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Local Social Interview: Social Media and The Business of Government Contracting

July 27, 2009

I will be creating a new series of interviews called Local Social where I will be interviewing local businesses in the greater Washington DC area and explore how they use social media. The goal is twofold;

  1. Explore how various industries are leveraging social media.
  2. Offer a pragmatic viewpoint on how other businesses are using today’s web technology.

While it is valuable to hear how each business leverages social media, we should realize that they can always improve upon their tactics and strategies. This is where I chime in and provide the key takeaways at the end of each interview.

This week, I cover Diana Kurcfeld, CEO of Design To Delivery.

Background Info;

dkurcfeldAbout Design To Delivery helps organizations successfully navigate government procurement and businesses win and management government contracts. We provide strategic planning, opportunity identification, proposal and pricing development, GSA Schedule and grant proposal support, acquisition management and contract administration, and training services.

Where to find D2D:

  1. Twitter @ddkurcfeld,
  2. http://www.d2dinc.blogspot.com/,
  3. http://www.linkedin.com/in/dianadibblekurcfeld,
  4. http://www.govloop.com/profile/DianaKurcfeld

Clientele. They support government clients (federal, state & local), and commercial clients that are in or want to get into government contracting.

Interview:

1. What are your preferred social media tools? Why?

I prefer Twitter, LinkedIn and GovLoop. I am a member of others, but these fit my needs best. Twitter allows me a platform to reach people with information about government contracting. It has been a good tool for me to build relationships with people outside of the Washington, DC area.

2. At Sachi Studio, we’re all about empowering clients to use what I refer to as Smart Social Media. This means to socialize smarter and not harder with todays online communication platforms. Can you list some tactics that you’ve used to enable you to use social media more productively?

When I first started using social media I was bombarded with a huge number of sites to join. Like many people, I signed up for more sites than I really needed, including the sites for several associations that I belong to. I decided to refine why I was using social media, my objectives, and my message. I reached out to people who had more information and got information on how to maximize my time and efforts. This allowed to figure out what sites would help me achieve my goals. I still use the other sites, although it’s less frequent than the primary ones. When I first joined Twitter people made a big deal about the number of followers I had. I decided early on that I would grow my Twitter followers organically and not thru any of the “get 10,000 followers in a day” gimmicks. I wanted to follow (and be followed by) people with similar interests.

3. What sort of specific results have you gotten from using these tools?

I’ve seen the most results from Twitter. I am interested in building relationships and sharing my perspective and expertise on government contracting. Although I’m not trying to sell anything on Twitter, I have developed relationships with potential clients. I’ve built relationships, been interviewed for publications, been invited to be on panels and to speak at events, and have also been contacted for information relating to government contracting.

I also used Twitter when I needed a resume for a quick-turnaround client proposal. My followers re-tweeted the info and I did get a resume. I use TweetDeck to manage my tweets. I created columns so I can keep track of everyone. For instance, I have news, government, small biz, and health & fitness as columns. I can quickly scan these columns for information, and then read the other columns for tweets with more general information. I really make an effort to read people’s tweets and not just the people I know well. This has allowed me pass along useful information to my followers and to develop relationships with people I can reach out to when I have questions.

4. Do you think that “building relationships” online using a platform such as Twitter is actually more time-efficient than doing it offline? In the sense that building it online is simply a matter of a few tweets and messages here and there. All totaled, it’s simply minutes out of your time. Whereas in person, it could be a few hours logged between phone calls and coffee meetings before something productive can occur. Thoughts?

It may be more time efficient, but it certainly should not replace the other parts of relationship building (phone & especially face time). In my opinion, some exclusively online relationships can lead to a false sense of familiarity, which in the long run may end up being superficial. One thing I have found is my community of Twitter followers and people I’m following really do seem to care and genuinely want to connect with people. That is a great starting point for building a relationship.

