Tag Archives: online PR and promotion for business

The Art of Social – NEW Media

It wasn’t so long ago that uttering the term “social media” conjured images of pubescent teens, young adults, and doting grandparents posting about their mundane daily activities and posting their even more run-of-the-mill snapshots to Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and a host of others. Seems as though anyone with a digital camera, internet access, and time to spare could become a social media maven.

Then, buoyed by the success of sites such as LinkedIn, along came marketing and entrepreneurial types who saw the business advantage of having a strong social media presence. Presto! The notion of social media as a haven only for friends and family was transformed into something much, much more.

The social media or NEW media space is now a place where business transpires, reputations get built, brands mature, products get launched, and buzz is either generated or squashed.

It’s gotten to the point where I’m beginning to wonder if everyone should or even can learn how to use it, or at least use it effectively to achieve their desired professional or business branding results.  Think about it, the entire world does not know how to effectively use television, radio or even print media. It cracks me up with this whole mad-dash to “learn how to use” social media.

A friend of mine is a realtor. She markets and sells real estate. How hard can that be, right? Like anything, if you have an interested buyer, selling is easy. Problem is, you rarely reach interested buyers without great effort, and you’re even less likely to close a sale unless you know what you are doing. Expertise and experience are valuable in professions such as real estate. They are becoming equally as important when it comes finding success in social media.

My realtor friend recently took a class on how social media could extend her real estate selling efforts. The result? She felt overwhelmed by all the information and possibilities, so much so that she couldn’t grasp how social media could work for her business. She began to question whether she’d get any return on a social media investment. Wouldn’t it be easier, she wondered, just to stick with the tried and true of what worked in the past (handing signs, listing on MSL)?

Possibly, at least in the short-term, but easier doesn’t always mean most effective. You can rest assured that most of her competitors will seize upon social media as yet another tool with which to reach out to buyers, and that buyers/prospects will come to expect and appreciate the two-way communication street. Simply put, people will wonder “what’s wrong” when a realtor (or any other business for that matter) has no social media presence, and those who fail to embrace social media will be at an immediate disadvantage—just like businesses and professionals who still have no (or a less than standard) Web site presence.

At a minimum, companies need to realize the power of investing in the online personas and social media presence of the people behind their products/brand. This is even more important for SMALL business owners as well as professionals (on a personal professional level).

Why? Because people tend to buy from small business if they can get up close and personal with the people behind the brand.  The same goes for bigger brands. I love to “get into the head” of Michael Dell or some of these other high-ranking executives ready and willing to be even more up-close-and-personal with their customers (and fans). What better way than to use online social media channels to put the people and leaders behind the business scene front and center?  I have to say that I follow a number of small business professionals online with whom I share interests. Guess who I turn to when I’m looking for a particular product or service?

It’s certainly hard to deny the power of social media. Perhaps it’s just a matter of harnessing that power and putting it to best use. That said, can social media training for everyone be far away?

Back in the mid-1990s business owners and professionals scoffed at MS Windows, MAC OS, and “Web site 101” type training, but eventually most caved—either by receiving direct training themselves or by hiring someone with the experience and expertise they were missing to do the work!  Again, social (or NEW) media is really no different from mastering the use of television, radio or print media.  For the most part, the owners or chief officers of companies/brands don’t produce television commercials on their own.  They hire an agency or the production is led by someone in-house who has the training and expertise.

Where do you fall in the spectrum from social media novice, to do-it-yourselfer, to expert?  

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Setting standards for the use of social media

The Public Relations field has, for decades, had standards governing conduct and best practices—some tried and true rules of thumb and guidelines. But how does social media, which many—including yours truly—view as a powerful, 21st-century add-on to the PR profession and is perhaps the greatest development to hit the field in more than half a century, fit in?

Let’s cut right to the chase here.

I’m not advocating that every teenager or proud Mom or Dad needs “uber” social media skills to post on Facebook or MySpace (though for a handful of particular posters some skills would be nice!). What I’m talking about are those companies and professionals who tout themselves as social media marketing experts and professionals.

Are they? How can anyone tell? What makes someone a social media expert? What’s stopping virtually anyone from making such a claim?

As it stands now, my neighbor’s 14-year-old high school freshman could claim to be a social media expert . . . and I bet her 600 or so Facebook friends would agree!

