By Brandon M. Gabler, PhD, RPA (Regional Director and VP of Operations at Commonwealth Heritage Group, Inc.) and Alison Haller, MS (Director of Marketing and Communications at Commonwealth Heritage Group, Inc.)
Finding relevant content and project examples to share on social media channels is a struggle. We all acknowledge the benefits of creating and sharing relevant, interesting, and timely social media content…like this blog! Social media posts constitute relatively low-cost and high-visibility marketing when done well. Social media is also a great venue for short, pithy updates about a realm of resources in which the public is generally interested (cool bridges and archaeological sites are easier to sell to the public than wetlands and overpass inspections). But to get the benefits, firms must overcome—or at least keep pace with—multiple challenges. Below are thoughts about the perceived top three challenges: 1) social media channel selection, 2) developing content, and 3) negotiating approvals to post content.
The challenges start with the social media outlets themselves: there are so many from which to choose, each has its own audience and purpose, and each has a lifecycle (Google just terminated its own social media channel, Google+; see also the rise and fall of MySpace). Commonwealth heavily uses three social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Of the three, Facebook—known primarily as a business-to-consumer (B2C) platform—claims the vast majority of our interaction with the public. One recent study stated that 42% of business-to-business (B2B) marketers admit that Facebook (with over 2 billion users) is the most effective B2B social networking platform for their companies because it is heavily customer-satisfaction centric, cost-effective, provides the chance for companies to interact with existing and potential customers, and more.
For most ARCA member firms, most sales or leads are generated outside of social media (also known as “offline sales”), meaning that the main goal with social media is to build brand awareness by driving traffic to our website and generating direct contacts with our team. We want the people (the C in B2C) who work for other businesses (the second B in B2B: project proponents, designers, constructors, agencies, etc.) to know about our company’s capabilities so they think of us the next time they need a heritage management consultant. Commonwealth’s website data tells us that of the three social media channels we use, Facebook is the most useful in driving that goal with over 20% of website traffic coming from a Facebook click.
The bigger problem is developing and sharing relevant and interesting content. A firm’s goal is to boost brand awareness and drive traffic through raw and authentic content. The most exciting thing about a heritage management firm is the suite of projects in our portfolio, and therefore the best way to generate buzz is to share content about those projects! However, once channels are chosen, two primary challenges remain.
First, there are limited resources (human, financial, temporal) to develop and post content because there are strains on technical staff to produce required deliverables, let alone content worthy of sharing on social media. Staff are commonly stretched thin because of balancing multiple simultaneous projects, the need to transition to new projects immediately, and trying to find something interesting and/or relevant to share when it may be just another negative survey.
Second, there are strains on management and administrative staff to manage the business and legal aspects of our contract requirements, along with an associated web of approvals and clearances to post newsworthy project-related information via social media. Occasionally, contracts contain explicit clauses about confidentiality, social media sharing, or what constitutes dissemination of work. More often, nothing is explicit in the contract. Yet as business operators, project and client managers, and ethical professionals, we know we need to exercise caution. Things like sensitive archaeological data and the perception by our clients that we’ve over-shared are tough to manage—the latter of which can seriously risk our ability for repeat business (just because the contract isn’t explicit doesn’t mean they would rather we stay quiet!). The time and effort associated with reaching out to clients to ask for explicit permission and sharing a rough draft of the post is often met with either no response or a rejection. Other times, clients perceive it as their product (“We’re paying for it!”), so they’d rather not have us market the material, at least until the final report is on file in a state office or in some cases not even filed (e.g., private-sector due-diligence work).
So, what are strategies you use to manage these challenges? Are there ways to create vague social media posts that are relevant, but protect your company from breaking written or unwritten rules? Do you provide staff with administrative or overhead time to develop social media content at the conclusion of projects? Do you have a method for requesting permission from clients that seems to work more often than not? We’d love to hear from you!