I first came into contact with Cato Research’s social media presence via Twitter and quickly became a reader of their blog as well. Though many CROs have little if any social media presence, Cato is adeptly navigating the social media waters. For this reason, I asked Evan Richardson of Cato Research to share Cato’s experience with social media. His views do not necessarily represent the views of Cato. – Rahlyn
Cato Research is a midsized, full-service contract research organization (CRO) founded in 1988 and headquartered in the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina. We’re a privately owned business that has traditionally been judicious in its spending on marketing efforts, successfully relying on referrals, repeat business, and collaboration with our venture capital subsidiary, Cato BioVentures, to grow our business. However, like most other CROs, we are always looking for new, cost-effective ways to improve our market share in what has become an increasingly competitive industry.
We began exploring the use of social media in the fall of 2009 and our blog and Twitter account were launched in January 2010. Leading up to our social media debut, we had many discussions about what we hoped to accomplish through our use of social media. As a company that provides business to business services, we aren’t necessarily interested in using social media in the same way that retail businesses do. We aren’t looking to drive traffic to an online store selling widgets, nor are we interested in keeping our fans up to date on our latest sales and specials. Instead, we want to increase our name recognition in a crowded marketplace and highlight the most valuable asset we have to offer potential clients, the expertise of our employees.
In researching the use of social media in our industry, we were surprised to discover that most companies were using social media as just another vehicle to distribute their press releases. We’ve all been told not to “be that guy” and we know that the best way to receive high search engine rankings is to create unique and engaging content. We realized that we could take advantage of the lack of social media acumen in our industry and turn it into an opportunity to achieve our goals.
With all of this in mind, we developed a social media strategy with three main points:
- Post original content written by subject matter experts.
We regularly publish blog posts on “hot button” topics in the industry and topics that our clients often ask about. We don’t use any SEO gurus, social media interns, or public relations consultants to write our blog posts. Instead, we rely on the professionals on our staff with real-world pharmaceutical industry experience to write about the subjects they know best. This helps us showcase the knowledge and experience of our employees and ensures that our content is authentic.
- Minimize sales pitches and shameless self-promotion.
We are, obviously, a for-profit company, but we don’t want to be known as a company that engages in spam-like behavior. As much as possible, we avoid using our social media outlets as a way to make a “hard sell” for our services. Also, you’ll find press releases, events we’re hosting or attending, and recent professional publications on our main corporate website instead of our blog.
- Be social.
Unlike many corporate blogs, commenting is allowed on our blog posts and we welcome feedback from our visitors. Also, we work especially hard to be engaged on Twitter, through actions such as retweeting valuable content from others, responding to those who engage us, and participating in the “Follow Friday” tradition.
So far, our social media efforts have been very successful. For example, about 65% of our blog traffic comes from search engines. This shows us that there are definitely people out there searching for the content we provide, and it also tells us that we are reaching thousands of people who may otherwise never have learned about Cato Research. We’ve also received many inquiries from potential clients who learned of our company and our capabilities through our social media presence. We feel that we’ve received an excellent return on the modest investments we’ve made in social media, and we’re excited about the possibilities it presents for our company in the future.