Social Media and PR: Get Real!
I recently got back from the 2010 Vocus Users Conference, where the primary topic on the agenda was social media and public relations. Sharing everything I learned would require more than one blog post, but I thought I'd summarize a few of the key points I heard over and over again throughout the sessions.
First, you have to listen. Many companies have jumped right into social media without having any idea what's already being said about their products and services. This is an excellent way to get more than you bargained for! People research and talk about buying decisions online, so the first phase of your social media plan should be to listen. You can then 1) build your strategy around the opportunities and threats you identify among those who are talking about your brand and 2) shape conversations in the direction you want them to go.
Be a valued source. Content is king is an old adage in our business, and it's never been more true than today. According to keynote presenter and social media marketing expert David Meerman Scott, "on the Web, you are what you publish." The idea is to earn attention by publishing great content that helps people. And, lose control of it by making it available for FREE. No sales call or e-mail sign-up requirement-just free. If you do that, people will talk about it, and about your brand.
Measure the impact. Just like with a traditional PR program, it's important to establish what success is before you begin. You can measure qualitatively: have you elevated your company's reputation, established productive conversations and/or built better relationships with customers? You can also evaluate the hard numbers: have you boosted your SEO ranking, traffic and/or sales? Many tools exist to help you track down the data. Then, tie that data back to your goal. If you wanted to increase sales, did those new customer relationships or higher site traffic accomplish that?
Social media isn't revolutionizing the way we communicate-it's taking us back to our roots. The key to effective communication is (and always has been) transparency and responsiveness. Social media makes quick response easy and establishes an ongoing conversation, helping us build relationships with people who will buy from us and advocate our brand to others. Instead of shouting to the masses (and hoping the message got through), we can finally be real, in real-time.