Who’s on the Front Lines of your Economic Development?

130828-Front-LinesI’ve always been a huge believer that customer service is one of the most valuable pieces of brand development. Companies who have superior customer service are recognized as a stronger brand and tend to have better sales numbers than those without. Associations who put customer service first tend to have a greater number of members than those who do not. The fact of the matter is that sales are directly proportional to customer service. The same can be said for economic development.

So, how are you manning the front lines of your economic development efforts? 
Continue reading “Who’s on the Front Lines of your Economic Development?”

Digital Placemaking: The New Frontier of Community Development

Over the past few decades we’ve seen an explosion of research and work in the science and art of placemaking. The importance of design, public space and public art is being broadly appreciated and implemented in communities around the world, often with stunning results. But in today’s world of social networking, mobile devices and nearly ubiquitous internet connectivity, are solely physical placemaking activities enough?

People look online first for everything these days, and communities are no exception. While it’s definitely vital for your community to have a welcoming, unique and livable physical presence, what is your community’s online presence like? Is it as fresh and lively as the new public square that was just finished, or is it a mish-mash of outdated websites, incorrect business listings and forum posts from 2003? Continue reading “Digital Placemaking: The New Frontier of Community Development”

Let the (Social Media) Madness Begin…

We’ve let you down. It’s not for a lack of desire.

As economic development professionals, we often talk about community engagement — whether that’s through public forums, surveys, client case studies, etc. However, there’s one community we always have on our minds — a community we hold near and dear to our hearts, that, at times, is neglected – our social community. You. And, again, as economic development professionals, we all know what happens when a community is neglected, and are working to change this. Beginning now. Continue reading “Let the (Social Media) Madness Begin…”

Numbers Behind the News: Development Insights from Big Data

IBM estimates that we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day.  They do not, however, estimate how much of this data is duplicated – all of the documents emailed between friends and coworkers that get stored on personal devices, corporate servers and cloud machines.  By my own unscientific and completely arbitrary estimate, at least 55 percent of our daily data production is duplication.

Big Data includes a lot of transactional data – what you purchase from stores as well as your Google searches or the fact that Person A sent an email to Person B,  as well as the content of that email.  There is also data from sensors used in industrial production as well as climate, weather and traffic monitoring.  It includes Twitter and other social media posts, digital photos, Wikipedia entries and data produced by researchers, scientists, corporations and government agencies.

Big Data is often unstructured but it is usually timely.   It is not simply an aggregation of a bunch of data.  The challenge is to structure this data and make sense of it.  Economists and regional developers have been behind in tapping into Big Data but it can be useful in a number of ways.  Much of it enables firms to better segment customers or develop next generation products.  It can also provide value in itself by selling access to that data for specific types of users and uses.

One of the problems we have with a lot of economic data is that it is too structured or aggregated to make it useful for data mining and other Big Data analytical techniques.  For instance, our use and definition of industry sectors (NAICS) hampers analysis of emerging industries.  This structure is used to provide anonymity and confidentiality but it also distorts the kind of variation that is useful to better understanding how our economy works.  For one, we have no idea what happens within a nondisclosed NAICS code.  But even within a sector we don’t know how many firms are growing or declining or the magnitude of those changes.  For most economic developers working within a local or regional economy, it can make a big difference whether an apparent “industry trend” is broadly shared by companies in the sector or if there are diverging patterns.

Currently there are few sources of Big Data for economic development analysis, but job postings, social media feeds and patent data are a few that Fourth Economy has been working on to yield new insights on economic trends.  Patent data has been particularly ripe for this analysis, in part because it is so unstructured that it is difficult to analyze with traditional tools and techniques.  These can be frustrating times for analysts and for anyone seeking answers.  There is a wealth of data out there, but too often we aren’t able to hammer it into useful information.

We’ve set up a quick poll to gather some data of our own. It’s only one question, so share your thoughts.

 

5 Tips for Economic Development Websites

 

We spend a lot of time visiting community websites as part of our strategy and community assessment work. Here are a few helpful hints (offered in order of priority) we find incredibly useful.

  1. Contact information – Above all else, on the “contact us” or similar page, include the names of each staff person, their title, direct email and phone number. Contact information forms or “info@” emails don’t cut it. It costs time and delays the process.
  2. Maps – On the home page, clearly identify the name of your community, the state in which it is located and a map (Google maps work great).
  3. Info Links – Avoid repurposing your industry or demographic data in a marketing or promotional format. Find a valid data source (government preferred) and link directly to the relevant data set when possible.
  4. Reports – These are helpful. Comprehensive plans, strategic documents, cluster studies, workforce analyses – the more the merrier – Just make sure they are the most recent reports or indicate which report is the most recent.
  5. Social Media – It’s here to stay. Building online communities are just as important as building physical communities. By creating and promoting your community or organization online, you increase stakeholder and funder interest in what you are doing.

