4 Musts for Any Agency Offering Social Media

SMI

Lots of small and medium sized businesses are spending a lot of time on social media because they understand its potential. They typically fall into three categories: doing well at it and content to keep it going, doing well at it but ready to outsource it, and don’t know what they’re doing and want real help.

In many cases, it may make sense for these people to outsource their social media needs to the same agencies handling their public relations and other marketing needs. As a PR professional, you already know what’s going on within the client’s business, what their overall goals are, and how to get them in front of their ideal audience.

I’ve seen PR agencies and marketing agencies do some things right and some things wrong when providing social media services to clients. I’m here to share my insights so you can add social media to your service offerings without the risk of failing your client or spending all of your time on social.

Know what’s on the menu.
Before you offer social media services to your clients, you should know the different ways that you can “slice” social media. Some clients might want full social media management that covers content creation, audience engagement, inbox monitoring/customer service and ad buys. But you may choose not to offer the whole enchilada. You may decide it only makes sense to provide prewritten social media posts that the client can schedule to accompany a public relations campaign you’re managing more fully for them.

If you break it down, you can offer clients:

Content calendar: This can mean different things to different people, so be sure to define it for within your own agency and be clear about its meaning to clients. It might mean a simple list of weekly themes they should follow, a yearly calendar that outlines several campaigns, or a day-by-day list of pre-written tweets, posts and updates.

Scheduling: This is simply the scheduling of social media posts to be sent at a predetermined time from within a tool such as Hootsuite. If the client insists on approving the prewritten content each week, you may want the client to handle scheduling so that any delays in approval do not affect your ability to schedule the updates to go out on time.

Engagement/Audience growth: This is the daily maintenance of the client’s platforms and real-time interaction with audiences. This includes following those who follow the client’s competitors to grow their own following and reposting and liking content from other users to get their attention. Related to this is customer service or inbox monitoring wherein you keep an eye on the social media messaging inboxes to keep track of any concerns customers have with your client’s business. You might answer these customer concerns if you’re equipped to do so or to quickly notify the client of messages that require their attention.

Ad buys: Do you want responsibility to creating ad campaigns to reach new followers, drive traffic to the client’s website, or boost posts on Facebook? How about sponsoring tweets on Twitter or posts on Instagram? This might include the creation of graphics that won’t get rejected by Facebook and reporting the results to the client.

Reporting: Whatever social media services you offer, you’ll want a system for reporting analytics so they can track progress on social media. Social media managers do reporting in different ways. Hootsuite has built-in analytics tools, Facebook has pretty advanced analytics in its Page management system, and even Twitter lets you track the reach of your tweets. There are plenty of others tools you can use. Some clients will only care about their number of followers going up while others will want to know what messages are outperforming others.

Get an ally in the client’s office.
Inevitably, there will be “fires.” You’ve seen it time and again with media placements and other PR elements: the client’s name was misspelled or there was a word missing from their quote and they want you to fix it RIGHT NOW! Well, it happens with social media too. The client might notice a word misspelled or a missing period and want the tweet or post edited or deleted right this very second. Now, you’re busy. While PR pros pride themselves on being well-caffeinated and quick to respond, it just isn’t always possible. The best thing to do to prevent client frustrations in this situation is to ask them up front to appoint someone on their own team that you can train to be responsive in an “emergency.” Then teach them the basics of editing or deleting. You might even make it super clear by giving them a handy tipsheet they can keep nearby that tells them if a post on a platform is able to be edited or must be deleted, etc.

Keep PR & social media on the same page.
If you can’t have the account executive that’s already handling the client’s PR do their social media (some of your account execs won’t be comfortable in that role or have the bandwidth to take it on), make sure that the person managing their social media has really easy access to the account exec handling PR. This is especially important when your clients have had your agency handle their PR for a long time and are just now handing over social media. Your account exec likely already knows what’s going on inside the client’s company or knows how to get that info out of the client. The person in charge of their social media needs that information too. While social media can consist largely of news aggregation and other forms of content that aren’t breaking news about the company, their social media will feel naked without such updates from within the company.

