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BNE jumps on social media bandwagon

The Buffalo Niagara Enterprise is changing with the times.

The local business development and marketing group is increasingly turning to social media sites as a way to get its message out to site selectors and company executives.

"As generations change, you obviously have to change your strategies," said Thomas Kucharski, the BNE's president.

"We didn't replace the tried-and-true stuff you always do," like face-to-face meetings and phone calls, Kucharski said. "But it has actually turned into something us old guys would never have thought it would."

Over the last two years, the BNE has sent out more than 3,000 tweets to followers on its Twitter account.

It's using its Facebook page to let visitors know about upcoming events and to highlight information about the region.

It uses LinkedIn to generate discussions about issues in the industries that the BNE is targeting for development here. It also sends out electronic newsletters on the BNE's targeted sectors to selected recipients.

"It's important to hit them every way," said Jennifer Kavanaugh, the BNE's director of marketing and communications.

"You don't want to do this randomly," she said. "You want to have a plan, and ours is based around our targeted industries."

Those targeted industries, which range from advanced manufacturing and agribusinesses, to back office, life sciences and logistics operations, are sectors where BNE executives believe the region has a competitive advantage.

And that's where the group focuses its marketing pitches.

The BNE, for instance, uses Twitter to let its followers know where to find the group's representatives when they're at a trade show. It might use Facebook and Twitter to point out pertinent information about the region leading up to the show. The BNE also typically steps up its Google advertising around trade shows to make sure the group shows up on Internet searches that use certain keywords.

"The nice thing about this stuff is you can ratchet it up or ratchet it down, depending on what you're doing," Kucharski said. "When I travel, a lot of my itinerary is set up by who's tweeting me or who's e-mailing me."

Because of its immediacy, the information that goes out on Facebook or Twitter tends to be especially timely. It also can highlight a single item or detail that otherwise might not have stood out in a larger report or newsletter.

"It's often something that might get lost in the context of a larger newsletter," said Christopher Finn, the BNE's research manager. Each Facebook post on the BNE's page gets about 500 impressions, on average.

The BNE also is finding that social media is a way to get its message out to the people and companies it wants, while also staying within its budget.

"It really helps us maximize our resources," Kavanaugh said. "We're also making it easier for people to find us."

The BNE also uses software to track visitors to its Web site. While the software doesn't identify individual visitors, it does tell the BNE what company or group has used the site. The software also tells BNE officials what pages on the group's website the visitor looked at.

That can be valuable information. If the software reveals, for instance, that someone from a particular company was looking at information on the BNE website about labor costs in the region, a representative can follow up with the company to try to provide more information.

"It's better than a cold call," Kavanaugh said.

"It's a more efficient way to get in front of them," Kucharski said. "Even if you don't hit the right person, chances are it's something that's being talked about."

The key, with social media, is finding a balance between sending out too much, or not enough, information.

"What you want to do is make sure what you're sending out is valuable information," Kavanaugh said. "We don't send out what we had for lunch."

Part of it is luck, too, providing the right piece of information at just the time a recipient is looking for it.

"You never know what's going to be relevant," Finn said.