In terms of time management, platforms such as Twiitter are a timesaver in the sense that I’m not traveling to all of these out-of-state/country locations to try and meet people. If I need to travel later to reinforce a relationship, then that’s fine. I’ve actually met quite a number of of my Twitter relationships. We make arrangements to meet at events we’re attending or to get together individually for coffee. I’ve even introduced people via Twitter who have also met in person.

5. Seeing that part of your business is to help them navigate the government procurement and win contracts, would you be recommending your own clients to use social media?

I’ve been asked by clients about how social media relates to government contracting and how they can use social media for their business. Government contracting, like all business, is built on relationships. I have met and built relationships with many government employees and government agencies on Twitter. They post information on their agency, upcoming events, industry events, etc. There are also news agency related to government contracting on Twitter so it’s a good way to stay up-to-date on events and issues. One thing I caution my clients is to need make sure they have specific policies for employees using social media networks, particularly information relating to the posting of company information. I have heard stories about employees posting about a proposal they are working on. Posting about contract awards could also pose a problem. Companies must read their contract carefully so they know about any potential limitations about publicizing a contract win.

6. What’s been the biggest surprise to you so far in your usage of these tools?

The biggest surprise is they have been useful tools. I was very hesitant to initially use social media, especially after hearing they can be a time drain. I also was surprised by how quickly they can be effective if they’re used properly.

7. Speaking of time, how much time do you put into these tools on a weekly basis?

It really depends on what is going on although I don’t spend as much time as I did when I first started (it really can be addictive). I review my Twitter and Facebook accounts several times a day to see what people are talking about (spending about 5 minutes per site). I have most of my social networking accounts set up so my Tweets and blog posts automatically update to the various sites. That really saves time. I have my LinkedIn groups set up so I’m emailed a daily digest that I can scan and only read articles that interest me.

I get weekly emails from Plaxo and LinkedIn, which give me a snapshot of my connections’ activities. Most of my Twitter postings are government contracting related information. Some days I run across a lot of information to post, other days – not so much. I may tweet from an event I’m attending or send a random thought from my mobile phone. I spend more time on Twitter on Fridays for two reasons: 1) I really want to share good people I know for Follow Friday; and 2) I’ve found some really interesting people to follow on Follow Fridays.

8. Best advice you can give to any business trying to use these tools?

Determine why you want to use social media – networking, sales, social, etc. Then do your homework on the best site(s) for you based on your objectives. Set aside specific time to use it and don’t get sucked into the black-hole of time mismanagement by limiting the number of sites you use. Social media can be a real timewaster if you don’t plan ahead.

keytakeaways
Strongpoints:
  1. Any professional service firm should take note that she leveraged social media to build visibility and not necessarily sell a service. She received greater press coverage which resulted in speaking engagements which in turn can increase sales. She also leveraged the platforms to build partnerships and alliances rather than try to prospect.
  2. Diana is correct to focus on LinkedIN, Twitter, and Govloop. These are the 3 platforms that allows her to develop partnerships. Ignore Facebook.
  3. It seems Diana is easily tweeting about 5-10 times a day. She’s smart to use an application like Tweetdeck which increases her productivity on Twitter.

Weakpoints:

  1. Upon review of her website, she needs better social media integration. Not every website visitor will buy but you need to find a way to stay top of mind to them. Integrating Facebook badges, Twitter widgets and other embeds will allow visitors to connect with her on these secondary sites and continue building the rapport.
  2. Move away from the Google Blogspot platform and migrate the blog to a WordPress platform and then migrate the blog over to her website servers. Considering the amount of useful posts she has, it is not getting full traction by having the blog platform seperate from the website. It’s like building a house with a weak foundation. A strong blogging strategy has to use a strong blogging platform. During the interview, she did mention considering moving the blog over. Integrating the blog into the websites will improve search engine optimization efforts along with increasing brand identity.
  3. Once she moves the blog over, she should also consider improving the SEO of her website. DC is all about the government contracting business and there are tons of daily keyword searches for those keywords. That’s just money left on the table.

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H. Dean


Owner and Google and Facebook Ads strategist for Sachi Studio. Currently accepting new clients. Contact me on how to improve your lead generation strategy.

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