Feel free to give the client homework.
Don’t feel like because you’re taking money from the client to manage their social media that it should be entirely off their plate(s). You might ask that clients email you articles you can share from their feeds, share updates from the company page to their personal pages, or upload images in real-time from major events they’re participating in (or texting those images to you so you can upload them).

There’s a lot to consider when you’re thinking of or starting to offer social media services to clients. This really is just a brief list of the things I’ve seen other agencies mess up.

Rosella LaFevre is a marketing consultant helping solo entrepreneurs, small businesses and C-level executives with marketing strategy, public relations/thought leadership and social media. She’s also a business and marketing coach helping entrepreneurs do more good and make more money. If you want an outsider to consult on your agency’s approach to social media for clients, schedule a consultation here.

(Image via)

Advertisements

The Do’s of Corporate Blogging

CB imageIf your company has decided to cut corporate blogging out of its content marketing strategy, you might want to reconsider. Allowing companies to reveal a bit more about the brains and personalities behind the brand, blogging offers businesses the advantage to initiate unique conversations with customers, unlike traditional marketing channels.

“A company blog is a venue for clients and lovers of the brand to feel personally connected to the company. It’s an opportunity for consumers to be heard by a company or brand and to be kept in the loop on their own terms – ultimately forming a two-way, insider relationship that benefits both parties,” said Digital Strategy and Marketing Director, Clara Swanson of GillespieHall.

The “2014 Hubspot State of Inbound” report mentions, “companies that blog are 13x more likely to generate a positive marketing ROI.” So what are you waiting for? Follow these corporate blogging do’s and start reaping all of the benefits that blogging has to offer to your business.

The Do’s

Establish your brand’s voice and personality
Before a company moves forward with posting on any social media outlet, they must first establish their brand voice. Choosing your brand’s voice is a very critical step because it goes hand-in-hand with your brand’s personality, and how you will execute the content you plan to share. First, think about the type of business and industry you are in and the most commonly used lingo within this market. Ask yourself, how does your audience interact with one another and how do they like to be approached and spoken to?

Perform keyword research
Just as bees seek quality pollen, your readers seek superior content. Tagging your blog posts with the most effective keywords helps to guide readers to useful and relevant information. “Corporate blogging is an opportunity to connect with your target market on a personal level and establish a place in the market. Blogs are also critical for search – keeping your company fresh in search results, and appearing in a wider range of search results relevant to your product or service,” said Swanson. A definite way to ensure that your content is reaching your desired target audience is to create effective search engine optimized content. Try using Keyword Tool, it helps you generate over 750 keywords from Google autocomplete. Also, embed links into your blog posts that steers readers to previously published content. If you’re looking to maximize your PR efforts through search engine optimized content, check out this previously published post on PPRA’s blog, “How Search Engine Optimization Benefits the Field of Public Relations.”

Update regularly.
It has happened to us all. We surf the web and come across blogs that are completely outdated or are not regularly updated. What kind of impression does this blog leave you with? Think of your content as a store’s inventory. Don’t just offer your readers last season’s trends, fill them in on what’s hip now and keep them in-the-know with consistent blog content. “Not investing in regular blogging is a major lost opportunity in any industry. Blogging, approached strategically, can bring amazing benefits to any company willing to invest in the process. The key, though, is the quality of the blog content and the commitment to producing valuable content on a regular basis,” said Swanson. The first step to corporate blogging strategically is to create an editorial calendar that includes your blogging and posting schedule, as well as brainstormed topics and special events you can incorporate your content around.

Feature guest posts from all staff members
Allowing staff of all levels to regularly contribute to the company’s blog acquaints your customers with the thought leaders that are the force that drives the brand they love. It provides diversity to the reader because they can now receive insights from employees of different departments. Each employee has something valuable to offer to the blog. Make sure to answer consumer questions or leave them with thought-provoking conclusions.

This post was written by PPRA member Renee’ Velez. Renee’ currently serves on PPRA’s Communications Committee as the Blog Chair. She loves all things social media and is currently seeking opportunities in the PR industry. Follow Renee’ on Twitter @rvelez88. Special thanks to the GillespieHall team for the insightful feedback on corporate blogging.

Writing… Sometimes It’s About What You Don’t Know

UntitledWrite what you know.

