Social media for businesses

1 January 2010 By Northern Lights

Social media for businesses image

Rob-BrownRob Brown’s book, Public Relations and the Social Web, is packed with information, ideas and thoughts for both the novice and the expert in this area.  Although aimed specifically at those working in PR, I am going to recommend this to our clients – it is a very good overview of what’s going on and how businesses can use it.

He makes the point that social media for corporates is still in its infancy, so the examples he gives are centred on consumer products and services – Dove’s Evolution on YouTube, Nike’s running shoes linked to Ipods and Jeep’s use of social media sites such as Flickr, YouTube, Facebook and MySpace.

I particularly liked these points, which reinforce our own advice to clients

  • Treat social networks and the conversations we have in them as if they were conversations on a crowded train – very likely to be overheard.  (We go further than this – assume your emails will be forwarded and published)
  • Engage with bloggers as you would a journalist – don’t just send blanket press releases
  • Blogs have to be interesting and relevant to their target audience
  • Don’t make blogs promotional or cut and paste from press releases
  • 500 words is a pretty good length for the average blog
  • Don’t make general abstract statements in a blog – give concrete examples

Rob discusses various ways to alert the wider world to press releases.  He suggests you can ‘tweet’ your headlines by using an application called Twitterfeed to push your blog’s RSS feeds directly to Twitter.  It gives a route for ‘breaking news’.

Our own view is that you have to do these very selectively – if you start tweeting all press releases, your Tweets just become promotional and boring.  In the same way that you tailor press releases and approaches to different media, so you need to tailor how you Tweet your clients’ news.

Wikipedia raises challenges for many PR people – what do you do if you find inaccurate information posted on Wikipedia about your clients?   Rob, rightly in our view, is adamant that PR people should not pretend to be someone they are not when editing.

He cites the co-founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, who says “PR firms editing in a community space is deeply unethical …the ones I deal directly with are the ethical ones, the ones who approach me and ask how to do things.  I tell them:  post to the discussion pages, talk to the community.”  (Near the top  of a Wikipedia article there is a tab marked ‘Discussion’)

Rob lists and explains dozens of websites that are useful to PR people.  Here are a few worth looking at – though the evaluation websites will tend to be more useful for those with major brand names or major traffic

Alexa – tracks the performance of a website

Huddle – social networking for business

Quantcast – analysing who is looking at websites

Socialmeter – analyses a website’s popularity

Technorati.com – measures scale and influence of different blogs

Twitter Search – follow all current feeds on Twitter by keyword

Twitturly – searches for the URLs of links that people are twittering about the most

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