Why Twitter Should Stick Around

twitter-hashcloudsOn August 19th I participated in a TweetChat with around 200 public relations professionals and fellow PR students. We tweeted back and forth over 900 times to #PRstudchat responding to six PR related questions. The moderator was Deirdre Breakenridge, or in this case @dbreakenridge, she is a PRo in the 2.0 realm, check her out! Another major contributor was Valerie Simon, @valeriesimon. Valerie is writing a six part blog series on the event revealing the best answers to the six questions …..

This was my very first TweetChat, so I didn’t quite know what to expect. Overall, it was very informative and a new way of getting useful information quickly. One of the most useful aspects about the chat was the automatic links to material. Social media is allowing students to connect with some of the smartest, most influential professionals and have direct access to their knowledge. I think that this will revolutionize the way students respond and discuss in classrooms. In my Strategic Social Media class that I took with Kelli Matthews we frequently had “quest speakers.” I put quotes around that because the majority of the guests spoke to us over Skype; when we had Skype issues we would type questions into twitter so the speaker could still respond to our questions. We had the pleasure of speaking with Marcel Lebrun from Radian6, Kami Huyse from My PR Pro, and Paull Young of Converseon. Twitter allows pros, students and anyone interested to connect with millions of different people, gather them together to have an hour long discussion or debate, and talk about passions and professions all in 140 characters what’s not to love? I know there are Twitter haters out there but I am not one of them if you use it like I do, which is not to update you on when I am in the bathroom or grabbing a latte then it is awesome! Check out the next #PRstudchat on Sept. 16 at 12pm EST and 9am PST I suggest you all join in you can also join the linkedin group.

Q1: What kind of education does a PR person need to be successful?

The overwhelming response was to take business classes as well as a diverse range of courses like Psychology, sociology; have excellent communication skills; and get some real world experience.

Best responses are listed on Public Relations Examiner but I want to pull my favorites:

@Chrisjoneslehi: Understanding business is necessary, but PR is about transmission, not just understanding. Transmission=writing these days.

@sallyfalkow: A thorough understanding of communication and how people relate to each other.

(This is me)@Marlin23: I would say internships and mentors. In school you learn how to do things, internships teach you how things get done.

Q2: What are the best PR books and industry publications to read?

@RickOpp: PR 2.0, Putting the Public Back in Public Relations, @ChrisBrogan’s new book “Trust Agents” getting a lot of good buzz.

@hdueitt: Staying up to date with all industry news is key to keeping up with trends. PR Daily, PR News, PR Week, Bulldog Reporter

@samemac: @TDefren ‘s blog PR Squared for SHIFT comm is one of the better blogs to read as an upcoming PR pro

@jodyrae: Bad Pitch Blog

Q3:Are there any other great networking sites besides Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook?

Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are great… but not the only places to network and engage with PR professionals

@BrettPohlman: Hands down PROpenMic.org. All PR students MUST be on this site. It’s a great way to get exposure to top PR Execs

@LadyMusic: PROpenMic on Ning, YoungPRPros on Yahoo, and look for social media networking events on Eventbrite or Going.com

Q4: What does a CEO look for in a PR hire?

@5W_PR: Passion, Confidence, Versatility, People Who Take Initiative to Learn & Develop

@rachelakay: I look for someone who has a passion for my clients, my company and who has done research. Do your homework!

@CTMichaels: Also, be prepared 2 start at the bottom. Showing motivation to move up & taking chances is huge in PR

@chrisjoneslehi:  This CEO looks for breadth of experience, service, and (you might have guessed) strong writing skills

@rachelakay: Highly recommend new hires connect with CEOs etc. on social networks and read their blogs and comment. I give priority to those

Nonprofits and social media, do they mix?

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I recently asked the CEO of a community foundation if  her organization used social media, and if so how. She replied, “Well, we have a blog.” Granted, the blog was one of the first breakthroughs that let citizen journalists create their own content, but if blogs are the only channel your organization thinks about for social media, think again.

In my previous blog posts, I talk about Twitter, building online communities, developing a social media plan, and how to measure social media initiatives. These strategies apply to all companies, including nonprofits.

