There is no serious public relations professional that will tell you Twitter and social media in general are not a must for an effective online presence. The truth is social media does a great job at connecting companies and their representatives with clients, bloggers, journalists, their peers and virtually anyone they are interested in. It is also true that in some cases Twitter leads to getting more clients, increased brand awareness, more traffic and all the gold you were digging for in the first place.
Yet what is not stressed about is just how you manage to get there. Social media is not like a party where you just show up and people make you their biggest star. Just signing up is not helpful in any way. And to keep the party inspiration going, which party you go to, who you’re with and what you’re wearing are also important factors in how well you perform.
What makes Twitter an effective PR tool is first and foremost understanding the media in question. People come and go, check tweets and don’t have the time and most often they also lack the will to look back and figure out what you’re talking about. They also follow people for specific reasons. Yes, we all follow the occasional star, our close friends etc. But we also follow brands we like, experts in our field, those that know a lot about our hobbies, and generally everyone with something meaningful to say about one of our areas of interest.
A PR pro tapping into the Twitter conversation has to first get it straight into their head that it’s a permanent conversation. Unless you are a major news outlet, people won’t care about all the links to your site you’re constantly tweeting, they’re going to need more value. They also won’t follow just because you exist and ask them to. They have to see what’s in it for them. Do you reply questions? Are you past the selfish stage and retweet interesting stuff from the people you follow? Are you in the know or are you just pretending?
After figuring out how Twitter works, the next step in a PR integration of the medium is coming up with a strategy and a plan to implement it. Who is the Twitter account addressing? Is it a stream for the PR pro or their firm? Is it for a client? What are they looking for in what results are concerned? Which are the best ways to achieve them? When is the audience online? What are they interested in? Who are the must-follow people in the industry and how do you form a meaningful relationship with them? What hashtags should you follow, what lists? What should you search for in the Twitter stream? How often should you tweet? How many people are tweeting on a specific account and how will they be managed and monitored?
When we’re speaking about an individual or corporate PR account, the topics covered are not just the PR world and the occasional client work. The person (or team) in charge needs to cover all the industries they are interested in (when they are not limitless). If you mostly have tech companies, fashion designers and hospitals as clients, it’s obvious what you should be tweeting about, other than the latest PR and marketing trends. Why? Simply because when doing PR for your clients on Twitter, you’re also addressing their customers, the media, people in their industry. To connect with them, you have to know the field and show genuine interest in it. More over, at the same time, you’re also targeting new PR clients that come from the fields you have expertise in.
If you read again the previous two paragraphs you’ll notice one thing: it’s a lot of work. It seems like an easy enough task, posting two-tree random 140 character tweets every once in a while, but actually, as it happens with any other medium, it takes work, constant learning and smart planning. The bigger the stream, the more work you have. Just check out this video about the team managing PRNewswire’s account, among other things.
Getting real value in your PR efforts on Twitter or other social media channels is not just a nice story people tell. It’s something achievable and measurable. It does change PR for the better, as it puts human relationships and two-way gains in the spotlight. It just has to be approached seriously, not tried out in your lunch break, to then write a post about how Twitter sucks and social media is just the latest whim. Social media is here to stay. More marketing and PR dollars are going into social media campaigns and the sums will keep growing.