Archive for the 'social media' Category

Digg This

Digg.com is the epitome of internet democracy. Users submit news stories to the site while other users rank them by “digging” the story. Digging a story is simple; login (create an account if you don’t have one), find a story you like, and click on the “digg” button next to the story. Stories with enough “diggs” will be moved to a column on the right side of the page which features the top 10 “dugg” stories on Digg.

It’s easy to see why companies and public relations practitioners should become familiar with Digg: a story that makes the top 10 column can receive a significant increase in site visits.

While this is a huge opportunity for public relations professionals to bring attention to a client, there are some guidelines they should follow when using Digg:

  1. Do not digg your own content or a client’s content: This is a cardinal sin in the world of Digg. Self promotion is frowned upon by the Digg community and will quickly ruin your reputation on Digg. If you must submit something on Digg on behalf of your client, identify yourself as a public relations practitioner who is digging on behalf of a client.
  2. Make friends on Digg: Digg is a social networking site in that users can link to each other’s profiles and identify each other as friends. Friends are able to see stories that you submit, stories that you digg, and comments that you submit. Of course, you have to establish yourself as a creditable digg user before people will add you as their friend. Do this by digging stories that are interesting to you and making comments that other diggers find entertaining or useful. Digg has its own culture, so what diggers find interesting may be different than what most other social media users find interesting.
  3. Get RSS feeds from popular news sites that cover your beat: If you’re involved in political public relations, you’ll want to subscribe to the Huffington Post, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Fox News (if you research the culture of Digg you will see why Fox is included) in order to be the first to submit breaking news. For technology, subscribe to Lifehacker and Engadget, just to name a few. Subscribe to blogs or websites that talk about what you’re representing as a practitioner, then use your RSS feed to be the first to post breaking news.

There are many different tips and strategies to becoming a power user on Digg. One of my goals is to become a power user on Digg in order to make myself more marketable as a social media professional. I’ll keep this blog updated with my successes and failures in the world of Digg throughout the summer. To find out more about becoming a better digg user, check out my Del.icio.us page. I’ll keep updating it as I find new content.

Update: I forgot to post a link to my Digg profile. Add me if you’re on Digg!

Why use social media?

I recently attended the PRSSA Northwest Networking regional activity where keynote speaker Kyle Warnick delivered a presentation about the importance of networking. Even though he only devoted a few minutes of his presentation to social media sites, he did say that we need to take advantage of the free networking tools that are available to the general public. In fact, if you are not taking advantage of social media, you’re missing out on one of the simpleist ways to network.

So the question is this: how do we use different social media sites to create and maintain relationships? The answer, of course, depends on the social media site you choose to use.

First of all, there’s nothing that can replace physical interaction. If you’re looking to make a contact, it’s easier to establish a working relationship with by meeting them face to face. Chances are that you will not be able to replicate the same sort of relationship with any social media outlet.

However, you can create relationships in the blogosphere by reading and reacting to other people’s blogs, as epitomized by (the controversial) De-conversion.com website, where readers regularly discuss blogposts with authors on a day-to-day basis. It’s a good way to become informally introduced to others, but it doesn’t have the same dynamic as a physical meeting.

Facebook and Myspace are fairly ineffective for creating meaningful connections, but they are excellent mediums for maintaining existing connections. Facebook is a little more intuitive than Myspace at this, however, considering the popularity of group features, pre-existing networks, and, most recently, the addition of Facbeook chat.

With Twitter, you can both maintain and create contacts, but on a lesser level than conventional blogging or social networking sites. Twitter lets your contacts know what you are about on a day-to-day basis. It’s acceptable Twitter etiquette to follow people you don’t know, but try not to have a following/being followed by ratio of more than 2:1.

LinkedIn has set itself up as a social media site for professionals, which makes contacts on LinkedIn have a little more social capital than those on Myspace, Facebook, or even in the blogosphere. However, LinkedIn has comparatively fewer capabilities for interaction.

