Reaching Federal Decision Makers: The Social Media Conundrum
A new survey by research firm Market Connections Incorporated found that 35 percent of federal decision makers use LinkedIn, nearly double the number from the year before. According to an article in Federal Computer Week, the survey was based on interviews with 3,700 federal employees who identified themselves as decision makers within the government.
For those midsized businesses that actively market to the federal government, the ability to reach the right decision maker is often difficult because of the lack of analytic data related to federal purchasing needs, points of contact within the government, job functions, and other data that could help refine and extend the marketing effort and reach. IT analysts don't have access to large enough data sources that could tell businesses how to target the right government people at the right time. The problem is much like reaching the right consumer demographic, but more specialized and much harder to accurately identify due to the extraordinarily specific nature of government agencies and offices.
Social media may, on the surface, appear to be a way for business to reach federal decision makers, but the numbers in this survey show problems. While Facebook remained popular as a social destination, with 58 percent of those surveyed saying they used the site for either personal or professional purposes, only 3 percent said they used Facebook for purely professional (work-related) purposes. This number is down by half from the year before. Other popular social sites used included YouTube, with 46 percent of those surveyed using the site for either personal or professional purposes, and Twitter, with 11-percent use. So while these decision makers are on social sites, without analytics and business intelligence to fully understand how or why they are using social media, trying to effectively market to the government through these methods seems hit or miss.
And a related article from Business News Daily suggests the same, noting that print marketing is still the best way to sell to the government, in spite of the fact that federal employees have embraced technology with their smartphones and tablets. The article notes than 25 percent of federal decision makers prefer both print and online media.
As social sites continue to develop and midsized businesses continue to build their respective social brands, IT analysts will have more data available to mine; hopefully, it will be useful data. But it remains difficult to predict how the IT analyst will be able to accurately capture a demographic profile of any particular government office, agency, or individual for marketing purposes. Much will depend upon the nature, truthfulness, and completeness of the data that can be gleaned.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.