Don’t Make PR Mistakes on Social Media

The Ragan’s Daily Headlines newsletter featured a topic today that resonates with all businesses who are trying to use social media — and do it the right way. The author, Priya Ramesh, identifies some key mistakes PR pros often make. I think #1 is definitely something to keep in mind:

This post is not meant as part of the ongoing bloggers versus PR debate. (I do think, though, that some of the best bloggers and social media pundits are those who have a strong PR/communications foundation.)

Some industry peers have been very vocal about social media being dead, some want to believe that corporate America is well past phase one of social engagement. My dear social media enthusiasts, look around and you will see a huge gap between those who get it and those who only think they get it.

If your organization is engaged on social media, please make sure you are not doing the following:

1. Repurposing press releases for Facebook and Twitter. As PR pros we think that social media integration is taking a boring press release and converting the headline into a tweet or Facebook update. Please stop. It’s a sure way to turn your friends and followers off. Instead draw your target audience to the announcement by asking them a question on the topic or pull out a stat or text bite that’s sure to get people to click on your URL.

2. Maintaining a formal, businesslike tone on social networks. Realize that those in your target audience have an attention span of 10 seconds, and then craft your Twitter, Facebook, or blog content accordingly. The voice you maintain in an annual report, during a board meeting or quarterly stockholders’ call is not going to cut it in the social sphere.

I am not asking you to sound like a hipster if you represent a financial services company. Yes, you need to maintain your brand image but come on, engage. Step away from that “push” mechanism of sending tweets and updates. and instead “pull” your customers into a conversation by asking them what’s on their minds. It’s OK to show a little personality.

3. Using social media to broadcast and not to get feedback. The beauty of social media lies in feeling your customers’ pulse in real time and using that valuable feedback to define your future steps. Features like the Facebook poll can be used weekly to ask a question or get your community’s reaction to a future product release. A tweet chat with your customers can result in ways to improve your customer service on Twitter.

Let’s get away from the “I am a PR manager, so my role is only to send messages” mindset. Instead, let’s get our hands dirty asking some tough questions to our online audience. You spent all that money and resources to get people to follow you online, now leverage their feedback to deliver what they truly care about.

4. Treating social media as a one-person job within PR/marketing. If you still think social media is a job for your junior executive who happens to love new technology, you have totally missed a social media opportunity. Moving forward, every PR and marketing professional will be expected to have a basic knowledge and understanding of how social media functions.

I am not saying the VP of communications must take the time to tweet every few hours a day, but you need to encourage every member of your team to practice social media. I am startled at how just one person is tasked with engagement activities across multiple levels for an organization that has the capacity to spend millions of dollars on advertising!

 5. Joining the shiny-object bandwagon without a strategy. Scott Stratten of “Unmarketing” fame summarized it well: “Let’s just get Web 1.0 right first, and then we can talk about Web 2.0.” Have you put enough time and resources on the three most essential social tools: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube? Have you increased SEO with your blog? Do you see an incremental increase in your following and engagement activities (comments, shares, likes)?

Let’s first focus on why we got started on social media and align those goals with our social media strategy. Then we can start considering the 101 new apps and tools that get introduced daily.

This is not a rant against my PR colleagues, but a few reminders to help us become better communicators.