July 31, 2013

PR pros: How to use Twitter in smarter ways

Photo by lululemon athletica

Go beyond the standard practices when representing a client

Target audience: Public relations professionals, marketing professionals, agencies.

Shonali BurkePeople have been using Twitter for public relations for some time. It’s one of the favorite tools in journalist toolboxes, and therefore it’s one of the favorite tools in the toolboxes of PR pros.

But here is where the typical use of Twitter for PR begins and ends:

1. Publicizing news, blog posts, videos — basically, any kind of content. A lot of companies still share only their own content on Twitter. (My take? You should be paying much more attention to others’ content than your own.)

2. Retweeting what other people have said about their own companies (or about them personally) ad nauseam. You know, the ones that go: “RT @{original tweeter}: You’re such a rockstar, @{person being talked about}.”

3. Participating in #followfriday, doing a reply-all on Twitter that includes that hashtag (as well as possibly people you really don’t know), or RTing a Follow Friday tweet you’ve been included in. (Not good.)

4. Live-tweeting from events, using a hashtag that has been set up for the event, or creating one from scratch. (This can be really useful.)

5. Pitching journalists on Twitter. (But when you see a person’s timeline filled with @ messages to journalists/bloggers, all with the same query/pitch, it’s a bit much.)

Taking Twitter in some smart new directions

These activities are pretty standard. But there’s a lot more you can do to use Twitter for PR in a smart way. Here are some additional tips:

6. Use Twitter lists smartly.

You can make these lists public or private, but depending on the nature of your work, set up any number of lists to track what specific people/companies are saying. People like being added to lists, so you’re both giving them an ego boost, as well as making it easier for yourself to find relevant content. Once you’ve done this, you can:

  • Keep tabs on what specific groups of people – who are important to your business or organization for a variety of reasons – are saying, and @ reply them regularly, to start building that R word that is so critical for our profession (nowadays people are calling this “influencer engagement”);
  • Monitor the needs of target journalists & bloggers, since often they will field queries on Twitter;
  • Learn who could be potential evangelizers, community leaders and influencers for your field by keeping tabs on who regularly, and appropriately, participates in conversations around specific keywords/keyword phrases.

Joan Stewart, who calls herself the “publicity hound,” has some more ideas.

7. Stop using Twitter’s web interface, and balance scheduled and real-time tweets.

I’m still surprised at the number of people who don’t use a dashboard such as HootSuite, my dashboard of choice. You can monitor lists, schedule tweets, and participate in so many social networks from that one place, that if you’re not, I truly believe you’re making more work for yourself than you need to.

It doesn’t have to be HootSuite. I tend to use HootSuite for day-to-day activity and Buffer for curation (I’ve written extensively about Buffer before, as well as other tools I use and recommend). Figure out what works for you (Ian Cleary has some nice tips on scheduling tools for multiple tweets here).

8. Actively participate in Twitter chats.

Readers may know that I created the hashtag #measurePR and founded and curate a chat of the same name, focused on PR (and social media) measurement. Before I did that, however, I participated in quite a few other chats, notably #soloPR (exactly what it sounds like) and #journchat (the first Twitter chat ever, I believe).

This helped me get to know several of my peers better, and vice versa. Add in #measurePR, and the requests for guest blog posts, “appearances” on other Twitter chats, as well as offline queries from prospective clients and speaking opportunities steadily grew. Those first two are nothing if not “PR,” and the latter are exactly what I hope for on the business front as I grow my social PR consulting business.

Integration and all that jazz

Obviously you can also use Twitter for PR by integrating photo sharing via Instagram, tweeting out pins from Pinterest, etc. The point of this post is not to list all the ways there are to promote content via Twitter, because that’s where most people start — and stop.

The point is to go beyond that, so that you can really start to use a platform that has truly revolutionized how we communicate, and that is still pretty simple to use, to make better, and mutually beneficial, connections with people for better business results.

Because that’s what public relations is really about.

Shonali Burke, a partner in Socialmedia.biz, specializes in measurable social PR for corporations and nonprofits. Contact Shonali via email or follow her on Twitter and Google Plus.

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2 thoughts on “PR pros: How to use Twitter in smarter ways

  1. Good one, Shonali.. Here’s a noob video of how to create your own Twitter list of journos: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10201874788055640