Simple, right? Makes total sense. Mark Twain couldn’t possibly be wrong. Wise words to live by for all aspiring writers. Well, not exactly. And especially not if you are a communications professional living in this century and working within a diverse or complex industry like biotechnology, pharmaceuticals or software development. So, what do you do when you’re charged with writing a blog about the future of AngularJS or a bylined article about the benefits of using GFETs in medical diagnostics? Unless you are a software engineer or biotech scientist, these topics may be more than just a bit of a challenge for you to wax poetic about at the drop of a dime.

Insightful, actionable content is at the core of all successful communications strategies. Whether it’s a bylined article, blog post, media pitch or press release, it needs to be interesting, factual, valuable, relevant and written in a way that will drive action by your intended audience. Basically, you need to know what the heck you’re talking about before you can even think about writing something that’s going to inspire others to want to learn more about your product, service, company or client.

Since most of us probably did not have a dual major in communications and biotechnology, the question still remains: How exactly do you write intelligently about a topic like the benefits of using GFETs in medical diagnostics when you aren’t a biotech scientist?

Well, you can start by talking to a biotech scientist.

The first step is realizing that you are NOT the expert here, and more importantly, no one is expecting you to be. It’s okay to admit that you don’t know the first thing about what a GFET is or what it does. You need to seek out the real experts who can help you tell that story. Look internally at your organization or externally at your client’s organization and find that expert who can provide the valuable insight needed to help get you started. And once you secure that interview opportunity, you should always make it a practice to record the conversation. If you’ve ever spoken to a scientist or a software engineer about one of their new products or discoveries, you know why I’m saying that. You’ll be too busy trying to wrap your head around the twenty-three acronyms and unfamiliar multisyllabic words that they just hurled at you within the first minute of your conversation to even begin to take coherent notes. It’s much more important for you to listen, be engaged and ask questions, especially if you are dealing with hard-to-understand information. So, put your notepad/laptop down and press the “record” button instead. You’ll be grateful for that later.

The next step – as obvious as it may sound – is research. But, the key here is quality research. Most likely, you are working against a tight deadline and you don’t have time to read an entire book or series of white papers on your specified topic. You also don’t have time to read endless blogs that may or may not be reliable or accurate. It’s not about culling a bunch of random information from the darkest recesses of cyberspace, throwing it together and then trying to pass it off as insightful content. Identify the real influencers in your space by doing the research and asking your in-house experts, clients, co-workers, industry friends… anyone who has experience within this particular industry who can recommend the best informational sites, published papers, case studies or other accredited sources from which you can pull vital stats for your piece.

After you have gathered all of your information and you sit down to write, remember to whom you are writing. Who is your target audience? What are you trying to convey to them and why? What should your tone be? What is it that you want them to do after reading this content? The target audience and intended action should always be top of mind before you start writing any type of marketing content.

Remember this simple formula on which we base all of our communications strategies at Slice: Targeted Audience + Compelling Content = Measurable Action

It works like a charm.

Once you have the first draft down, or if you get stuck in the middle, walk away. Go to a movie. Go for a drive. Have some ice cream. Don’t stress over writer’s block or labor over whether this paragraph should go before that paragraph. Step away from it completely for an hour or even a day, so that when you pick it back up again, you’re looking at it with fresh eyes and a clear mind.

And, finally, when you’re finished, share it with a friend or co-worker. Ask them what they think, and if it’s understandable to someone who doesn’t know anything about the topic… someone just like you the first time you heard the term GFET and panicked when you realized you needed to write an 800-word bylined article on it.

Of course, that was before you started this process and became an expert in your own right.

Jenni Glenn is head of PR for Slice Communications (www.SliceCommunications.com), a progressive public relations and social media agency that believes in the power of relevant, insightful and actionable content. She leads the agency’s PR team in developing strategic communications for a diverse array of clients in industries such as biotech, technology, e-commerce, architecture/design, consumer products, healthcare, finance/investment and nonprofit.  With more than 15 years communications experience, Glenn has also held senior-level communications positions at Sprout (NBCUniversal’s preschool television channel), QVC, Inc., Miss America Organization, CDNOW, Inc., and Milan Entertainment. A resolute animal welfare and rescue advocate, Glenn also participates in volunteer work for organizations specializing in the rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming of pitbulls who have been abused or abandoned.