As the nonprofit sector becomes increasingly complex and money grows tighter, it’s more important now than ever to brand your organization, programs and campaigns. This requires conveying credibility and value in a way that’s easy to remember and repeat. In doing this, your organization can build long-lasting relationships with donors, volunteers, community members and the media.

Beth Dunn writes about the pressure that nonprofits may be feeling amid the social networking phenomenon:

“Nonprofits all around us are making decisions right now about how to engage in social networks, and many of us in the field have to fight a desperate feeling of running hard just to keep up – the overwhelming conviction that everybody else is winning friends, donors, hearts and minds through the savvy use of social networking sites, and that we are missing out.”

Nancy Shwartz outlines how to brand a nonprofit organization through social media:   

1.   What a nonprofit brand is not:

  • A nonprofit brand is not what your organization stands for in the mind of your network.
  • A nonprofit brand is not your organization’s self-image, mission or logo.

2. What’s a nonprofit brand?

The intersection of…

  • What’s unique about the way your organization does its work and its impact.
  • The interests and needs of your network.

The brand that represents your organization must be authentic, or you run the risk of undermining everything your organization is trying to accomplish. Most people can sense when an organization is being fake and lacking transparency.

3. Branding is…

  • The art of creating a consistent, recognizable and clearly unified voice or personality that conveys your organization’s focus, credibility and unique contributions.

This is important when engaging with audiences, because it allows them to put a “face” to the organization. It helps build trust and promotes long-lasting relationships.

4. Why branding matters:

  • More and more nonprofits are looking to secure contributions, volunteers, board members, clients and customers.
  • The shortage in resources creates a heated competition.

If your organization doesn’t participate in the conversation through social media channels, competitors and people who are against your organization can fill that space with the wrong information. If your organization is present and engaged, people can ask questions and receive valid information.

5. How branding works:

A strong brand makes a substantial difference in developing and maintaining strong relationships with a network.

  • Strengthen or design your brand to ensure you stand out.
  •  Generate action and build loyalty with your audience.
  • Be consistent with your brand to build recognition and avoid confusion.

Now that you have an understanding of how to brand your organization online, it is imperative that you go out and find the tools to effectively market your organization. In some of my earlier posts you can read about how to create a community online, how to measure effectiveness, and how to develop a plan, and find links to other helpful sites. 

Social media is a good idea for any organization as long as it is committed to listening, learning and adapting while remaining transparent and authentic. Also, don’t be afraid to let go of control: become a participant.

Read Lisa Barone’s “Outspoken Media” for a list of social media channels that are useful for nonprofits.

Developing a Social Media Plan

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As I uncover new information about social media, I become more enthralled by all it has to offer. Web 2.0 is quickly evolving and a growing number of businesses are showing interest and wanting to get involved. In a few of my classes we discuss the social media faux pas committed by companies, followed by a discussion about what could have been done to prevent the unintended outcome.

In my Strategic Social Media Class we discuss how to develop a social media plan. I thought this was a relevant discussion for students about to enter the work force, as well as all public relations and marketing professionals.

When creating a social media campaign or any type of marketing campaign, it is a good idea to check its relevance, ethical nature and likelihood to be accepted by the intended audience. Companies often get into trouble when they rush through the planning process without combing through the specifics and discussing any areas that might garner negative attention. If you create a concrete campaign, it is likely that you will prevent a crisis and diminish negative attention.

Once you have the idea and content for the campaign, you need to structure a strategic plan to get some attention. Great content without a plan might garner some attention, but an effective plan can maximize the traffic volume and help you reach a more targeted audience. The plan should outline what type of content to develop, the audience you want to attract, where to promote it, and how to keep people engaged. Here is a worksheet from the Social Media Conference NW: The New Word-of-Mouth Marketing.

Kelli Matthews outlines the steps involved in Social Media Planning:

1. Analysis of the Situation: Know the company’s background and history as it relates to social media. Figure out certain staff expertise, availability and willingness to participate. This is important because it allows you to structure the plan around the time commitments. Research external factors like industry trends, built-in communities and willingness and likelihood of participation. Survey the channels of communication the company is currently using and what degree of success it is receiving.

2. Groundswell P.O.S.T. method:

People: Find out who your audiences are. Use Groundswell’s Social Technographics Profile to figure out what type of social media consumer your customers are.

