Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sleuthing Social Sites, Part 2 - Marketing

The Myth of the Luddite PI

We decided early in this firm's development to embrace the mythology of the Private Eye--Ferrari, fedora, and all. In that spirit, we craft a monthly post called [FIND] Vice. It's a celebration of our favorite fictional PIs, complete with a cocktail and cigar pairing, chosen with care by our favorite real-life mixologists and stogie men.

One aspect of the PI myth that we do not embrace, however, is that of the technophobe gumshoe.

To our minds, the [FIND] Vice feature merges past and present, to our benefit. By using a modern platform to pay homage to the vintage PI (and all the romance therein), we massage the myth, while living fully in the present. Basically, it's a way to connect, a sophisticated interaction with current and prospective customers, and it costs us nothing but a little time and creativity.

We're looking for a level of professionalism in our online presence-- a blend of casual, transparent and intelligent e-communications that both engage our audience and project (we hope) a certain familiarity with the wired world. A necessary attribute for the modern investigator, in our view.

Content Matters
Admittedly, mastering the art of social media marketing is more difficult than it sounds. It's not enough to just join the usual-suspect social-media granfalloons--e.g. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. It's about knowing how to use those sites to start a conversation, and keeping that conversation going using a combination of social media platforms, blogs, newsletters, QR codes, and (of course) a well-designed website that aggregates your company's online information portals.

Take a quick glance at the Twitter universe, and you'll see what we mean: millions of e-voices, few of them saying anything worthwhile or interesting. They're not conversing; they're advertising. "Visit my site!" "Buy my book!" It's hard to find any real content amidst the chaos of voices.

We struggle daily with the question of content, wondering if the information we're sending into the world is worthy of the ones and zeroes we're using up in its production. Transparency means looking inward as well as outward--it's easy to point to problems with someone else's website, blog, or marketing approach. But the very act of pushing ideas into the electronic ether changes the ideas themselves--because we get unexpected responses, the kind that demand that we re-think how we do things.

Are our blog posts too long? Maybe. We delve deep into subjects, reference economists, thinkers, literature. We believe our clients are smart, and they deserve as thorough a treatment of the subjects we cover as we ourselves seek in newspapers, magazines, and online journals.

Are we using Twitter, Facebook, and our monthly newsletter to best effect? It's a question we ask ourselves every day. Using posts and newsletter bursts, we've been successful in driving traffic to our blog so far. We sometimes tweet field updates when we're pulling surveillance. All these strategies seem to keep our clients interested and engaged, and our names bobbing at or near the surface of their attention.

But we have plenty to learn.

One thing we do know: it's useless to try to draw a straight line between social media and money. None of this makes a penny, at least not in a directly measurable way. We've excised "monetize" from our vocabulary, at least when it comes to our online presence. We charge for our work; the engagement is free.

Tell Your Story
It's a long-term way of thinking, and sometimes the waiting is frustrating. But it's become clear to us that building a sophisticated media presence using journalistic outlets, social media platforms, blogs, and a well-designed website does eventually drive engagement and interaction. All of these media are ways for us to tell customers our story, to let them know who we are and what we value.

In today's marketplace, it's not enough to be merely competent. Your clients aren't just purchasing information as a commodity; they're investing in you.

Tell them your story. Be calculating, but authentic. And most of all, be patient.

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