How Search Engine Optimization Benefits the Field of Public Relations

seoimage1As a content writer for 1SEO.com, an award-winning digital marketing agency headquartered in Levittown, PA, I have written numerous pieces of search engine optimized (SEO) content that is used to help websites rank better in the search engines. Companies hire our agency to help them achieve visibility in the search engines so that they can gain more consumerism by providing customers with the information they seek.

The same concept is pretty much used in the field of PR but more for advertising and promotional purposes. PR is mainly about establishing and maintaining relationships for beneficial reasons. Combining the two initiatives can produce positive marketing results. If SEO and PR went on a date together, they’d make a really great couple – and, maybe some good-looking babies.

The Digital PR Outlet
Blogs, websites, and online press releases are all virtual channels that are used to target audiences on the internet in the field of public relations. But did you know that these channels are also used for search engine optimization purposes? Put the two objectives together and you’ve got yourself a double marketing bonanza.

Sure, the old-school PR methods such as the distribution of pamphlets and flyers still work, but advances in technology have generated new strategies of how public relations can successfully be initiated in the digital world. One of these strategies is conducted through the use of content search engine optimization. If I sound like I’m speaking a foreign language, read the next paragraph to form a new wrinkle in your brain.

seoimage2

SEO: A Very Short Explanation of What it is
Most savvy internet junkies that grew up with the development of computers already know that search engines are digital platforms such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. These websites find information instantly on the internet when words, questions, or phrases are typed into their query bar. The engines are designed to arrange all the webpage findings from the most informative match of terms to the least through a ranking process. Algorithms, links, keywords and quality content are all factors that help the engines decipher which websites are the most valuable and provide the best information. In short, optimization is a method used by digital marketers to elevate information to the top of the results so that users can consume it.

The SEO and PR Mix Up – It’s a Small World After All
So how does the field of public relations fit into the use of search engine optimization in content? It enhances and improves the marketing goal of the PR campaign being operated through the internet. With the instant connection to millions of online users, audiences can be targeted through quality SEO content. As long as the content is well-written, not duplicated, contains a minimal amount of keywords and has healthy links, it can assist in reaching out to an audience using SEO principles.

Need to announce the 40th anniversary of a company or inform the community of a huge event? An SEO enhanced published piece of content about it can produce promotional victory – as long as it successfully shows up high in the results listing. When a user searches for a term that associates with the event or company, they’ll be able to find it.

seoimage3The Scheme Reversed
In a way, SEO content can cause the PR channel method to work backwards.  Typically when it comes to public relations, an audience is targeted first and then a strategy is planned out to expose the information. But with successful search engine optimized content, the audience discovers the information on their own. Instead of introducing the information to the audience through the use of a strategized channel, the focus group comes to you by searching queries in the engines.

But don’t think you’re going to be a sudden informational magnet – much work still goes into an SEO campaign to initiate an effective plan. The typical PR approach is still necessary to attract the right audience through the use of links and keywords in the content.

The Right Attraction
The best thing about content in a PR SEO campaign is that it helps keep the audience engaged even after they have found the information, so that they keep coming back for more. If you are using a blog to connect with the online community, great content will encourage them to subscribe or keep checking back for new updates. A company website with quality SEO content will gain trust from new visitors, who in turn will continue to come back.

That One Hitch
It is important to mention the few drawbacks that SEO campaigns can have when it comes to public relations. One is that the digital platform has to be able to rank high in the search engine listings, or else audiences will not be able to discover it. If it doesn’t, gaining trust in the search engine rankings can be a lengthy process, but the good thing is that it is fixable.

That’s where our digital marketing experts at 1SEO.com come in, since they have the skills to analyze data, diagnose issues, and develop an SEO strategy that will bring websites to the top of the rankings. In the meantime, other digital marketing strategies can help reach out to targeted audiences, such as social media tactics.

A Need for Text and an Endless Network
As search engine optimization (SEO) evolves with the change in program updates and algorithms, the field of public relations can be adapted to use it to meet marketing objectives. There are various advantages that PR pros can obtain from using search engine optimized content. Both certainly go hand in hand when it comes to providing information, promoting, and developing positive relationships.

