On April 30th, 2010 wrote on the subject of Online Marketing,Online PR,Social Media.

7 Things I Wish PR Agencies Would Understand About Social Media.

With the growth of digital marketing and social media participation we’re now starting to see more and more PR agencies looking to online communities as a way of increasing their clients influence.
In my opinion a more organised and structured approach to social media can only be a good thing, used in the right way it can be a very powerful tool, however far too many companies are either not using it to its full advantage, or doing things badly and damaging their brand while isolating themselves from other social media users.

However that’s not to say that every PR agency jumping headfirst into Twitter and Facebook is doing a great job. I still see many agencies that don’t really have a full understanding of what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Many cases tend to be client-led, with questions and requests for a social media strategy leading to hasty moves in order to win business and prevent existing clients from potentially looking elsewhere.

In our various dealings with agencies these are the topics that repeatedly seem to reappear…..

Content really does matter – Most Of Your Ideas Will Fail

  • The quality of the content is the key to any social media strategy
  • You can’t rely on contacts for success. There are no friendly journalists or editors that can swing a campaign with a well placed piece
  • Okay, good and great don’t cut it, if you’re relying on people to see your content and pass it on then it needs to be amazing, fantastic or brilliant
  • Let go of the brand – in many cases overuse of the client brand will turn a successful viral into blatant advertising that people have no inclination to pass-on.
  • The trickle-down effect is key to a successful campaign, brilliant content seeded onto key blogs, Twitter accounts and other social news sites will explode onto other social sites, smaller blogs and media outlets without you having to do anything.
  • Having said all of that, most of your great ideas will fail. There really is an element of being in the right place at the right time and taking advantage of any good fortune that comes your way.

It Isn’t ALL about Twitter

  • Twitter at the moment tends to be used as a buzz-word for social media, desire to participate can often be driven by a CEOs 14 your-old daughter.
  • There are other social sites that are just AS important
  • Sites like Digg can potentially send far more traffic and is monitored constantly by journalists and influencers
  • A well seeded and targeted story on a sites like Digg and Reddit can translate into national and international press

Understand Your Audience

  • You need to understand not just who you’re talking to but why
  • Is your or your clients Twitter account supposed to be speaking to potential clients, existing customers or journalists, bloggers and the media?
  • Is Twitter and Facebook or Digg and Reddit the best way to connect with your linkerati?
  • Spend some time understanding where your targets are communicating with each other. Any time spent on competitor intelligence is worthwhile, but bear in mind they might not have got things right themselves.

Don’t Use Channels In Isolation, Look At The Bigger Picture

  • If you’re just using one social media network in isolation then you’re almost certainly underperforming
  • It’s usually a good idea to create a blog or news section on your client site and then use this as a ‘hub’ for all of their social media activity
  • Cross-promote your different networks, you’ll find that users will sign-up for other networks as well as the one they arrived from

It’s Not Just About What You Say But How You Say It

  • Syndicating content isn’t just about pushing a release through a network like PRWeb, if only things were that easy!
  • Draw up a list of targets for each release – blogs, news sites, media outlets, find their contact details and contact them directly as you would with any offline story.
  • Have some idea of the potential ‘influence’ of each target, record metrics such as domain authority, Compete rank, Technorati ranking, and look at the number of comments each article receives. The idea being you can then identify the top sites in a given vertical and prioritise where you focus your efforts. Remember if you can gain coverage on the larger sites the smaller ones tend to follow.

It’s All About Measurement And Metrics

  • The real advantage of being online is that everything is trackable. You can gain insight into where visitors arrived from, how long they spend on the site and where they move onto.
  • Use this data to understand which elements of your activity work and which ones don’t
  • Sign-up to a reputation monitoring service to track brand mentions online, you’ll almost certainly miss posts, mentions and articles if you don’t.
  • Have a clear plan as to which metrics are important and make sure you track them – visits, views, contacts, sales, comments, signups, links gained, search engine rankings can all be influenced by your activity – track it and report it.

Remember You Have No Control

  • Always remember you have no control over how things are passed-on and how they’re being received
  • Things aren’t always ‘on-brand’ – remember people pass things on because they like them, not because they help you or your clients
  • Be ready to react and respond directly to questions, be honest and professional at all times

5 comments on 7 Things I Wish PR Agencies Would Understand About Social Media

  1. Jeremy Head says:

    Great post Matt – only thing I’d potentially disagree with is your diagram and recommendation to have separate company blog. For companies with deep pockets you may want to go down that route, but increasingly I think the central platform IS Facebook… particularly for certain types of brand – say funky fashion brands as an example.
    Why bother spending all that cash setting up a company blog when you have a ready-made platform like Facebook that is brilliantly set up for networking and that increasingly the whole blooming world is on anyway?

  2. Jeremy Head says:

    And… as per a tweet to me from a slightly miffed PR person…
    What proportion of PR agencies DON’T get Social in your opinion then? (The title kind of suggests you think most of them.)

  3. Matt says:

    @Jeremy – thanks for the reply. The advantage of having things centralised on your own site/blog is the choices that it gives you. You can influence how the user behaves, using calls to action and hopefully gathering more user data. Using a platform like Facebook just doesn’t give you as much flexibility.
    Using other platforms also place constraints on using analytics, so preferably – budgets permitting it’s a better to centralise things on your own site – that is ultimately where you want people to both link-to and visit.

  4. @ErinGarrity says:

    Great post.

    There are several points that really resonate with me. In particular, how PR companies (and other companies, for that matter) rush into social media without having a plan of any kind… and then wonder why it doesn’t work.

    It’s equally frustrating when companies designate an intern, or a lower-level staff member to execute a social media ‘strategy’ (I use that term loosely). If content is key – why not give social media responsibilities to your top thinker, writer, creator, etc..?

    Your cross-promotion point is also an excellent one. I can’t believe how few people remember to use their profiles to promote their other profiles. Or they do it badly. Just the other day I received an email from someone whose signature said “Follow us on Twitter”.. but then had no link, and no indication of how or what the handle was on Twitter. So…you want me to WORK to find you on Twitter? And just why would I do that?

  5. Rob says:

    Matt – a lot of PR agencies ask if they can do short term “Social Media” campaigns, either to convince a client that it works or just because they are working on a short term project. What are your thoughts on that?

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