Talking Web 2.0 and Social Media with the PRSA Connecticut Valley Chapter

Posted on 21. Oct, 2008 by in front page, public relations

Many organizations here in Connecticut are still very cautious as they approach social media and Web 2.0. Fortunately, PR and communications professionals in the region are carefully evaluating the opportunities that come along with Web 2.0 and providing their organizations with good plans. But, there are still a lot of questions.

Last Thursday, I spoke to about 65 members of PRSA’s Connecticut Valley chapter about Web 2.0 and Social Media. These were some of the questions I heard.

“How can I control the message that circulates in social media?”

“How can I evaluate all these different social networks?”

“What kind of tools can I use to measure social media?”

“Will these social media open us up to unforeseen liabilities?”

My role at this workshop was to provide an overview of the social media landscape – blogs, podcasts, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

If you were there or just need a recap of my tips and references, skip to the end. Otherwise, read on.

Main Point: Social media is Public Relations.

It’s really just a new name for something that has existed as long as communications itself. (Clay Shirky sums it up brilliantly in this video.) Social media, like public relations can do three things:

  1. Build relationships.
  2. Disseminate objective information.
  3. Tell a story.

The advent of social media has empowered PR professionals with more ways to measure the impact of their work, especially among niche businesses, government agencies and non-profits, whose work infrequently garners the attention of the major media. Do you care about the major media? Of course. But relationships with local legislators, community leaders, potential volunteers and donors, as well as friends and colleagues are just as important. The tools of social media maintain and amplify those seemingly small connections that often make up the fabric of your organization.

I showed two examples of effective social media:

  1. Barack Obama’s tax calculator
    Obama’s entire site embraces social media, making it possible for people to consume information, create content and then share it with people they know. This page, in particular shows all the social media tools in one place. First, there’s fresh up-to-the-minute content. It’s easy to digest and it’s timely. Literally, as soon as his economic plan was released, the whole page was tested and live. It wasn’t an afterthought. Second, visitors have the opportunity to immediately do something: calculate their savings. When visitors get to your web site, is there something they can do? Can they experience the value of your company/non-profit/agency so that they can begin to understand your value proposition in a human way? Third, and last, Obama’s campaign site makes it easy for visitors to immediately share what they’ve learned. The bottom of the page provides all of the tools to pass the link on to individuals or networks.
  2. The Connecticut Technology Council’s many social networks
    To drive visitors to their web site, the Council publishes its content on multiple networks where people already congregate online: Flickr (photo sharing), Ning (a private social network), Twitter (real-time notifications) and YouTube (video sharing). Instead of spending time crafting a story out of memories and notes, the Council tells its story in real time. Regardless of how its audience prefers to get information – video, photos, short messages – they can. It might not always be polished, but the stream of information they make available clearly shows (doesn’t just tell) their commitment to the growth of innovation in Connecticut.

What can you do to get started with your social media campaign?

3 SHORT (<30 MIN.) TASKS TO JUMP-START YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY

  1. Search Google for your company‚Äôs name, your name, your product/service. Omitting pages that you created, what do these sites imply about your image and brand?What will you learn? Your organization and the people inside it are present on a lot of web pages where you don’t control the message.
  2. Ask your webmaster how your site traffic changed immediately after your last press release, event or article. Was there a change? Use this as a baseline to measure the effectiveness of future projects.What will you learn? PR is measurable! And quantifiable! You can’t always conduct an audit after every communications project, but you can measure the increased traffic to your web site. Track this measure over the course of a year and you’ll find out which of your organization’s stories is most compelling (i.e. which ones inspire people to visit your web site).
  3. Join Facebook (facebook.com). Search for groups that are relevant to your work. Is the information those people share different than what they share offline?What will you learn? Internet users of all ages are willing to share information, form and maintain relationships online. In 2006, “60 million Americans have turned to the internet for help with major life decisions.” If some of those Americans are in your audience, it could be a fertile bed of research for your future campaigns.

Have questions or comments on the presentation? Enter them below in the comments.

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