Centrals get social
Social media may not be a major revenue generator at this point, but third-party monitoring stations are making more use of popular social media sites to reinforce traditional sales and marketing efforts, according to a group of executives from five well known third-party monitoring companies who spoke to Security Systems News for this report.
Which social media platform is the favorite for central stations? Well, no one mentioned “Thumb” or “Pheed.” And Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr have not appeared on the social media calendars of monitoring stations yet.
The most popular social media sites used by Dynamark Monitoring, Affiliated Monitoring, Rapid Response, Security Central and Acadian Monitoring, appear to be Facebook and increasingly, LinkedIn, although Twitter is used fairly extensively as well.
And just what are the centrals using the social media for? The goals and outcomes of the companies’ social media interactions vary quite a bit, but they tend to include general efforts to communicate with dealers and brand reinforcement, rather than quantifiable lead generation.
But, like the media platforms themselves, the goal of the users is evolving.
Morgan Hertel, VP of operations for Rapid Response Monitoring Services, said his company uses Facebook and LinkedIn to recruit employees. With the unemployment rate now in the single digits, extra efforts like having a presence of Facebook are important in attracting talent, Hertel said.
“We get a lot of younger people in their 20s applying for work here. They use [sites like] Monster and Careerbuilder, but they also look at Facebook,” he said.
Rapid does not use Facebook to interact with its dealers “primarily because our dealers may use Facebook for personal use, but they are not using Facebook from a business perspective,” Hertel said.
While Rapid Response’s Hertel is not active on Twitter currently, he sees that “Twitter as well as other platforms are starting to come into play in the monitoring space.”
Hertel believes central monitoring stations may begin to offer monitoring of “Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, [You Tube], all of the different platforms that are searchable and postable, … on a much larger scale.”
Security Central has a Facebook page that it uses to communicate with its employees and dealers. The page is used to introduce new employees or “celebrate long term employment,” said Caroline Brown, Security Central business development manager. Some of Security Central’s dealers, particularly those in the Southeast, where Security Central is based, “connect with our Facebook page, but the majority do not,” she said.
Brown uses Twitter to engage with “people we encounter in the industry—dealers, vendors, software companies. … Our tweets relate to the security industry [at large] rather than just for our employees. We tweet about [products and] features we offer, and we’re active at the shows that we go to, using hashtags [to remind people at the show] to look for us at our booth,” she said.
Security Central is making a concerted effort to use Twitter more outside of industry trade shows and special events, she said. “More recently we‘ve been trying to get something [posted on Twitter] more regularly and we’re using more photos. [The idea is to] keep us connected with the industry and keep the buzz generated a little more,” Brown said.
On all social media, Brown says Security Central “always changes what we post, and what engages the audiences’ attention.”
Like Security Central, Affiliated Monitoring is heavily active on Twitter during trade shows and special events. For those kinds of tweets, “our sales and marketing team handles [the content],” said Affiliated Monitoring VP Daniel Oppenheim.
All of Affiliated’s tweets are posted on Affiliated’s Facebook page.
While Oppenheim is personally very active on Twitter, he said he does not typically interact with Affiliated’s dealers via Twitter, because the person behind the tweet in most cases is not Oppenheim’s main contact.
“Some of our dealers do have a robust Twitter presence, but in most cases its run by sales and marketing, not by the person who I interface with,” Oppenheim said.
Kristin Hebert, dealer and vendor relations for Acadian Monitoring, said his company maintains two Facebook pages, one for dealers and one for employees. However, for communications with its dealers, Acadian has transitioned to using LinkedIn.
“Over the past six months we primarily use LinkedIn [to communicate with dealers]. It’s more direct,” Hebert said. “We have a private LinkedIn group for dealers. … It’s much easier to update [dealers] than a website or [sending] email blasts.”
LinkedIn works well for “outreach to dealers,” Hebert said. He’ll hear back from dealers as the result of a LinkedIn post with comments such as, “Oh, I didn’t know you offered that service,” he said.
Don Childers, COO of Security Central said LinkedIn works very well for him “to promote classes I teach [at trade shows] and to reach out to people I’ve met at trade shows to touch base and remind them about classes.”
While their usage of social media differs, all of the centrals do have social media guidelines for their employees.
Who is able to use the company brand on social media is strictly controlled at all of the companies. For example, at Security Central, only four people are able to make Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn posts that come from Security Central.
At Rapid Response, employees are not allowed to bring cellphones into the central station. “What we do here [in terms of guidelines] is geared toward privacy,” Hertel said. “Because of the nature of the work we do here, workers are not allowed to have cellphones [which are recording devices] at their desks.”
In its employee handbook, Dynamark reminds workers “of the benefits and dangers of social media,” Dynamark President and CEO Trey Alter said. “As an employee of the company we expect them to put their best foot forward,” he said. That doesn’t mean Dynamark prescribes what employees may say or not say, he said, but rather it’s a reminder to be “respectful … and to think before you post.”