*Aka Online PR
There’s a lot of hype surrounding social media, and for many people, still much confusion.
To help get you started and ensure you get the most out of it, here are a few thoughts and ‘top tips’.
What is it?
Social media – or Online PR – is simply about having a conversation on line. Both speaking and listening.
Many dismiss it – and especially Facebook as being just for kids, but collectively it is now a highly regarded form of business communication.
The key advance over traditional media communication is that it provides the opportunity for a two-way discussion with your stakeholders, not a one-way broadcast. Traditionally PRs wrote press releases and spoke to journalists, but now journalists and their readers – your customers, are online, too.
The blogger has also arrived on the scene. These can be journalists, politicians, opinion formers and pundits, or simply enthusiastic private individuals who write about things that interest them, become authoritative in their chosen subject, and because of what they are saying attract an audience.
The channels? Many and various but primarily Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube and LinkedIn.
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Social media is not digital marketing
Social media isn’t about trying to sell you anything. There isn’t an online shopping basket or PayPal page. It is all about conversation, reputation and hearing what people think. Imagine dropping into the pub for a drink or having friends round for a meal. It’s not long before someone is recommending or deriding a product or service. Reputations are made or lost based on third party endorsement. So just ask yourself the question: do you know what’s being said about you, your product or brand online? And if not, don’t you think you ought to be finding out by listening in?
Much of this relationship building work is what has been achieved by traditional PR for years. The key difference is that now you can listen and converse directly and immediately.
So what’s the big deal?
Change happens, and arguably as in the case of social media, it now happens extraordinarily quickly. Getting used to new ideas and new ways of doing things is just part of everyday life.
How did we cope before e-mail? What business operates without the internet, and who doesn’t use a Blackberry or smart phone? All have arrived and impacted on life in just a few years.
The way we communicate and do business evolves, and social media is just another new way of talking to your stakeholders, albeit in a very open and potentially global way.
Keep it simple
There are numerous computer tools and smart phone applications (apps) available to help, but to get going, we would recommend using Twitter, possibly Facebook and setting up a blog; YouTube if you can create or have access to relevant video footage, and LinkedIn is useful for professional networking.
Generation Y cut its teeth absorbing significant amounts of information from multiple sources – more so than any previous generation. There’s less time for in-depth reading and attention levels are diminishing. The 140 character tweet, images, video clips and web links are now the order of the day. Short and punchy: just like a good newspaper headline.
As with any other business investment decision, you’ll need to think about a few things first. This will obviously vary if you are representing a company or organisation, or just engaging as an individual:
- Why are you going online?
- What do you want to achieve? Set some objectives
- Agree who will be the ‘champion’ or spokesperson
- What are you going to talk about?
- What do you want to measure, and how often?
Dip a toe in. Set up profiles, then watch, listen and learn. You’ll soon feel ready to join in.
Starting to Tweet
Engage when you feel ready. As with many things, the more you put into it the more you’ll get out.
Use it to network, to conduct research and find out what people think. It’s also valuable for accessing news, from topics of global importance to what’s happening in your neck of the woods, geographically or professionally. You can search for any topic.
Trust your instincts
If you understand the basic principles of media communication you’ll be fine.
The same rules apply as for writing a press release. News is still the number one reason for engaging, so be concise, keep the language simple, direct and to the point, and avoid overt advertising puffs. If writing corporately, avoid personal views and opinions unless expressed as a statement from the company.
Check what you’re saying
Check spelling and grammar and keep it clean and legal! The law applies to online just as it does to printed media.
Make sure you include links to – and from your website, blog, online press office and all social media locations so there’s a virtuous circle. Add hyperlinks to the sign-off of your e-mails, and include the addresses on promotional literature, signage etc.
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You can measure your engagement in a variety of ways, and thereby validate the investment. This can include:
- Number of hits directed to your website
- Number of followers on Twitter
- Number of Facebook fans or ‘likes’
- Number of customer complaints intercepted and satisfied, especially if you have turned a negative tweeter to a positive advocate
- Number of YouTube viewings
- Number of new bloggers writing positively – qualitative measures are also invaluable
What does it cost?
Here’s the good news – it’s free! Well it is if you do it yourself. If you employ a consultant to advise or manage it for you, expect to pay for their time, and only you can put a value on that and decide.
Online PR – as with traditional PR, is fundamentally about reputation and relationship management, so a PR consultancy with social media experience or a specialist social media agency is where to head for, not a website designer or online marketing agency.
Just grasp the nettle – Don’t be afraid, you’ll soon be a natural!
Need to know more?