Just as with Public Relations professionals, social media experts need to know their stuff. To this end, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) is looking to redefine “public relations” so that it encompasses the two-way dialogue that now takes place, courtesy of social media, between companies and consumers, celebrities and their fans, professionals and clients. Sure to follow will be social media training and professional certifications.

What this means for consumers is a true “seal of approval” to help them discern qualified professionals from the not-so-qualified. What it means for those of us in the profession, aside from increased knowledge and expertise, is greater credibility for anyone holding such a credential.

Sure it sounds like more paperwork and more class work, and undoubtedly an extra fee or two, but in my book, it’s a win-win for PR/Social media professionals and the people/companies we serve. All will benefit from increased standards and greater integrity.

Don’t you think it’s time to weigh in with the PRSA and let them know we want to ensure the integrity of social media and the individuals and firms who operate in this space? While we can’t ensure across-the-board success (case in point, the numerous less-than-stellar TV and radio shows, publications, and networks), when it comes to social media and other online channels we can go a long way to ensuring higher quality and the existence of peer-developed best practices industry wide.

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Social Media/Online PR for Business Promotion–Don’t Try This at Home…

…if you don’t have the time or experience to produce and manage it (best to leave it to the traditional promoters and publicists of the world).

Online/Social Media is the reality of our world these days–it truly is “new media channel” for personal and business PR, promotion, marketing and advertising. It has also become one of the best new tools for job search and recruiting.

There is absolutely no shortage of social media coaches, seminars and books on this new hot topic. However, these particular platforms can usually only provide a short-term solution or even simply overwhelm those who are new to social and online media production and management. Unfortunately the real work comes into play after the meetings and workshops are over! Social media strategy is one thing, but the implementation and management of it all is a whole other job in itself.

While many companies are slowly embracing this fact (hiring social media managers to work alongside marketing management), most business people may not think of outsourcing this new and very constant personal professional business task!  If you think about it, this type of service may not be so much of a luxury these days, but really MORE of a necessity especially for busy professionals who know they need to be more in tune with their personal online PR and reputation management and who do not have the ability or time to concentrate on it all–above and beyond their core business tasks.

I recently commented on a very good blog post by a “social media expert” who wrote about the five key success points of social media management (or something along those lines). While I agreed with most of what she wrote about, I did not agree with her in regards to the fact that since social media should be handled personally by the person or business that chooses to participate in this new media channel. I commented to her (on the blog) that this “rule” of social media production and management should not always be the case—and for the majority of people who are using online or new media to promote their personal professional brand, service or products.

Social media is no different from traditional media and if you want it to work and provide the best results (ROI), you better have a background in PR or marketing, the experience and ability to produce creative and engaging collateral, the ability to handle crisis management issues (that happens more and more now with new media being so wide open) and the time to manage it all on a consistent basis—or it will absolutely do NOTHING for your personal brand or business.

It’s a shame that there people out there getting other people to believe that a quick seminar or coaching session will help them learn how to be more in synch, and in tune with social media (for their own professional or business brand) and that just because “social media” is based in such an open type of forum (over traditional media), that they MUST produce and manage it all on their own. Even Reality T.V. programs are produced and directed by other people (kidding, but true). Just because social media is online it should not give people the license to think that they can or even should try to handle their online Personal PR initiative—and whether it’s for their own personal or business brand. If also takes a lot of time and effort and it really is a whole other job that should not be taken lightly.

With close to 25 years of PR/marketing experience, I’ve evolved my own professional/business brand into the production and management of social (new) media as it started to surge in the early 2000’s, but I also didn’t dive right into it as an expert! I slowly submerged into it. Believe it or not traditional publicists and marketers are still catching up and trying to infuse new media in with traditional practices. Then there are all the new “social media experts” who usually have limited traditional and basic PR or marketing experience—no one is an expert. Social Media or Online PR as I like to call it is NEW and things change every day–its growth is unprecedented. If anything, the expertise is really more about the ability to stay on course and change and adapt as new techniques, tools and platforms change or come into place and then continue to develop, build and manage it to ensure it creates a return on investment. The expertise falls into place from there.

Staying on top of all the learning and tasking can be overwhelming for most business people–which is why personal web/social media managers can provide a very necessary service to support business professionals in a similar manner to how most celebrity, government official and company brand personas are handled and represented on the web. I actually think that most businesses and professionals need web and social media managers even more so. Many celebrities have the down time to manage their own social media and online PR, but most do not. Being online in a professional manner is also about maintaining reputation and image—which is what a publicist or third-party should always handle as it is.

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