How PR Agencies Can Use Twitter & SMO To Promote The Business

Interview Notes

Photo: Social Media Apps

It’s been a while since I’ve posted any Interview Notes, those thoughts I give reporters that end up on “the cutting room floor,” as it were, but I think might still be valuable enough to share. About a year ago I provided the following comments to a reporter doing a story about how public relations outfits are using social media to promote their business. Without further ado:

1. How does your firm use Twitter to promote your firm? your clients’ business?

We encourage our employees to develop their personal brand on Twitter and through other social media. We train staff on how to use Twitter as a strategic business tool generally and specifically for media relations, as a business development tool, and as an expert positioning and thought leadership tool.

Twitter allows staff to demonstrate their knowledge and expertise and through that activity, the agency benefits from the association with the personal brands our smart employees build for themselves.

We have helped our clients use Twitter directly for media and industry relations, business development, expert positioning & thought leadership as well as for direct sales and customer service. We have helped clients launch their Twitter presence from zero to thousands of followers. Our staff often Tweet about clients themselves (though they are not required to do so), where appropriate for their own Twitter audiences. This is done with the approval of the client and the relationship is disclosed within the Tweet.

2. Lately, one hears a lot of Twitter backlash. What do you say to the skeptics? Do the number of followers really matter?

I confess I haven’t really heard of a Twitter backlash, so I’m not quite sure what the skeptics are saying. Typically, the skeptics haven’t actually tried using Twitter. It is a medium that must be experienced to appreciate the full value of it.

I would point the skeptics to Dell Outlet’s Twitter account, which has accounted for millions of dollars in direct sales; I would point them to the @ComcastCares Twitter presence, which is creating a positive image of the cable company through superb customer service. I would point them to Ford’s Scott Monty, who, when the automobile industry executives were being raked over the coals on Twitter during their congressional testimony, was the only auto industry representative there to defend his company.

I don’t know that the volume necessarily matters so much as who’s listening or what relationships you are fostering there. It really depends upon what you want to accomplish. If you want to create a massive distribution network, then obviously the number of followers is important. What is more important is what you do when you’re there, because the depth of your reach on Twitter ultimately won’t matter if no one pays attention to you.

3. How is your agency using social media optimization? Where do Rohit Bhargav’s rules fit in?

Our e-Strategy practice is built on a solid foundation of search engine optimization expertise, so that knowledge and expertise is brought to bear on all of our social media efforts. Bhargava’s rules are fine as far as they go, but they are really only focused on your Web site.

We extend our Social Media Optimization practices to include getting individual pieces of content (a YouTube video, for example) to rank well both in the general search engines as well as within that particular social media site. People behave differently within a social media site than they do when using Google, so we take that into account.

4. What are smart agencies doing right vis a vis SMO? What are the others doing wrong?

I think the smart agencies focus on people and behavior, rather than on a particular social media venue. Twitter is not a strategy. It is a tool through which you can apply tactics. What matters is whether you are reaching the audience with whom you need to communicate and whether you are achieving your goals for that effort. If you do not understand who is using a particular social media site and what they are doing when they are there, you will only be successful through dumb luck.

I think there’s a lot of throwing spaghetti at the wall without really examining what you’re trying to do, who you’re trying to reach, and what you hope to accomplish. I see a lot of Facebook for Facebook’s sake; you need to be there because everyone else is—that’s flying blind.

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