Public Relations Management software providers Vocus held a fantastic webinar on Wednesday 28th July 2010, including talks from five influential speakers from the PR, marketing and social media world: Deidre Breakenridge, David Meerman Scott , Beth Harte, Lee Odden and Brian Solis.
We thoroughly enjoyed the whole day of marketing and 2.0 insights and we thought for those of you who didn’t get a chance to watch the speakers and get involved in the live chat, we’d summarise each speaker’s presentation (and their scheduled chat afterwards) and try to answer any unanswered questions from the chatrooms. Every weekday this week, we will post a summary on the blog, following up next week with the chat questions. Enjoy!
Brian Solis – Founder and Principle of FutureWorks
“Engage or Die!”
The final keynote speaker of the Vocus Online Conference was Brian Solis with his talk “Engage or Die!” on the way PR must adapt to exist in the world of social media.
Social media is having a massive effect on public relations, media and business. Within social media we are actively working out the future of media before media itself. As social media marketers, we need to lead the transformation from traditional PR to the level of engagement that social media demands. We are in the era of “Engage or Die!”
Traditionally, public relations is a one-way street; press releases, pitches and advertising spam customers with information that they have no way to interact with. We just have to hope that they respond to it. We have to earn the right to engage with our consumers, and with social media we are given the opportunity to do so. We are no longer pitching and broadcasting, we are entering into conversations and interactions. But how do we accomplish this?
“At some point, we have to stop asking questions, and start answering them for ourselves.”
Solis went on to advise that by all means research existing case studies and success stories, but don’t let them influence your approaches to social media. Think creatively and appropriately to your business, your customers and your market to find a niche or solution that will work in the best way possible for your own situation.
There is no magical short cut. We need to find answers appropriate to our business and learn and develop and measure and innovate to improve. We must let go of the desire to control our brand and take the opportunity to steer perceptions the way we want them to go, through personal engagement and appealing to our audience.
The main contenders are the obvious choices for starting a social media presence: Facebook has hit the 500 million user mark, Twitter has over 190 million, YouTube hosts 9 billion streams per month and Foursquare is fast growing with 1.6 million users. But there are also hundreds of other very important channels where individuals are communicating with each other. Find out where the relevant conversations are taking place that are important to your business and marketplace. Research keywords, competitors and your brand’s profile. Investigate where you should be making an impact and earning attention – the major currency in content commerce.
Social media moves fast. The length of time an object stays alive in social media is a measure of its resonance and its value. Attention is spread thin and to have your content stay afloat in the reams of conversation and streams of information that pass by every second is what you are aiming for. We do this by publishing relevant and valuable content that people strive to keep visible. Measure your success by running monitoring tests on particular social objects, for example a tweet. Measure the click through rate, sharing, follows, retweets etc and find out how long each item is visible and engaged with.
By contributing valuable content and participating in conversations which benefit your audience as individuals and as a community, you will earn significance and prominence. If people want to listen to what you have to say, they will also share it, distribute it and shout it from the rooftops for you.
Putting the ‘Me’ in Social Media
It takes time and effort to establish a presence, but the more people who follow and respond to you, the more chance you have to learn how to participate within your networks. Your audience has their own audience, and you want them to benefit from your insights and experiences, you want them to want to know what you think, and pass that message on.
It’s important to investigate how information travels, where it clusters, the lengths to which it spreads, and through which networks. When is the best time to tweet, to ‘disrupt’ the flow and make the most of that attention aperture.
Then, think about what you’re posting – our actions equate to social media currency. Everything we say and do helps to define our reputation, credibility and presence online socially. Relationships are gained through actions and words that resonate and inspire. Monitor what people are reacting to through tools like Klout, URL shorteners like Bit.ly and Hootsuite and social media monitoring programs.
Become the Influencer
Invest some time in developing a strategy and an aim. What are you trying to achieve? Followers, brand strength, conversions, awareness? A great example of a simple plan of action that Solis gave was Starbucks giving free coupons to the most influential tweeters of coffee related subjects. These influencers took their coupon, got a free coffee and then shared their experiences and opinions with the world, and their audience of coffee-loving contacts. Strategic customer relations can work fantastically within social media because you are connecting on a personal level to what people really want.
Simply sharing content is not enough, you need direct interaction with people who will influence others. Get the right people to see what you’re sharing and they will provide you with an appropriate audience and connect more people with your content.
The process of transaction generally follows these steps – for example, take a tweeter looking for an exciting new pastime:
1. Need – “I really want a boomerang!”
2. Awareness – “Hey tweeple, know where I can get a cool new boomerang?”
3. Consideration – “Hmm, this one’s a bit too expensive, any other suggestions?”
4. Decision – “I’ve found the perfect one! Cha-ching!”
5. Satisfaction – “Wow, this boomerang is the best darn boomerang I’ve ever seen…”
6. Recommendation – “Everybody, you’ve got to get one of these boomerangs, they’ll change your life!”
Ahem. What I’m trying to show here is that you can identify explicitly the stages of a decision making process because they are defined and shared through social media: what people are looking for, why they want that particular product/service/information, where they’re looking for it, what they find and what their evaluation is.
Now, say you sell boomerangs. You want to listen and explore conversations and exchanges concerning boomerangs – how people are communicating, in what media, what questions they want answers to, what problems they are coming up against. Venture outside your domains to find this information. Tap into communities that already exist in relevant markets. Entering into those conversations and groups and providing the advice and answers your customers are directly looking for will expand your network and gain you influential followers. Context is king.
We need to break out of the public relations box and change the way we market. We’re not yelling at people “come buy my product!” but instead producing great content that helps people and sells products through “unmarketing”.
Can you distil a press release into 140 characters or less? Brevity is a skill which will provide you with focused messages which are concise and eye-catching. Make the most of the social media available to you and make your social media newsroom or company blog a place to interact. Social media is rich with emotional connections – we share things because they speak to us, they resonate, they move us in some way.
Communication is more important than a pitch. Make people feel that they are part of your network. Encourage them to become your ambassador. Social media has its own society and you must participate in a genuine way for people to believe in you and pay attention to what you are saying.
Tips and Hints (from the live chat)
– Don’t just target the A-listers as your main influencers. Consider the ‘magic middle’, populated by people who may have less of an audience, but who have a following of highly concentrated individuals actively seeking the information from that person. Gaining the support of one of these influencers can be more effective than an A-lister.
– Gaining influencers is still, despite the many tools out there, mainly a manual process – you need to research and investigate the best people to connect with, and achieve that by reading what they are writing, finding out what they are about and forming a relationship.
– Find an angle or approach that interests people. Targeting the right individual with the right angle will make a story reach further than you can imagine.
– Personalise – don’t just bug someone because they are going to be influential in your targeted field – engage with them on a personal level to build a beneficial relationship.
– Invest time in your research and identification of your niche. Monitor and track content to see what works and what doesn’t. Have clear goals in mind before you make your move.
– Be prepared to stand out in front of your company and represent them personally. You don’t just have to ghost-write for the brand – make connections on a personal level.
Well, that’s all from us today – thanks again to Brian Solis for a great presentation. Come back next week for our Q&A session comprised of all the questions that couldn’t get answered on the day.
Engage! by Brian Solis
Putting the Public Back in Public Relations by Brian Solis and Deidre Breakenridge
The Hybrid Theory Manifesto by Brian Solis