Objectives: Figure out what it is that you want to accomplish in the “Groundswell.”

Strategies: Listening, talking, energizing, supporting, embracing.

  • Listen to your potential audiences. Before your company can be a part of the conversations, you need to know what people are already talking about so you can determine how your company can best contribute. Setting up tools to monitor conversations is easy. The difficult part is choosing keywords that will return the most usable results. Use tools like Social Media Firehose: Kingsley Joseph used Yahoo Pipes to create one RSS feed that aggregates results from Flickr, Digg, YouTube, FriendFeed and other social media sites.
  • Start leaving comments (talking) on blogs and building a community on Twitter and/or Facebook to further help the discussion and illustrate your company’s commitment to developing online relationships.
  • Energize your audience and your initiative. Figure out who your key audience is, see what their issues are and capitalize on them. Pick a channel that fits with the demographic and stick with it.
  • Support your audience with valuable information, easy access and open conversations.
  • Embrace your audience. Give them a place to discuss issues, provide suggestions and provide feedback on new products. Embracing customers’ ideas is a great way to build and retain relationships.

Technologies: Pick the communication channels that will best reach your audience like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs.

Timeline: Include timelines for both short- and long-term objectives. Answer questions like, “What do you want to gain? How many people do you want to attract?” Remember that it takes time but if you allow the online community to grow and continuously monitor and engage with customers, you should be satisfied with the results.

Companies that develop a plan and create a social media initiative will have a better sense of how they are perceived by their target audiences. They can establish a two-way dialog with key members and they will empower their customers to speak with them, not at them. But, without a strategic approach to social media, it’s difficult to succeed.

Building and Maintaining Online Communities

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I am fortunate enough to be a part of Kelli Matthews, Strategic Social Media class, in which we discuss new technologies and study how to utilize web 2.0. We often have visitors and we were lucky enough to listen to Matt Neznanski, Hannah Smith and Katie Pontius-Stansberry. The three speakers discussed how to build online communities, as well as the future of journalism in the web 2.0 world in which we live.

Many companies have succeeded in building and maintaining an online community, take Dell for example. On the other hand, there are thousands of companies that have failed. Ed Moran, a Deloitte consultant who just completed a study of more than 100 businesses with online communities, believes the problem is that

“Businesses are focusing on the value an online community can provide to themselves, not the community.”

Building:

There are some important questions to ask before deciding to create an online community. Will people want to join?  Why should anyone care? What do users get from participating? Adding value to participants is one of the main goals for creating a community. If you add no value it is likely that the community will fail. It is also important to fill a need for the people who are going to use the product. This means, before you start the community, research topics of discussion around your product to figure out what drives people’s interests. Once you decide that a community would add value to members, it is important to provide an area where members can create and share content that is visible to everyone.

Starting a Community:

When you create a community, members work together to create content. The ownership is then transferred from the individual to the group, and it is important to acknowledge and reach out to opinion leaders, creators and influencers.

Stansberry presented the process in a simple format:

  • Determine and reach out to your opinion leaders (creators and influencers).
  • Start with a few features and then expand outward as the community grows.
  • Integrate with other marketing, advertising and public relations activities.
  • Reward contributors with recognition (link-backs).

Maintaining a Community:

  • Stay engaged with your community. Monitor and quickly respond to comments.
  • Integrate your community with real-world events.
  • Cross-pollinate with existing social networks.

Growing a Community:

  • Update regularly.
  • Use social marketing tools to promote brand.
  • Give your members something of unique value.
  • Create ambassadors.

The most important thing to remember when building and maintaining an online community: Give power to the hands of the community. Embracing two-way communication is vital to the success of a company’s online presence. People don’t respond well to contrived responses and advertising campaigns; if you open up a discussion and allow members to voice their opinions, most likely, the community will be successful.

Other Blogs:

There are many opinions and tips on best practices for creating an online community. I encourage you to check out

Jeremiah Owyang’s diagram on The Life Process of a Successful Community

Ryan Buchanan’s, Chief Marketer’s, article on Building Your Brand by Creating Community

Kami Huyse’s, Communication Overtones, article Start Small to Make Big Waves in Social Media

Mark Collier’s, The Viral Garden, article Six Reasons No One Likes You Online