Leaping into Social Media

PR is undergoing dramatic changes in large part because of the social media landscape. So what does the future look like? Vocus, which offers on-demand software for public relations management, recently released its “PR Planning 2010 Survey Results.”

When asked what is the single most important thing you, as a PR professional, will do differently in 2010 than you did in 2009, Vocus reported that social media was referenced nearly 600 times of the 1,571 responses.

So what can you do if you are one of the few who hasn’t leapt into social media?

Start by experiencing the applications.

LinkedIn allows you to connect professionally. You develop your network. You post your resume. You comment on professional questions. You write recommendations for others. All of these activities place your skills and experience where it can be viewed by others.

Facebook can be social or professional. For many it’s simply a way to stay in touch with far-flung friends. But even when you’re doing that, you are learning how to monitor the conversation.

Start a blog. It’s free and easy and no experience is necessary. I did some research before I started mine. I thought about who my audience would be. For me it was primarily the NFPW membership, but also potential members. Once I knew that, I knew I wanted to focus on communications and the changing field. And really, my focus is more on integrating traditional and new media. I set a schedule. Then I started. I’m learning as I go.

Twitter is a microblog. In 140 characters you can share a message. It’s not easy to keep up with everything. It can be quite distracting. The younger generation seems fine with it. One thing I’ve learned from microblogging is how to write tight and how to convey my message succinctly – something we could all benefit from.

So as you start 2010 and think about your professional goals, think about where you might leap into social media.

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To Join Or Not To Join

In the past year I’ve become quite active on Facebook and LinkedIn. I have a blog, but I still don’t tweet. I’ve been part of conversations with NPFW members — young and old — about whether they should join and whether it’s a time waster.

At the least, any one in the communiations field needs to be familiar with the platforms. The only way to truly understand them is to participate, even if it’s only for a short time.

At the NFPW conference in San Antonio, Texas, blogger Nettie Hartsock described LinkedIn “as your corporate boardroom” and Facebook “as your playground.” It’s the distinction I’ve chosen to make, too. So if we networked professionally, please join me on LinkedIn. If you and I meet for dinner or talk on the phone in the evenings, please friend me.

The problem, though, is when co-workers ask you to be their friend on Facebook. It seems almost rude or antisocial to say no. Instead, I send a message and ask them to connect with me on LinkedIn.

When that didn’t work so well, I simply created a second Facebook account — this one for co-workers. I don’t post often to that one, but it does come in handy because I and my co-workers are able to share photos and videos. I work for ChildFund International, and employees travel frequently worldwide and capture video and photos of the children we serve. Facebook provides us with an easy-to-use platform to share what we’ve captured.

And ultimately, that’s the reason to join. If the platform offers you a benefit then join. If it doesn’t and is only hindering or aggravating you, then it’s okay not to join. There is another platform just waiting around the corner, and it may be exactly what you were looking for.

The Power of 3

Did you know that in 30 minutes you can address all of your social media commitments?

That was the message during one of the workshops at the 2009 NFPW Conference in San Antonio, Texas. The idea is that in those 30 minutes, you can write and post a blog, tweet, and update your LinkedIn profile.

It works. I’ve been doing it since the NFPW conference. Tonight was one of those nights that I fell behind so I was worried about getting a post up by my self-imposed deadline. In my 30 minutes, though, I did everything I needed to do.

Another session from the same workshop by Nettie Hartsock and Jennifer Hill Robenalt was to review your blog and blog roll every month. A blog roll should contain no more than 10-15 blogs, they said. So after three months check that the roll hasn’t grown out of control.

As for how often to post, yep, their recommendation was three times per week. I decided since I had a full-time job that almost always exceeds an eight-hour day that I would commit to twice a week, not three times. When I start posting three times a week, you’ll know I have the job well managed.

Suggestions for developing blog content included asking seven questions (or just three) of someone and posting the answers as an interview. Lists are always good especially when you include three tips or five hints.

So in just 30 minutes I’ve completed my blog, updated my LinkedIn profile and answered some emails. I still don’t tweet. And I’ll probably go over 30 minutes because I’ll go to Facebook, but I promise I’ll only play Bejeweled for 30 minutes!

To Tweet or Not to Tweet…

At book club the other week we started with a lively discussion about Facebook. Do we friend co-workers? What about younger relatives (think teens!)? Do you include a photo? What if a friend posts something you don’t like?

The one commonality was that each of us was using Facebook to varying degrees. And, for the most part, we enjoyed it for connecting with friends, although we all preferred sitting outside on a gorgeous fall day talking face to face.

But there are those who are rebelling against Facebook and other social means of communicating. And no, they aren’t in their 70s or 80s. Ian Shapira in The Washington Post wrote about 20-somethings who were simply saying no to joining Facebook. He called such people “networking refuseniks.”

So why do you participate — or not — on Facebook and other social media sites? Is it worth your time?

We’re considering using social media sites to reach out more often to our members and potential members in National Federation of Press Women. I’m curious to know if it will be worth our time and effort.

Let me know. (Of course, my Facebook page is closed to friends, but you can find me on LinkedIn and through this blog.)

How Does Your Community Grow?

Are you part of a community? Of course you are! And more than one. In fact, if you are on Facebook you are part of the 4th largest country in the world! That’s because Facebook now has more than 300 million accounts.

This means that how we communicate is changing – and rapidly. Many youth today don’t even pick up a phone to talk; they pick it up to text. I don’t send emails to one of my dear friends because she won’t read it. If I send a message on Facebook, I know she will get it, read it, and answer it. By the way, she’s 70!

Last week I attended the PRSA-Richmond chapter meeting. We heard from Dave Saunders of Madison + Main, who talked about social media, which he says “is the marriage of creativity, technology and interactiveness.”

With more than 1.5 million people on the Web today, he says it’s critical to be connected. Most in the audience raised their hands to say they are participating in social media through LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Several had a blog. Then he stumped us. “How many have Tumblr” accounts? Very few hands. I don’t know much about it. If you do, I’d love for you to comment. 

When I Googled it (and when did that become a verb?), I discovered it is a “free and lightweight blogging platform aimed at quick and easy linking and sharing.” I’ll start experimenting soon; heck, I’m still adjusting to life with a blog. I promised myself I would post every Sunday and Wednesday so while I’d love to be reading a good book, I’ve got to finish this post. It’s just like being a reporter on deadline except that the only editor standing over me is in my head.

Dave also shared the benefits of social media and what it won’t do.  As for benefits –

  • Increased brand awareness
  • Reputation management
  • Improved search engine rankings
  • Increased Web site traffic
  • More sales for your product or service (if you didn’t know it, Dave says, “Cold calls are dead.”)

 What it won’t do –

  • Fix a broken company
  • Make you rich
  • Replace your other forms of marketing or PR

Quite simply, social media is another platform that is used to enhance your community, personally or professionally. So how does your community grow?