Recently, MyPRGenie looked at the convergence between PR and social media. We find that the most successful companies in both tend to follow a few simple guidelines. We put some of those into our recent white paper, Social Media is the New PR, but this list of five tips for effectively combining PR and social media covers the basics.
Scott Hampson’s cartoon is funny, but it’s not true. It’s true that social media doesn’t (yet) have hard and fast rules. But there are definitely guidelines — they just change rapidly, sometimes in surprising ways.
The truth is that what works today in social media may not work tomorrow – and it almost certainly won’t work next year. Social media evolves and changes quickly, so a marketer who wants to be effective needs to base strategy and tactics on solid public relations lessons.
Don’t Be Pushy
They call it “earned media” – and one of the first things you’ll learn in social media marketing is that you have to win the right to be heard. At its heart, social media engagement is a kind of conversation and participation is the required currency.
If all you do is “push” your own content – without ever retweeting, responding to, or commenting on other people’s thoughts and content – you’ll quickly find that you don’t get the results you’d get if you were a more, well, social participant.
One of the most examples of being too pushy arrive in those messages we all get when we follow or like someone, and immediately get an email that contains some variation of “Thanks for following. Visit my website for …. (promotional offer). And don’t forget to follow us on (another social media site), too!”
One of the lessons we all learn quickly in social media is that traditional forms of marketing don’t translate directly to social media. New communications channels and marketing tools require new rules, different tactics.
In her book, The Zen of Social Media Marketing, best-selling author and social media guru Shama Kabani talks about the idea of generosity and sharing in social media. She isn’t talking about online fundraising and crowd-sourcing to raise money (although both those ideas work).
Shama is talking about the basic fact that social media communications is two-way street. Sharing other people’s ideas, being friendly, approachable, and positive are among the traits that set a social media master like Shama apart from other marketers online.
Deliver Content People Want
Sounds pretty basic, doesn’t it? But a lot of marketers act as if they have no idea that the power base has shifted from the days when Don Draper and the “Mad Men” controlled the media. Back then, they told us all the wonderful things that their client’s products would do for us – and we listened, because we had no choice. Today’s consumers have the power to block most marketing messages – and they aren’t going to give that power away.
So if you want to use social media and digital marketing to reach an audience, the most important thing is to deliver well-written, informative and entertaining content in all its forms. Blog posts, tweets, status updates, videos, podcasts, photographs, infographics, webinars, white papers – and dozens of other kinds of information. New content matters – Google and Bing love frequently updated content, and nothing else has the power to move people like great content.
Content really is king. If you doubt me, take a look at actor and social activist George Takei’s Facebook page, or at the way content marketing masters like J.K. Rowling and Peter Jackson control the flow of information about their new “products”.
Remember What Your Mother Said
Can anyone honest say that they didn’t hear at least one of these three behavior rules from their mother?
- “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
- “People don’t get upset because you lie to them. They get upset because they can never trust you again.”
- “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.”
Mom was right, especially in the context of social media. Nothing will ruin your reputation in social media faster than misrepresenting yourself, treating other people badly, or delivering false information. Many, many companies have learned the hard way that creating a fake persona to post online reviews may be easy – but it’s very, very costly when you get caught.
And even more have learned that mistreating your customers, employees, or even competitors can destroy years of painstaking and costly brand building. Need some reminders? How about United Breaks Guitars, Facebook’s Terms of Service Changes, or Kenneth Cole’s Twitter disaster during the Egyptian uprising?
The most important thing to remember in social media marketing is that if you want people to trust you, you have to treat them with respect – and that includes responding to negative posts or customer inquiries instead of just deleting anything except your own specials and promotions. More importantly, it means avoiding treating others with disrespect.
One way to build mutual trust and respect is to use your photo as an avatar and your name as your handle. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have an identity tied to your brand. A number of the most effective social media marketers use their full name for their personal social media, and a short version with their brand name for company messages. For example, you might use @janedoe for personal tweets, but @WidgetMakerJane for marketing messages.
A side benefit of that strategy is that it makes it clear and easy to tell who owns what. This is important as the number of lawsuits filed by employers against former employees over social media continues to increase.
Avoid Magpie Marketing
New social media sites seem to crop up every week or so, and even the best multi-channel scheduling applications can’t keep up with them all. Some marketers are like magpies, moving from one shiny new marketing tactic to the next.
It’s nearly impossible to maintain an active presence on every social network. Luckily, most brands don’t need to try. For some brands, Pinterest is vital – for others, it’s just another chore that probably won’t add to the bottom line. And that’s true for nearly every social media site.
The key is to be on the social media sites where your customers are. How do you know that? Well, you could always ask. At MyPRGenie, we survey our customers and the media regularly. And there are a number of services that will profile your target audience for you – often for only a few cents per name. These emerging tools deliver the kind of essential campaign intelligence that turn an ordinary social media marketer into a management’s latest superhero, capable of delivering measurable bottom-line results in record time.
We can’t afford to forget that social media is just one more communications channel — it can’t replace spending and activity in PR, advertising, web, SEO, email, or other forms of traditional marketing. Combining traditional communications tools with social media is far more effective than using any communications channel by itself.
Also, all of the basic rules of marketing still apply. One basic rule of marketing that’s easy to forget in the rapid-fire world of social media is that marketing communications is a marathon — not a sprint.
Drive-by posters make the common mistake of pushing content…and then sprinting on to the next message, group, or communications channel, without stopping to engage with the people who responded to their original message.
Test Messages, Channels & Tools
What works in social media today may not work tomorrow, and it’s nearly certain that it won’t work a year from now. So test your messages, your communications channels, your press release distribution lists, your copywriting strategy, landing pages, link shortener, writing style, and the tools you use to deliver your message. Run A/B tests frequently.
Social media and PR are not free. Each consumes the most irreplaceable resource of all: time. But the costs are reasonable, and the rapid response allows plenty of room for experimentation.
One trick make testing easy and quick is to write the social media messages at the same time you create new press releases, web content, landing pages or campaigns. Go ahead and write a series of tweets, social media bookmark site abstracts (these are the forms you fill out on LinkedIn, Facebook, Reddit, StumbleUpon and other sites to describe the link you’re posting), a press release, and a blog post on the same topic. If you have a white paper, PDF, infographic or other piece of collateral on the same topic, so much the better. Cross-link, and cross-promote. Don’t forget the supporting marketing materials (emails, newsletter article, landing page, etc.).
Once the content is written, it’s simple to schedule it, distribute it, and compare the results across multiple communications channels, different times and days, and different audiences. If you act on the information you gain from your tests, your results will get better. Just keep testing, and keep tweaking your tactics.