The 2009 IEDC Annual Meeting is now in the history books. It was a very well
run educational meeting with a number of excellent presentations. This year,
everybody was interested in learning more about the successful application of
social media in economic development. I had the good fortune of attending a
plenary session entitled "Doing More With Less: Using Web 2.0 for High-Impact,
Low-Cost Marketing". Jessica Tuquero, Account Supervisor with DCI, moderated
this session and the panelists were Sandra McMerty, North Dakota Department of
Commerce; Susan Merryman, Columbus Chamber of Commerce (Ohio); and Lorna
Shepard, Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada. The presentations and
subsequent Q&A impressed me so much, I thought it would be great if I could
interview the panel so if you weren't able to attend their session, you could
potentially still benefit from their experience with and knowledge of social
- Question: Many Economic Development Organizations are keenly interested
in social media because they believe it is a free communication tool to get
their message out broadly. Based on your experience, what are the key questions
you would encourage EDOs to answer before deciding to make social media part of
their media mix?
Sandy McMerty – The questions that lead to good
marketing decisions rarely change for the medium, social media is no different.
In the end the keys are: What product are you selling? Who is your audience?
What is the message you want to convey? If the organization is targeting an
industry it needs to know what messages support that before it starts using
social media to get the word out.
Susan Merryman – I agree. Social
networking needs to fit in the organization's broader strategy. It's a tool, not
a stand-alone strategy. Although it's a "free" medium, organizations must still
consider sustainability. Once you've determined if/how this fits in the overall
strategy, consider: What is your goal? Do you have the resources – mostly human
— to sustain a presence? How will you measure success? Do you have policies in
place to guide participants?
Lorna Shepard – Adding to the experts' advice (with which I wholeheartedly
agree), it's critical to understand your target audiences. Not every EDO's
target is using social media currently; however, if an EDO has a goal of
exposure or coverage, social media may make sense. Alternatively, if an EDO
knows that the best way to reach their goal and target is direct sales or
personalized communication, social media is not a replacement for (the typically
more costly) sales efforts required to successfully locate a company.