The internet remains an open channel for limitless communication that PR practitioners and digital marketers will use to their advantage. In a digital informational playground that delivers constant results, SEO and PR can balance out on the seesaw of internet marketing. It’s up to you whether it tips up or down.

seoimage4

Michelle Brown is a content writer for 1SEO.com where she generates search engine optimized content such as blogs and press releases for clients. She loves that she contributes to helping both small and large businesses gain consumerism through the use of the internet.  Michelle graduated from Rowan University with a degree in Writing Arts and wrote for the college newspaper, The Whit. She enjoys writing a variety of genres and loves to be creative. You can check out her writing at http://acolorofwriting.weebly.com/ and follow her on Twitter: @michelle1seo and @mybrownwords.

Political vs. Branding Campaigns: What Politicians are Doing Right

polsmSocial media has invariably changed communication. So far, nothing has been off limits from social promotion, including Mountain Dew’s Dewrito, a Doritos-flavored soft drink (yes it exists).

The growing trend in the social media atmosphere has shifted into the realm of politics, as politicians increasingly campaign on Twitter. A recent study by PEW Research has shown that 1/4 of registered voters now get political news through their cell phones, 16% of registered voters also follow political figures on Twitter.

Politicians seem to be enjoying this, as it allows them to connect with their constituency and opposition in a unique way. Politicians are now able to use live monitoring via social media in order to understand and inform voters about their stances on issues. They also use software to monitor their opposition, taking screenshots of their pages as soon as changes are made and often catching the opposition off guard.

So what can be taken from these campaigns for your next campaign?

Proofread, Proofread, and Proofread!
Remember to check and double-check every Tweet before it’s sent out. If you’re running a campaign, odds are that no one will notice if you mess up a Tweet and delete it quick enough. Politicians don’t have this luxury, as competition is constantly monitoring campaign handles for updates. A screw-up is liable to land you on the front page of PolitWoops, a website that takes screenshots of all updates, and uploads the botched Tweets. Please folks, don’t be like Senator Hatch; proofread as if all of your Tweets are monitored, even when they aren’t.

SenHMake Connections
As we all know (or should know) social media is all about sharing content and making valuable connections with others. So why should it be any different for your campaign? Politicians know and understand this. They use it to their advantage by interacting with their constituency and sharing important updates. The PEW study showed that 41%, up from 22% in 2010, of those polled said that finding out about political news before others is a “major reason” why they follow political figures on social media.

To put it simply, most politicians are doing it right. Some 78% of Americans who follow political figures on social media say that the content posted by those figures is mostly interesting and relevant. The 16% of registered voters that follow a political figure are more likely to participate in campaigning and are 11% more likely to volunteer their time toward that figure than a non-follower.

Any PR pro will tell you that social media isn’t just about the number of followers you have, it’s about the valuable connections you make. A balance must be struck between pushing your wants and what your audience wants. As such, there can be a variety of ways to be more than just a walking-talking-tweeting ad. The key to creating a dedicated following, is finding what your niche audience wants and giving it to them.

Know your Limits
Remember that social media isn’t the king of all platforms yet. It’s still growing and professionals are still learning.  The story of social media is still being written and we are the authors of its’ early chapters. Social media campaigning is a great way to target select demographics, but not all. I think Gregg Peppin, spokesman for Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson, said it best in an article for the Minnesota Post, “You have to be able to differentiate from what’s feel good and what’s effective,” he said. “There are plenty of people who want to tell you that you will hit this demographic and that demographic if you are on social media,” he said. “It almost gets down to a subliminal hit rather than an overall effective message. It’s a rifle versus a shotgun.”

Though there are some drawbacks to social media campaigns. For instance, a politician must be able to differentiate effective messages to target their audience. Just as well, something buzz worthy is usually just short-lived attention toward the campaign. Keep these tips in mind the next time a campaign idea floats around the office.

Fred Lunt IV is a recent graduate of Temple University. Fred is also a Social Media Analyst and consultant at Mobile First Media, a healthcare public relations and marketing agency specializing in digital and mobile technology.