Recognizing minority-owned and women-owned firms for business achievement and efforts in strengthening minority business development, A. Bright Idea was named one of only 16 2012 Bridging the Gap award winners at a ceremony on October 23.

The Greater Baltimore Committee selects Bridging the Gap award winners based on nominations submitted by businesses, civic organizations, employees, customers, elected officials and government agencies. A. Bright Idea’s nomination came from the Harford County Office of Economic Development on the heels of A. Bright Idea winning its third consecutive acknowledgement as a Top 100 MBE in Maryland.

 

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Melissa serves as Senior Marketing Specialist for A. Bright Idea

Social media – it’s a virtual wonderland to some, but a scary or incomprehensible place for others, including business owners. Many wonder, is social media really a tool that can benefit MY business? To that I’d say, well it depends.

Social media is not for everyone. Social media is not for those that can’t devote the time or manpower to it because it’s only beneficial for what you put into it. However, gaining real presence and traction for your business is not something that is unachievable even for those where manpower is limited. There are methods to keep your content current, active and interesting while increasing your site visitors and presence in this online world – that very frequently affects the real life world. Businesses need to determine how they want to be positioned in this realm because the medium is “social” in nature, its participants can see through gimmicks or when they are being “sold” on something. It’s important to be honest and upfront about your position and in the messaging for your company. Whether you determine your goal is to offer advice, commentary on current trends in your industry, promote events of your business or in the community, etc. you can gain “followers” or “fans” and build loyalty among your audience as long as you maintain your position and keep your message on point.

Whether we like it or not, the online world has made it accessible to put a whole host of information out there instantaneously and just waiting to be gobbled up by the masses. Those masses use that information to make decisions, buy products and seek service providers.

One of the first things most of us probably do when searching for a product or service is “Google it.” For businesses, it’s now not only important to have a web presence, but  an active blog and social media presence will help you appear more frequently for those web searchers. Building in a social media strategy as part of your overall marketing and communications plan can help build additional impressions in the market.

Your appearance in the online world of social media has everything to do with your appearance in the real world and affects it just the same. Word of mouth/grassroots types of advertising now has a far-reaching and fast moving vehicle. Individuals are connected with family, friends, colleagues and coworkers spreading messages about likes, dislikes, joining groups and fan pages. How can your business get involved?

The key for a business owner is to monitor your presence in social media and not avoid it. Social media is a viable resource that can be used for your benefit. Find out if people are talking about you, and if so what are they saying. The fantastic thing about social media is that it exists in an online world that is tracked and monitored by web crawlers and data functions that provide incredible metrics. This data provides you with the basis to direct your messages, topics and can shape your remaining advertising and marketing direction with key audiences.

While some skeptics may have thought it a trend and fad, the longevity of this medium is no longer in question – it IS here to stay. The conversation about your business IS happening–are you going to let it happen without you?

Sarah West
Sarah West serves as A. Bright Idea’s Government Public Affairs Specialist.

As a military brat in the mid 90’s, the word “BRAC” was scary. It meant we might have to move again and it clearly amped up the stress level in my house. We survived the 1993 Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, round and moved on to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida where I happily adjusted to weekends at the beach.

Now that I am on “the other side,” as a contractor, supporting a government client onsite at the Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG), BRAC has taken on a different meaning for me. I am excited to watch outstanding science and technology Army missions relocate to APG, but tinged with concern when I sit in the new bumper-to-bumper traffic traveling off post at the end of each day. “This is just the beginning,” I’ve grumbled to myself lately.

Although BRAC is strictly a business decision, aimed at improving the efficiency of our national security structure, it is laced with great emotion – on both sides. I have seen the great communication and marketing efforts aimed at those coming to Maryland, focusing on our state’s appeal, but what does “Jane,” who lived in Harford County her whole life, think about BRAC impacts? Does she know what is going on and does she even care?

Sure, I might have to sit in traffic a few more minutes than I did last year, but because I attend many of the BRAC network meetings I know that APG turning into one of the nation’s most important science and security headquarters will bring a meaningful economic boom to our county and ultimately our state. Does Jane know that? Or does Jane just think BRAC means more traffic, an overpopulated classroom at her child’s school and a longer wait at the ER?

I challenge the military and the Harford County government to engage the current residents and businesses of the county.  Share BRAC news frequently—in the Aegis, on radio, billboards, blogs, tweets and events.  Let’s see BRAC information at the 4th of July parade, BBQ bash, the Farm Fair and even Harford Mall.  We need to make sure that our neighbors perceive BRAC as a positive economic AND lifestyle gain.  A robust community offers potential for better infrastructure, job opportunities, choices in our children’s education and excellent medical care.  Let’s motivate our cheerleaders before its too late and they put their pom poms down.