Live by these five points and your website will be liked and useful.

Social Media Blackout is a Failure of Power

 

As of this exact moment, I’d like to welcome back the students of Harrisburg University, who are now allowed to read blog and social media posts, such as this one.

Curious…?

Last week, Harrisburg University flipped the switch and turned the lights out on their students…at least when it comes to social media. The University turned off all access to social media sites to encourage a “healthy balance of social media” use. The University first conducted this experiment last year, where they determined that five percent of their student body spends between 15-20 hours on social media sites in the course of a week.

Such a stunt is off the mark.

While I can understand and appreciate the value of such awareness campaigns, and I am sure, naturally, people classified their time “offline” as productive, I tend to believe that actions like these send the wrong message to students. By treating social media as an evil, which takes grasp of our time and our lives, the University is spinning social media in a bad light. It’s the job of the University to prepare students for the outside world. I, as a member of this outside world, can ensure the University, that there’s social media out here…and it’s a lot more than chatting with friends, planning keggers and helping raise barns on Farmville.

Social media is a valuable and proven learning tool. Online communication and collaboration is growing. Think I’m wrong? Look at what Indonesia universities are doing to support digital media. Did you notice the part that said “everything in Indonesia is on a rise, especially the number of start-ups within the country”… attributed to social media. Seems like the creativity and collaboration that social media offers is being rewarded.

And this blackout goes for the campus faculty and admiration as well. The official University Twitter account has been inactive for a week, as well. That can’t be good for recruitment.

Eric Darr, the University’s provost, suggested that his hope for the blackout is that students will experience life. And today, after a week, they finally will. There’s a lot going on here in the outside world…sorry you’ve missed it this past week, Harrisburg University.

 

 

Do We Need the FTC for Social Media Transparency?

The following is a post from our team’s former blog: Economic Architecture, active from October 2009 – September 2010. While we have elected to re-share this information, some details and links may be a bit outdated. While it’s still a good read, you’ve been warned.  🙂


An article released yesterday by the Pittsburgh Business Times disclosed a number of local businesses who are adopting corporate policies relative to social media efforts and online activities. With the FTC including “new media” as part of their application of the FTCA as of December 1 in an ongoing effort to push corporate transparency coupled with Bayer Corporation‘s Twitter news feed and social media policy launching shortly after the birth of 2010, the relevancy of this topic is, again, forced to the headlines.

In the article, Bryan Iams, head of strategic and external communications for Bayer, keeps their social media policy very simple, stating:

“It’s not as if there are brand new guides or instructions to employees, but this is another vehicle that, if they are representing the company, they need to be mindful of what proper behavior is.”

Simple enough. I wonder if this is corporate shtick or if the employees feel the same way. Without actually reading the 13 pages of guidelines, it’s hard to understand the severity of these new policies. But, with this quote, it appears that Bayer has established guidelines for social media and online use when representing the Bayer corporate entity. Seems fair. Kudos to any company or organization using social media and understanding enough about it to further monitor their online reputation and enforce policy to keep their name clean. Less headaches that way (pun intended).

In the same article, Richard Cleland, assistant director of the Federal Trade Commission’s division of advertising, states that the FTC’s new media guides for companies are simply restating old advertising policies and applying them to social media:

“What we are doing is applying the same rules that apply to advertising and media to advertising in the word-of-mouth and social media area. Those rules relate to truth in advertising and transparency, and that simply because this is a novel format, that doesn’t mean different rules apply.”

Again, this seems reasonable. Disclosing endorsements, corporate connections and the like are a reasonable way to keep things, dare I say, transparent. You can see evidence of this transparency all over social media. In fact, it’s what keeps it alive.

Developing your online marketing strategy requires a presence of community. Without community, the social network would fail. The community relies on a foundation of trust. Without trust, the community would fail and the network would fail. If your online presence exists merely to hock your wares…people are going to see through your scheming and your community will be a community of one.

However, if you are a trusted and contributing member of a community, people will find value in what you say, what you do and what you share. From this aspect, the FTC guidelines are really only a safety net. Chances are that most companies and individuals who do not disclose their endorsements, connections and partners will be discovered quickly and called out by those valued members contributing to online communities.

FTC…I don’t think we need it for this. Do you?