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3 Steps for Effectively Using Social Media For PR

Posted on Nov 23rd, 2009
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    social-media-prPreviously, I explored the intersection of social media and PR and explained why it is so important communications professionals leverage digital channels. In that post I touched on the following key points:

    • Authenticity/personality – the world and web crave it
    • It scales – popular brands just get more popular
    • Long-term storytelling – build a permission asset
    • Leverage – digital PR is your social proofing
    • Intersection with SEO – links are by-product
    • PR has changed – pull is now more effective

    Next I’d like to explore a brief outline of how you can effectively use social media to accomplish your PR objectives. I’ll run through 3 key steps as a primer, however I challenge you to consider a unique entry point for your own brand. The social web is as flexible as you want it to be, and there is no single “right answer”. The following are learnings for how you could potentially approach a social media PR strategy.

    1. Go platform agnostic

    Social media is more than just Twitter

    Everyone is buzzing about Twitter and it is without question the network du jour among PR and marketing professionals. And while we’re fond of Twitter as well, (follow us @TopRank) social media is far more than just Twitter. If Twitter is the extent of your participation you’re missing out with a myopic approach. Besides, you don’t get analytics with Twitter, no (direct) SEO benefit, and ultimately, you don’t control the network. To truly be effective at using social media for PR, treat Twitter as a feeder to something larger – as one piece to a much larger and elegant puzzle.

    Own a niche across web platforms

    Instead of putting all your eggs in one basket or network, focus on owning your niche across web platforms. There is little value in being a brand or person who is popular in network X or Y. There is far more value in being thought of as a leader of a niche. In other words:  your positioning should make you known as the definitive source for an industry. Going platform agnostic and putting a focus on a larger strategy that has nothing to do with any single web platform in particular is how you can accomplish this.

    Have a destination and draw users back

    Without some sort of destination to draw users back to and funnel subscribers, you’ll never achieve successful web community building that is protected from the rise and fall of social networks. If the history of the web has taught us anything, it is that networks can and will fall in and out of favor.  Friendster or Orkut anyone?  The greatest value exists in building your own community external of networks whose future can be unpredictable. Use them, but realize spending all of your time there is at the opportunity cost of contributing to your own destination where you stand to benefit most. In other words, consider the cost of focusing entirely on social sites such as Twitter or Facebook vs participating in those networks and sending traffic to social content on your own site such as a blog, forum or community.

    Connect with power users/influencers

    As noted in a previous posts on how subscribers are a vital element of your growth strategy, the ~11% of web users who know to use RSS include the users savvy enough to be web publishers.  Reaching out to this educated, technology literate group increases your propensity to connect with power users and influencers, or “contributors” as referred to by Jakob Nielsen in participation inequality. This will enable your ability to build an organic community of sneezers – those who share content like crazy and are linking up the web in meaningful ways.

    2. Be ready for a long term commitment

    Tactics = fast, strategy = slow

    If you’re able to execute on something that resonates, engaging in the social web with the goal of generating PR can see results fast. But don’t make the mistake of thinking a single tactical success is all it takes to see sustainable growth. You need to engage in continued tactics over a long period of time – and the truth is as many of them will fail as will succeed. But if your strategy is sound, in time, it will pay off and provide increasing returns.

    Need to become referential

    A social media PR strategy needs to be designed to position the company a referential brand. When the brand or company identity becomes referential, your work will start to get easier. As you contribute more, people will start to notice and your content will spawn organic reactions and discussions external of the original source. Additionally, the industry will start to recognize you as a go-to source, and you’ll start to get referenced by virtue of your presence. Find a way to become referential and your efforts will multiply themselves.

    Push through “the dip”

    To get to the point of seeing PR returns at scale for your social web participation, you’ll need to push through “the dip”. In other words, outlast others who aren’t as serious or committed as you are. I’m still relatively new to the TopRank team, but am honored to publish content at Online Marketing Blog, where the first post dates back to 2003. Well over 2,000 posts have been made here, consistently, and that commitment has paid off: This blog generates 10-20+ organic PR placements each month (equal to about a $10K/month PR budget).  Reaching the point where publicity is generated as a by-product of participation should be an end objective of social media for PR.

    3. Don’t forget the SEO intersection

    Find the nexus of PR, Social Media and SEO

    Here at TopRank, we’re cognizant of SEO in everything we do. There are numerous applications for SEO and Public Relations as there are many ways in which social media and SEO can intersect to amplify outcomes.   There is a nexus between PR, social media and SEO, and savvy PR agencies activate connections between all three, making them play off each other for increased visibility on multiple fronts.

    Use a keyword glossary across all marketing

    Your keyword glossary should not be kept in an SEO silo. Rather, apply it across marketing channels – digital or analog – and inspire greater demand for the search terms you are optimizing for. By using your keyword glossary across mediums you’re increasing the potential returns of your inbound marketing efforts.  Not only will more awareness of terms increase search demand for terms you rank for, users in your niche will begin to associate your brand with the terms and may start linking to you using those keywords. Therefore, it’s important to work to popularize your search terms across channels for brand association.

    Social participation + PR = links

    By participating in the social web with the goal of PR, you’re going to inspire attention for your brand. And attention on the web almost always equals links.  Links earned from PR in tandem with other link building tactics can be a major boost in both rankings and referral traffic.  Plus, editorially earned links are some of the most powerful around.

    This is a very short list and exists to serve as a primer to get you thinking of how you can use social media for PR. And for the sake of space I oversimplified many of these points. So I’ll throw it over to the comments: How are you activating social media for PR objectives?