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Using Social Media to Promote Economic Growth

In an increasingly connected world, the public’s demand for quick, concise updates on pressing topics grows every day. Just a decade ago, government agencies did not use social networks to engage with the public. Many platforms did not exist and those that did were used on for social interaction alone. But that has changed. Social networks have become a legitimized form of communication that strengthens connections between public sector entities and the constituents they serve. The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) capitalizes on the opportunities that social media offers, which ultimately supports the Agency’s mission.

USTDA is an independent government agency that helps U.S. companies create jobs through the export of goods and services for development projects in emerging markets. We have found social media to be a particularly beneficial tool in achieving these goals.

US Trade and Development Agency infographicUSTDA’s social media followers include U.S. manufacturers and service providers, government agencies, financial institutions and overseas partners. The connections USTDA makes through platforms such as Twitter—where we have over 8,000 followers—can lead to greater U.S. exports and development impacts around the world. For example, we use social media to provide market intelligence and trade leads to U.S. businesses – connecting U.S. companies with export opportunities overseas. By subscribing to our RSS Feed, U.S. companies can access the latest information on upcoming acquisition and procurement opportunities.

We maximize our impact on Facebook by tagging our partners in relevant posts and cross-promoting content that our followers may find relevant. Just recently, the Department of Commerce produced a Smart Cities Guide, which we featured on our social media platforms. The guide received 8,000 impressions within three hours of being posted. By promoting the content of partner organizations, not only are we providing valuable content to our followers, but we are setting the stage for our partners to promote our content as well.

One of the Agency’s most successful social media campaigns helped yield an unprecedented number of responses to our call for proposals for energy projects in Africa. We engaged with our partners from Power Africa — a U.S. government-led initiative to increase electricity access on the continent — to promote the proposal window across a number of social and digital platforms. The response was remarkable. U.S. companies and African sponsors alike requested the Agency’s assistance for over 300 projects across all corners of the continent, in all subsectors of energy.

The response represented three times the amount of project proposals we received for a similar call earlier in the year. We attribute this exciting volume, in part, to our social media efforts during the open window, including efforts to promote it during the second U.S-Africa Business Forum. By working with our Power Africa partners, who helped us reach a bigger and broader online audience, we are now reviewing new partners and new projects that can address a key constraint to development in Africa, as well as open up some of the world’s fastest-growing markets for U.S. businesses.

Twitter and Facebook are not the only platforms that we use to promote our projects and successes in partner countries. We connect with our audience through our biweekly e-newsletter, TradePosts, which delivers valuable content to 14,000 subscribers. TradePosts includes export opportunities for U.S. companies, open solicitations, trade leads and upcoming events. In each issue, we feature one of our Making Global Local member organizations. We are dedicated to improving usability—content must be easy for readers to access in order to learn about the Agency’s activities and how to get involved. In response to data indicating that most users access content from their mobile devices, we reformatted TradePosts and shifted our website to a more responsive design in order to improve accessibility. These efforts were made in the interest of our partners, while building awareness of the opportunities that are available through USTDA’s programs.

By using social media, USTDA is taking every opportunity to increase awareness of trade and development opportunities in a way that drives changes in behavior and inspires action. Doing so connects U.S. industry with business opportunities abroad and leads to sustainable development in our partner countries. We are proud of the progress we have made and we will continue using our online platforms as tools to attract new followers and publicize development opportunities for U.S. companies.