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First Person: Nathan Kievman, CEO, DemingHill

Dec/Jan 10
Can you briefly define what social media marketing means?
Social media is a vehicle of communication that people use to interact with each other online. Social media is often described as many people talking to many people. Some define social media as a party, others as a networking event, and others as a conversation. I think they all apply in different respects.

The Assignment

Nathan Kievman, CEO of Chicago-based DemingHill and social media strategist, spoke to Area Development about the implications of social media marketing and the strategies that site selectors can use in implementing their own social media program. DemingHill is a consortium of top thought leaders within the social media industry. The corporate social media consulting firm helps companies develop social media platforms and recover from failed or stalled social media attempts.

What do you mean by a vehicle of communication?
Kievman: It's easy to understand social media within four categories: the first is social networking, which represents sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. The second is social voting or social sharing. These are content-ranking systems that rank and disseminate content to the marketplace. The third is social publishing like YouTube and iTunes, and it is, arguably, the largest of these four categories. The fourth is social engagement, which is e-mails, instant messaging, and text messaging.

What do site selectors need to generally understand about social media marketing?
They need to understand that social media marketing is a way of engagement. They need to define their target markets and then think about how they want to communicate with them using the strategies and tactics within social media platforms.

Why do companies need to focus on all of these components?
You can have the greatest content in the world, but if the content is only great to you, and it doesn't reach your target market and build trust and credibility, it won't work. You might have the greatest content, but if you don't know how to use the social platforms, you won't be able to get it out to anyone, thus having a much smaller trust and credibility opportunity.

We've heard that relationship building is important in the social media world. Why?
Relationships are founded on three things, which are pulled out of the book Built to Last by Jim Collins. They are trust, credibility, and communication. Critics of social media don't understand the context of these working together, and it's usually because they are missing one of these components.

Is there a way to best illustrate this?
If you compare social media to a wheel, then the hub of that wheel is the content, which is the most important part. The spokes on the wheel are the social media communication vehicles. And the tire represents the relationships you are trying to build. In the social media world, if you don't have all three of those components - the hub of content, the spokes being the social networks, and the tire representing trust and credibility - then your social media approach won't work.

Our readers have a great deal of interaction with federal, state, county, and city leaders, as well as community populations. How can social marketing help them build deeper relationships with these people?
Social media is the best and worst thing that's happened to us because it requires authenticity. Social media can spread your information virally within days, which is why it requires authenticity and credibility. It demands that we be open. People want to know that they are being heard, and they want to know that their voice is being taken into consideration. Social media can give site selectors an opportunity for an open dialogue around the issues that really matter. They can have an open conversation, where everyone can see the facts in an open community. There is more credibility in objectivity than there is in one-sidedness. Most corporations want a one-sided story, but what they don't realize is that people will believe more wholeheartedly with views from both sides.

How can this open forum be an advantage for site selectors?
Very often, the people that are the loudest are also the people that will be your biggest proponents, if you can have an open conversation with them. And social media allows for that. It also allows the market to see that you are open to talking about your issues, so instead of misinformation, you can put out a lot of positive information.

Should a company know ahead of time what is it going to say on the social media platforms?
Yes. It needs to have a content development plan that is socially friendly. The company needs to know its target market. For site selectors, it might be a particular target location or expansion project. The target market might be key constituents who are involved in the decision-making process in local government or the local community. Selectors should ask: What does that market need and care about? How do those things align with what we are bringing to the table? Then build content around that.

What other social media plans should site selectors develop?
You've got to make sure you check your risks and understand your opportunities before you jump in with both feet. You should own your domain name. There's a lot of brand-squatting that happens, so have an intellectual property and brand property acquisition program. Then you have to have a strategic social media plan across different platforms. You should also have an internal and external standard operating procedure for employee engagement, crisis management, customer service, and the whole social management process.

Companies who want to build a new facility or relocate an existing facility can sometimes run into opposition. How can social media help mitigate some of these roadblocks?
One of the biggest fears that our executives talk to us about is controlling things. They want to know how to control someone saying bad things about the company. Social media requires you to address the issues that people are complaining about. Before social media, we might have been able to sweep a lot of things under the rug, but not anymore. Social media creates an open forum.  Anyone that uses your product or service can talk about you. If you allow an open dialogue, you can hear what, if any, opposition there is and address it proactively.

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