Catching Fire: Social Media

Photo of Allan Rubin by Allan Rubin, Vice President, Marketing

Think social media hasn’t caught on in government? Think again.

A February 5 article on NextGov notes that approximately 70 social networking sites are now approved for government use. You can see a list of those sites here. Another recent NextGov article discusses how “social media doesn’t just mean Facebook anymore.” It cites Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube as the most popular social media sites for federal agencies, “with nearly all major federal agencies using all three sites.”

Social MediaMuch of this activity revolves around using social media for constituent outreach. But I believe it also demonstrates a level of comfort with, and reliance on, social media that wasn’t there a few years ago. Witness the number of blogs that have popped up to challenge the traditional trade media’s control of the government reader’s mindshare. FedTech catalogs the 50 Must-Read Federal IT Blogs, and I’m sure that just scratches the surface.

Why is this important to government contractors? Your customers are people, too, and they want to be entertained and informed like anyone else. They are increasingly using social media for their own business purposes. They’re exchanging ideas and information to solve their business challenges. They’re trying to keep up with the market and the latest developments. They’re watching what their peers do and listening to what they say. And they’re forming opinions based on what they see online — before they ever talk to you.

“Social networking has come of age and is now an integral part of the B2G marketscape,” says federal marketing guru Mark Amtower in a recent blog post. “LinkedIn especially has been adopted by feds and contractors alike and is now not simply a ‘must do’, but a ‘must do well.’”

Newly formed Leidos, a spinoff of SAIC, certainly sees value in social media as a vehicle to reach the government. The Washington Business Journal published an interesting case study: Behind the Launch: An Inside Look at Leidos’ Social Media Initiative. The article details the steps Leidos took to leverage social media in launching its new brand. It’s worth a read for federal marketers.

Of course, most marketers understand the value of thought leadership delivered via online content, but does it really impact sales? I think Robert Davis is right on target in his opinion piece in Washington Technology, “Have You Embraced the New Model of BD?” Davis describes a model that has evolved from this:

Meet  >> Build Relationship >> Demonstrate Expertise >> Establish Trust >> Close Client

To this:

Identify Issue >> Get Educated on Issue (Online) >> Identify Experts (Online) >> Develop Trust >> Meet with Experts >> Close Client

Davis says the model is based upon this as the starting point of the BD process: “When a potential government customer has a daunting technical or management issue or unexpected problem that must be addressed, they go online to find information that defines the problem, explains the problem and offers alternatives for problem resolution.”

And it progresses to this:

“Customers will seek subject matter experts who are able to discuss their issue and present options or tools that may be applied to address the customer’s problem.

Once they find information i.e. knowledge they understand, they will note the expert’s name i.e. the source who provided the subject matter understanding to them, and they will note the company’s name too.

If they trust this source, they may invite the company to meet with their team during the market research phase of their procurement process.”

It’s not always that clean and simple, of course. But I’ve heard similar statements directly from the mouths of federal CIOs and senior technology executives. It’s clear there’s a lot of truth to this “Digital BD” model that depends heavily upon thought leadership — of which social media is now a key component. I hope it’s part of your 2014 marketing strategy.

2 Responses to Catching Fire: Social Media

  1. Great read, Allan. I had yet to see the WBJ article on Leidos, so thanks for sharing.

    You are spot on about government buyers and influencers also being people. When it comes to a content strategy that will attract interest in social environments, I always subscribe to the “3Es” – engage, educate and (when appropriate) entertain.

  2. Allan Rubin says:

    Thanks Mark. I know this is a huge area of focus for you, so comments and ideas are always welcome!

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