There are other social media sites on the internet that perform various functions, but the essentials are a blog, Myspace or Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Of course, if there’s another site that you feel is absolutely essential for public relations practitioners to have, or if you disagree or have a different perspective on how a social media site I’ve listed can be used differently, please feel free to leave feedback.

Social media is here to stay

Clay Shirky, a professor at NYU, recently spoke at a Web 2.0 conference about how social media is slowly but surely taking up time that we spend on traditional media. Being the poor college student that I am, I was unable to attend the event, but I was able to catch a video of his speech on a Read Write Web blog post.

Shirky’s main argument was that

  • It’s better to be doing something than nothing
  • People who are engaging in social media are consuming like they would in traditional media, but they’re also producing and sharing content
  • People are spending time with social media that they could be spending with traditional media

Television, what most people think of when they hear traditional media, has dominated our free time for the last 50 years. Television’s influence, however, has began to wane with the rise of social media. And while the proportions of TV watching to social media usage are still strongly skewed in favor of TV, I feel it’s a safe bet to assume that people are going to take more time away from traditional media and invest in social media.

One of the reasons for that social media isn’t a sweeping phenomenon right now (and Shirky touches on this in his presentation) is that social media is still a relatively new concept. Social media developers are still figuring out what works with social media and what doesn’t. But just like television, developers will start to get better and better ideas of how social media will work, and when that happens, we will start to see a more rapid shift to social media.

As practitioners, we need to be either inline with where our publics are going or ahead of them. And because social media is still on the rise, we have a chance to be slightly ahead of the game. Social media outlets may be different in the future, but I guarantee that the core tenants of building relationships via social media (establishing credibility, not over-plugging a product, knowing how to pitch to social media consumers, ect.) will be the same.

So when I saw Todd Defren’s blog post about how pubic relations practitioners need to either use twitter or get out of public relations, I actually found myself agreeing with him. I strongly believe that there is and always will be a need for traditional public relations tactics, but we need to start integrating social media tools into what we consider as traditional practices.

What do you, as either a public relations practitioner or a social media consumer, think about the future
of social media versus traditional media? Will we see a dramatic shift in where we pay attention? Or do you think that social media is just a fad that will fade over time?

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Fix the Broken Conversation

Bloggers are typically adamant about engaging in a two-way conversation with their readers. The rise of social media, however, gives people more areas to comment about what bloggers are saying than just the comments section of the blog. For example, a post that makes the front page of Digg can have 400 comments on Digg’s website, and none of those comments will reach your blog.

How are bloggers supposed to respond to their readers without knowing what they’re saying?

YackTrack sets out to solve that problem by aggregating all the comments that a blog post receives on websites such as Reddit and putting them in one spot. The process is easy too: bloggers type in their post’s web address in the front page of YackTrack, and YackTrack displays every comment made about the post below. It divides the comments up by site, so bloggers can see who’s been responding on Technorati as opposed to who’s been responding on Digg.

While this looks like an application that’s trying to fill a niche already filled by Google Alerts, Google Alerts only let you know when a blog or a website is talking about you; Yacktrack sifts through a websites’ comments and blog’s comments.

The Social Media Disconnect

In a post made at PRotocol, author Liz Harney brings up a common critique of social media. Many people see social networking sites such as Facebook, Myspace and Twitter, along with other communication devices such as cell phones and email, are taking away from our daily face-to-face interactions.

My experience with social media has shown me that social media is a great tool for quick communication, but will never replace physical interactions. I’ll have mock messages with my friends on Facebook, but the lack of dynamics with social media interaction remind me that nothing will ever replace face-to-face communication, whether it is for business or maintaining personal relationships. I prefer seeing people in person than seeing them online.

My perspective is that social media enhances our relationships as opposed to detracting from them. Having said that, I do know of plenty of people who use social media as an escape from actually interacting with other people instead of supplementing personal interactions.

I encourage all of you to check out Liz Harney’s post and respond on her blog with your thoughts.

Tweet!

With blogs, Facebook status updates, and instant messaging, its hard to see at first why anybody would need a blogging service that places a 140 character limit on their blog post. Despite this, Twitter has a strong community of dedicated users all answering the question “What are you doing?”

