Google, can you hear Triangle fiber pitches? Not yet

Posted March 26, 2010 9:11 a.m. EDT

If the high-tech Triangle hopes to land one of Google’s ultrafast broadband project pilots, then the groups making pitches need to step up their efforts, says a social media tracking firm.

While groups in Asheville and Greensboro are generating a lot of buzz on the Web of sites from Facebook to Twitter, the Triangle partnerships are barely on the radar screen, according to a report by Steketee Greiner and Company.

(Read the full report.)

The firm, which is based in Grand Rapids, Mich., is tracking what founder David Greiner calls “share of voice” and "digital syndication" based on keywords related to Google’s broadband project. Among the nearly 100 city-related groups that are making pitches to Google, Asheville ranks seventh and Greensboro ninth.

The deadline for responses to Google’s broadband proposal is March 26, and the company has said that community support would be a factor in its selection process. Just how important local backing and publicity will be isn’t known, but some communities took no chances.

Topeka, Kan., offered to change its name to Google.

And in Duluth, Minn., which tops the list, online discussions focused on naming first-born children “Google Fiber.”

The top 10 city lists with “share of voice:”

  1. Duluth, Minn., 13.5 percent
  2. Grand Rapids, Mich., 12.4 percent
  3. Topeka, Kan., 8.8 percent
  4. Fresno, Calif., 6.3 percent
  5. Sarasota, Fla., 6.2 percent
  6. Memphis, Tenn., 4.9 percent
  7. Asheville, N.C., 4.8 percent
  8. Madison, Wis., 4.8 percent
  9. Greensboro, N.C., 4.2 percent
  10. Portland, Ore., 4.2 percent

Greiner and company are tracking social media traffic based on what it calls “conversation, digital syndication, presence, involvement and activation.”

In other words, how many people have signed on as Facebook “fans” of local projects, how much news are these groups generating (such as Durham’s Google photo shoot at the Durham Athletic Park) and how much “sharing” is going on.

Plus, how much “tweeting” is going on through Twitter? And are groups using “hashtags” on their Tweets for real-time tracking?

Just having a Facebook presence, a Tweeter site and a Web presence is hardly enough to create “voice,” Greiner said. The community groups generating the most Google buzz are socializing, not just sitting. And it’s not the raw number of “fans” involved (Duluth has far fewer fans than Grand Rapids but has more “voice”).

“The more relevant number is the percentage of fan base actively contributing to the online conversations, not only on Facebook but also on all digital channels,” Greiner’s firm noted in its report. “Conversion to conversation is key.”

Triangle residents likely need to conversing more, Greiner said. He said that determining why particular communities aren't generating "voice" while others are would require staff time to track extremely complicated data.

"Having the most Facebook fans is not enough to raise a city's online share of voice," said Brian Steketee, the firm’s chief executive officer about what the report shows. "Cities need to create compelling content, drive a coordinated outreach effort across a variety of searchable communications channels, and think beyond the obvious to engage citizens, especially as Google will be looking at multiple factors in its decision making process."