Interviewer’s Note: As readers of this blog know, we often profile companies and businesses on the Pluggio Blog, but I like to feature more creative and less expected uses of Twitter, such as Opportunity Peterborough, which is an account run by an organization dedicated to promoting the city of Peterborough, England, as an attractive place for businesses and investment. I contacted Neil Darwin, the director of the organization, to learn more about the role played by social media.
Good day, Neil! Welcome to the Pluggio Blog! I see you work for Opportunity Peterborough. How do you describe your mission?
We have been established to help ‘grow’ the Peterborough economy by attracting new business to the city and supporting those here already.
What brought about the need for this campaign?
The company has been working on this goal for the past for two years. Bits of activity happened, but Opportunity Peterborough brings the support together under one roof.
Why would/do businesses find Peterborough attractive? Are there certain industries that would be a particularly good fit?
Peterborough is a great place to do business. We are in a great location – less than 50 minutes on the train to London and accessible to the Midlands, South East and East Midlands in short journey times. We have one of the greatest density of environmental companies in the country. We also have strong manufacturing and financial service sectors. We are pretty well covered in all sectors. Business is easy to do in Peterborough, and we have plenty of networking opportunities, and everyone here is ready to help.
What role does social media play in your goal to help promote Peterborough’s economic development? Do you use tools beside Twitter?
We use Twitter to get the name of the city better known. We believe Peterborough is a hidden gem. Until recently, the city has lacked visibility. OP have been charged with raising our profile, and Twitter is a key part of this, as it is an easy way of getting our city known by thousands of people very quickly.
What impact or change have you seen due to Twitter/social marketing?
Twitter has driven a number of enquiries for us. From companies looking to relocate to others looking for particular services. We also enjoy connecting with people that tell us they come from the city or have family here. It really helps us make a connection.
Are there any of your accomplishments with social marketing that you are particularly proud of?
Nothing too exciting yet, but I have enjoyed it when we get followed by ‘big names’ – Heathrow Airport and Hampden Park in Scotland being two in particular. In normal marketing terms they are out of our league, but through Twitter we can have a conversation. We’re also pleased with the amount of overseas followers we have, again having a growing global presence is important to us in terms of attracting new investment to the city.
How did you build your following? What kinds of people/businesses are they?
We generally look at businesses of any size. We’re not too fussy, interesting people – we do like humour on Twitter, it works really well. We do enjoy talking to smaller businesses and seeing how they are developing their strategy – in some respects they are similar to us, as we are also trying to promote our product too.
If you could go back to when you first began using social media, what is one thing you would have done differently?
Quite simply we wish we did it earlier – we’ve only really taken notice of Twitter for a year.
What does Twitter do for you that nothing else can do?
Twitter gives us instant access. It also offers global contact with businesses. It helps us build our profile, and offer a real personality to the place. Other forms of marketing are quite passive and reactive. Twitter is exactly the opposite.
What lessons have you learned about Twitter and online marketing?
As an economist, rather than a marketeer I am learning all the time. I think I have most picked up that you need to use your personality to gain followers. Corporate tweets do come across quite dull – so we do try and liven ours up and try and get a debate. This can be quite difficult as some of our ‘local’ followers don’t seem to appreciate the need to sell the city differently to other followers who could be anywhere else on the planet.
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