Many government contractors recognize the value of using social media networks to promote their companies and to generate leads and business relationships. However, theyre just not sure how to get started. If youre just getting started, I recommend choosing one or two social media networks and observing how like-minded professionals behave. For most government contractors, LinkedIn is a good network to start with. Here are some tips to help you get started with your social media marketing process.
Learn How Your Customers Use Social Media
Government contracting officers are using social media to research potential solutions to their agencys problems. To get a sense of how theyre using social media, I recommend Market Connections Federal Media and Marketing Study. This study provides several insights on how contracting officers use social media including which networks they use and how they use them. Another way to find out how your customers use social media is simple ask them! For most contracting officers and program managers, LinkedIn is the professional social media network of choice Market Connections 2012 study found that 35% of government respondents use LinkedIn, a 100% increase over 2011. I suspect this percentage will increase significantly when the 2013 study results are available. 58% of respondents use Facebook, but its not clear how much of this usage was professional.
Create a Professional LinkedIn Profile
There are several resources available on setting up your LinkedIn profile a Google search will give you plenty of ideas. Heres a good resource that I recommend: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Mastering LinkedIn. Here are some tips for setting up your profile:
- Include a professional photo on your profile. Save the picture of your dog for your Facebook page!
- Take advantage of your professional headline. Use language that describes how you help customers. Using a term like account executive doesnt communicate your value to current and potential customers. Use phrases that customers will use when searching for solutions to their problems because LinkedIn searches key on this field.
- Take advantage of your summary. Write a brief description (200 words or less) of how you help customers.
Build Your Network
Invite your friends, customers and colleagues to connect with you on LinkedIn. By building your network, you build your ability to connect with your connections network. Make sure to invite everyone you meet in your professional life to connect with you on LinkedIn. The standard LinkedIn invitation uses the following language, Id like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn. Always personalize your invitation by adding a reference to how you met or connected. Heres an example: Hi Steve, It was nice meeting you at the NVTC event this morning! Id like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.
Join LinkedIn Groups
One of the best ways to establish relationships with people youd like to know is to participate in LinkedIn groups. Here are a few LinkedIn groups I recommend for government contractors:
- Federal Government and Contractor Network (TCFN)
- Defense and Aerospace Connections
- GovCon Sales
- The Northern Virginia Technology Council
If youre just starting out, I suggest following the groups and seeing how the members interact. If you see someone ask a question in your field of expertise, give a thoughtful, well-reasoned answer. Dont be salesy, answer the question in a helpful way. This will help promote you and your company as thought leaders in your field of expertise. Another good way to interact in groups is to ask questions designed to stimulate conversation in the group.
Share Articles and Other Content with Your Connections
A good way to start getting active in social media is to share articles that you think would be of interest with your connections. LinkedIn makes it easy to share. When you log into LinkedIn, the sharing field is at the very top of your page:
If you paste a link into the share field, LinkedIn will add an image from the article and a brief description of what it's about. I recommend adding a brief comment about the article before posting. You have 3 sharing options:
- You can share with all of your LinkedIn connections.
- You can share with connections that you choose.
- You can share with your LinkedIn connections and simultaneously post the link to your Twitter account, if you have on.
If your company has a blog, it's a good idea to share your blog articles with your LinkedIn connections. Make sure to mix in content from other sources as well.
If you're a government contractor looking to start using social media to promote your business, LinkedIn is a great place to start. LinkedIn provides an opportunity for you to demonstrate thought leadership with your industry colleagues. If you live in the Washington, DC area and you'd like to learn more, I highly recommend that you attend the Northern Virginia Technology Council event, A Hands-On Strategic Workshop for Improving Your Personal and Professional Network on February 22.