Saturday, August 13, 2016

Using social media for increasing awareness at corporate level

Background 

Let’s get things straight from the start: As (at least some of) you know, I am an agronomist (holding a PhD from the Agricultural University of Athens / Dept. of Agricultural Biotechnology), and I have a relatively long experience in the field of agricultural information & knowledge management as well as in the participation of various EU projects (ranging from Leonardo da Vinci to ICT-PSP, FP7 & Horizon 2020), always in the agrifood sector. Through my participation in these projects, I had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of different activities, such as the design and delivery of training courses for agricultural trainers, organization of information and knowledge (e.g. courses, publications and other material) in digital repositories, description of digital resources with metadata and classification with Knowledge Organization Systems), interoperability between different content management systems and digital repositories, metadata management workflows and many-many more. Through this experience I managed to have a different view of agriculture, the one of research outcomes/publications and how these can (and should, in some cases) be freely and openly accessible to anyone interested (this is what Open Access is about) – the same applied to research data (open data). In this context, I recently had the opportunity to combine my background in agriculture/agronomy and my experience in information and knowledge management with social media (which I personally consider extremely useful tools for professional purposes as well). I spent quite some time as the Marketing & Networks Manager of Agroknow, where I had the opportunity to set up existing digital marketing channels and grow the existing ones.

A photo posted by Vassilis (@vprot) on


When I started working for NEUROPUBLIC, a company of a larger scale and different structure compared to the ones that I have worked for in the past, I faced a big challenge: How could I apply my experience in a different (but still not unknown) context, the one of smart farming (or precision farming) and related ones like remote sensing, earth observation, Internet of Things in agriculture etc.? While the means would remain the same, it was obvious that I would need to adapt the approach and the analysis of the specific ecosystem – referring not only to individual stakeholders but also to organizations that are activated in the same field as NEUROPUBLIC. In any case, the main point is to find the best possible way to expose to external stakeholders all this interesting work that takes place in NEUROPUBLIC (but was not communicated at all, during the last years). This was exactly the pain of NEUROPUBLIC and this would be one of my roles in the company.

Activities

The first step in the process was the analysis of the current status of the social media accounts of NEUROPUBLIC (referring to its corporate pages on Facebook and LinkedIn). Then, I took some time to set up a corporate Twitter account, which I consider a necessary communication and outreach mean for a company like NEUROPUBLIC. The last in line was the setup of the corporate blog, which I hope that it will provide an alternative mean of expression and outreach for the company staff. It only became the last in the list due to the fact that it takes a lot of design and planning and we wanted to get things started immediately - at this time, the blog has been set up but we are internally testing content management workflows and roles so it's not public - yet.

At the same time, I had to find the sources from which I could mine content related to the company that I could then promote through the aforementioned social media channels – the corporate website was a great start as it already contained a wealth of information about the company and its work along with great visual content. On top of that, I did some research regarding quality sources of news related to the thematic areas that NEUROPUBLIC is activated in; in this way, we would not only share our corporate news but we would also draw the attention of those activated in the same context.

Before I were in the position to promote NEUROPUBLIC’s work to external stakeholders, I had to achieve a deep understanding of them: this translates to countless hours of studying related documents, slides and other types of publications for better understanding concepts like precision agriculture, remote sensing, earth observation, NDVI, IACS, LPIS, even CAP etc. and see how they are integrated in the Smart Farming outcomes of NEUROPUBLIC, such as the GAIA Sense network of the GAIATron telemetric stations, GAIA Agronomy, GAIA Irrigation, GAIA Shield etc.

Last but not least, I keep studying the networks in which NEUROPUBLIC is a member of, such as the European Association of Remote Sensing Companies, the Big Data Value Association, the Alliance for Internet of Things Innovation and the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) and follow their activities, trying to establish and maintain contact, as well as to provide feedback when needed. I also check out further networking opportunities - social media are extremely useful in this case, too.

Next steps

The next steps are more or less typical for this type of work: (i) Keep social media frequently updated, (ii) establish connections and (iii) make the most out of them - opportunities exist even in social media. :-)
The progress can be evaluated (partially, from my point of view) through the analytics tools provided by each channel. I believe that there is no need for complex reports and focusing on these metrics (vanity metrics as many call them). An increasing number of followers, likes and shares is an indication that what you are doing is good and draws the attention of people but since the company does not sell its products through social media there’s no point in focusing on them. Instead, my approach is that social media in cases like NEUROPUBLIC should be used for keeping people informed about the activities of the company and show a constant activity on social media. My experience says that the rest will follow.