marketing was generating more business exposure (reported by 85 per cent of marketers), followed by increasing traffic (69 per cent) and providing marketplace insight (65 per cent).

Economic development organizations, too, probably employ social media to an almost universal extent, but they are missing out on one of its most essential benefits – finding out about themselves.

Is Your Economic Development organization aware of its social buzz?

What is the business reputation of your community?  What are the most common words and images associated with it?  How is your latest campaign generating reactions among people in your target audiences?

Many ED organizations do not have answers to such questions because they don’t regularly monitor or analyze their social media mentions.  If they did, they would have an easy way to accomplish continuous improvement in their marketing programs along with greater returns on their investment of resources.

Lack of time is a frequently cited reason for not monitoring social media.  Today’s advanced web products however, automate the monitoring process sending software out to keep an eye on what’s being said about you and then simply aggregating the data – without investment of staff time.

By checking on the collected data, EDOs can quickly analyze the content and tone of commentary in social media channels by geographic location and time period.

The best tools can investigate specific social media sites as well as aggregate results from all selected sites, and they can store results for long-term analysis of trends.

Measuring Tangible Investment Attraction Social Media Marketing Results

Monitoring tools assist with building relationships through social media and measuring the effectiveness of initiatives.  That’s important because EDOs are being held to higher and higher levels of accountability.  Social media monitoring is a method to produce tangible business information and measurable campaign results.

The Greater Richmond Partnership furnishes an example.  It launched social media channels for its workforce program, RichmondJobNet, including a Facebook page and a Twitter presence.  As reported to Mashable.com by Jennifer Yeager, marketing communications consultant for the GRP, monitoring of the channels revealed that, of the 21,500 tweets the organization has posted, 90 per cent have been job listings.  How’s that for measurable success?

Social media monitoring tools can be a defensive mechanism as well as a signpost for progress.  They can alert EDOs to sudden changes in volume and tone of conversations using real-time measurements.  If you’re not monitoring what is said about you, how will you be able to respond if trouble erupts from some unexpected source?

Suppose, for example, that someone spreads false information through social media that toxic chemicals have been found in lands in your industrial park.  If you have included the name of your park among the keywords you are automatically monitoring, you will catch this threat in time to counter it.  Without such monitoring your community can be at risk.

A good example from the private sector was reported by McKinsey and Company.  In 2011, a hoax photograph posted online claimed that McDonald’s was charging African-Americans an additional service fee. The hoax first appeared on Twitter, where the image went viral just before a weekend. On Saturday, the company’s director of social media released a statement through Twitter declaring the photograph to be a hoax and asking key influencers to “please let your followers know.” McDonald’s continued to reinforce that message throughout the weekend and by Sunday the number of people who believed the image to be authentic had dwindled.  McDonald’s stock price rose five per cent the following day.

Supporting Your Social Reputation

Whether or not your EDC has chosen to actively participate in social media itself, others will be talking about you. It’s critical to know what’s being said so you can respond accordingly.

It’s easy to see that social media can be a powerful instrument, for good or bad.  Your EDO needs it to attract, inform and sustain the interest of your client base.  It is also essential for monitoring and influencing your region’s economic reputation.  Responding to social media incidents in order to counter negative comments and reinforce positive ones will only increase in importance.

On a strategic level, the Number 1 best practice for economic development online is to develop and maintain a cohesive, focused, goal-oriented and measurable web and social media strategy.  Measurement is critical to the success of such a strategy, and social media buzz is a key performance indicator.

Monitoring social mentions provides feedback on your marketing activities and brings a higher level of clarity and insight to them. Use of real-time social media monitoring enables an accelerated response to shifts in the marketplace. Your organization can make adjustments to marketing programs much more quickly to produce the measurable outcomes that you want to see.

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