Twitter allows users to post short and concise blog posts. Users can invite their friends and “follow” them similar to how Facebook users can add friends. Twitter users, however, can see all of their friend’s updates as well as their own. Twitter users can easily respond to “tweets” (the Twitter equivalent of a blog post) from other users and engage in conversation.

Because each “tweet” has to be less than 140 characters long, Twitter users can choose to have their follower’s “tweets” sent to their mobile phones. Users can also upload “tweets” via text messaging. There are actually a few instances where users have used the Twitter text message feature to avoid sticky situations (you have to click “Show Entire Post” at the top of the page… darn you, blogger).

Darren Rowse at problogger says that twitter is also useful for keeping in touch with people who read your blog. Many prominent bloggers, such as Kevin Rose of Digg, keep Twitter accounts to keep up with their readers. Some newspapers, such as the New York Times, post recently updated headlines on their twitter accounts (the Times has an account for World News, National News, Sports, ect.).

When blogging for ISA, I’ve used Twitter to keep people up to date on events that we’re hosting as well as alert people when there’s something new going on with our blog or our organization. It drives a lot of traffic to the blog and I’ve received nothing but positive feedback from using Twitter to keep people updated on the fly.

Facebook Marketing

Facebook is an excellent social networking tool for Public Relations. Many of the features integrated into Facebook can be used to advertise events or products without being too intrusive. Here are some quick and easy ways to market to your friends on Facebook:

  1. Creating Facebook Groups: This application is perfect if you want to promote a company or a non-profit organization. The Facebook groups application is by default activated on every Facebook user’s profile. Most people have at least two or three groups that they are a part of. It is pretty easy to get Facebook users to join groups; all you have to do is create the group and invite people on your friends list to your group. The invitations that you send out through the group are low pressure. Facebook does not notify you when somebody declines your invitation making group invitations non-intrusive.
  2. Creating Facebook Events: Facebook Events are similar to Facebook groups except that they’re usually used to promote one time events, such as Magazine Release parties or casual social gatherings. Events are great because they can be used in tandem with Facebook Groups. If you are the owner of a group, you can make an event where the group is the sponsor and, with the click of only one button, invite everyone in your group to your event. When setting up an event, you select a start and end time for the event. Facebook will notify users who have confirmed they are attending your event on Facebook when the event is drawing near.
  3. Posting a website: I feel like this is a Facebook application that people haven’t yet realized the full potential of. Facebook members who find interesting websites can “post” them on their Facebook profile. The poster’s friends will see the website that was posted in Facebook’s news feed that shows up every time a person logs on. This also works with Facebook groups and events; highlight the event or group’s URL and paste it like you would a web page.
  4. Facebook Pages: This will probably be the most controversial Facebook marketing tactic. Pages is an application that Facebook created in 2007 to be used in conjunction with Facebook Advertisements (check out their Facebook Pages blog post) . A page is created similar to that of a normal Facebook profile except that the page represents a company or a non-profit instead of a person. A page has a larger profile image, an about box, the ability to create notes and post items, and a wall for people to write on. I feel like the pages application has two drawbacks. The first is that you have to add the application in order to be able to view a Facebook Page. The second is that pages is not nearly as established as Facebook groups are. Nearly everybody checks out what groups a person joins; almost nobody looks at their Facebook pages. Having said that, you can post your page on your profile and create events for your page just like you can a Facebook group. Tiffany Derville at the PR Post and Tim at Tim’s Blog discuss the pros and cons of Facebook groups and pages, while the author of Uncontrolled Vocablulary talks about how hard it is for people to switch over from groups to pages.

Of course, establishing rapport with your audience is essential to making any of the above marketing tactics work; otherwise, people will not pay attention to whatever you’re inviting them to or posting on your Facebook profile.

There are many more ways to market on Facebook. If you have any tactics you like to use that aren’t listed, or if you disagree with anything I’ve posted, please feel free to discuss it in the comments section.


About Bryan Saxton:

I am a Journalism Student at the University of Oregon and the Public Relation's Officer for the International Student Association.
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