I was chatting with a client as I sipped my morning coffee today when she asked: “do you have any idea what Twitter is Malayna?” Since that marks the third time someone has asked me that exact same question in the past 10 days, I decided it was time to answer it. (I guess that goes to prove Twitter is making a pretty big PR splash of its own!) So, here’s a little info that might be useful if you’re interested in learning about Social Media and, more specifically, how sites like Twitter are being used by other PR professionals.
First, you might want to check out this fun-filled social media tutorial. Apparently, social media sites are more popular than porn sites! So if you didn’t want to learn more already, you should now…
The power of sites like My Space, LinkedIn and Facebook are familiar to most of you. They have been well documented in various sources, praised both for their personal and professional capabilities. A recent NYT article captures the challenge sites like this pose for merging those two worlds brilliantly. The upshot is: social media sites can move your information across the web virally and quickly and create digital relationships that can be both personally and professionally beneficial. Sometimes these relationships are a bit more integrated than we’re accustomed to as we now see pictures of our clients’ kids uploaded to facebook and note the political leanings of vendors as they follow politicians on Twitter–I love that part but some may be less comfortable with merging the personal and professional worlds.
A great case of social media being successfully employed in the world of PR is Peter Shankman’s Help a Reporter Out (HARO) which started on Facebook only to quickly outgrow it. It now has over 15,000 members and links journalists to PR professionals who can serve as useful sources. If you’re a PR person and haven’t joined it, you should consider it… really.
But recent queries directed my way have been Twitter specific. And indeed, Twitter is a unique beast (that’s a technical term for microblog). It can, at times, feel like an exercise in frivolity. Not surprisingly, the phenom has spawned a new YouTube hit: Twitter Whore. But for a more positive take on the phenomena, check out Lee LeFever’s Twitter in Plain English.
In spite of the confusion surrounding it, Twitter truly can be a useful tool for business and PR specifically. So here are my thoughts on how PR people can use Twitter effectively:
1. Follow journalists and bloggers in your space to keep up with what they’re working on and create a more conversational relationship. Recently, Fluent Simplicity published a Twitter Brand Index that is a useful tool for learning about who is using Twitter from the media world. Remember, it is poor etiquette to just jump on and start pitching but both acceptable and fruitful to create bilateral relationships so ask questions, offer thoughts and maybe even tell them what you made for dinner on occasion (especially if its a great 140 character recipe!).
2. Keep up on trends and the latest buzz by following thought leaders in your space (and your client’s space). You can use Summize to type in topics of interest to see who else is tweeting about them and get info on who to follow. Many popular bloggers have Twitter identities and are oftern rather prolific posters. They can be the most interesting “tweeple” to follow because they post links relating to your shared interests making it easy to follow the conversation taking place on Twitter and relevant blogs.
3. Get specific info by reaching out and asking questions of those in the know. As I prepared to write this I sent out a tweet asking for thoughts on how PR people were using Twitter effectively and my twitter friend @alkrueger, who I’ve never met or spoken with prior to today, responded with some info on what his clients are up to. He had some innovative ideas, including monitoring comments (via Summize) about his clients’ brands so they can stay on top of what people are saying about them and respond immediately if appropriate. He also suggests experimenting with having employees join the ”community conversation.” (You can learn more about Al at his blog.)
4. Set up a brand account and tweet useful info your customers/clients might want to know. To get an idea of how some businesses are using Twitter, follow media outlets and companies of interest: @wholefoodsis my personal favorite with about 1,300 followers at the moment. If your brand has a blog, you can add your tweets to your blog so visitors there can see what you’re up to. Cross-pollination is a very good thing! And check out Andy Beal’s thoughts on building a brand on Twitter.
Those are my thoughts after spending the last month or so on Twitter. Any other ideas?