On the third Thursday of each month, the Research Triangle Park Foundation hosts panels of local speakers for a community event called RTP180. This month, the topic was Social Media, and speakers included representatives from local institutions and organizations, ranging from private startups to major academic universities to beer breweries.
The atmosphere at these events is always informal and fun, and the 5-minute presentations are just long enough to convey key points, but short enough to maintain the crowd’s interest. Social media is certainly a hot button topic in recent years, and it was interesting to see these organizations share how they utilize social media to convey unique and usable content to their audiences. Common themes across the presentations focused on how best to brand yourself and your company, and how to reach the greatest number of users, how to select content that is usable to your audience, and how to determine which platforms are the best to use to accomplish your specific goals.
RTP180 attendees network and mingle in advance of the event.
Matthew Royse of Forsyth Tech gave some very specific pointers, gleaned from social media research, indicating the ideal character length for tweets (100), Facebook posts (40), and domain names (8), and suggested that a balance of 60% curated content and 40% unique user content would work best to attract and maintain the attention of an audience. He also noted that timing of posts is critical in reaching your targets, given that 80% of the country is in the Central and Eastern time zones, and many users are online during weekends, a time that businesses often don’t consider to be prime for posting new content.
Amanda Peralta, a Social Media fellow at Duke University, also gave an informative presentation on determining the most suitable social media platforms for a particular organization’s goals. For instance, Facebook is the best match for those who host frequent events or need to provide customer service information, while Twitter is better for conveying current information on events or for those who have niche areas of expertise. Instagram is the best choice for reaching younger demographics when you have a lot of visual content, and especially in cases where users are already Instagramming photos relevant to your location or events.
Several other speakers reiterated some of these themes and discussed how social media has impacted their own business growth. It was clear that social media engagement can play a critical factor in the dissemination of information, in branding and marketing, and in generating interest for organizations. Because it is still a new area that most are just becoming acclimated to, one speaker indicated that social media is much like the “Wild West,” meaning there are few solid rules, and still plenty of time and room for individuals to pave their own way.
Justin Miller from WedPics discusses how his photo social sharing startup has achieved such success.
However, Chris Cohen from Bands to Fans noted that one must be careful of spreading their self too thin across the many available social media platforms. While it may seem beneficial to be present on all forms of social media, he suggest that if you find one or two platforms that are suitable for you, and you consistently and frequently post relevant content, that many times your audience will actually spread that content to other platforms on your behalf, increasing your visibility while still limiting your time and effort. This sentiment was echoed by Peralta, who also suggested to “limit yourself to what you can do well.”
There was such a positive response to this particular session, that some suggested that RTP180 host a social media “bootcamp” so this conversation can continue and grow in depth. The RTP180 events continue on a monthly basis throughout the year and cover various topics that could be relevant to survey researchers and those interested in new technologies. Upcoming events include topics on Big Data and Health; all are free and open to the public, though an RSVP is required and most events fill to capacity quickly. Free refreshments and a post-session meal are offered to all attendees. To find out more about RTP180 and their schedule of events, visit www.rtp.org/rtp180.