Social media is an integral part of our clients’ marketing strategies. We take into consideration influencers they should be mingling with, where their audience is hanging out online, and what kinds of digital hits we want to get. Not to mention, social media is how we strategize internally when it comes to building our own relationships, appealing to journalists and diving deep into industry research.
But strategy looked wildly different when I got my start in PR. Back when I started in the industry, social media was nowhere to be found. I went to school for journalism before Facebook was widespread. We learned how to write on typewriters when I was in high school. So trust me when I say social media has changed everything about this industry.
How exactly has social media changed PR?
• It gives everyone a huge increase in opportunity. You are no longer bound by the restrictions of traditional PR. Social media allows you to create your own buzz.
• You can reach anyone you want. Do you want to earn a spot on television? You now have a realistic avenue to reach previously unreachable people. That TV anchor probably has Twitter. Reach out via Twitter, and if you’re polite (and persistent) enough, they might just respond.
• You have your own media channel. Social media makes it possible for the average person to create their own platform and cultivate their own audience in a way that has never been possible before.
• The definition of success has broadened. Before social media, there was only one way we could prove our value to a client: land an awesome PR hit in traditional media. Today, a great social media hit from an influencer can be just as impactful as a fabulous TV hit.
Social media has been good to PR. That said, you’ve got to understand each platform’s specific role in the industry if you’re going to land the pitch.
If you need to find journalists, I recommend Twitter. People are nervous to reach out via social media because they’re afraid of crossing a line, but I guarantee you, journalists are online for the sole purpose of interacting with the public. That said, there are a few best practices to keep in mind when reaching out.
It’s important to understand why journalists love Twitter so much: efficiency. Its constant updates and low character counts make Twitter the ideal place for journalists to stay up to date and chase leads without wasting precious time on extraneous information. Always keep this in mind when contacting them. Whenever reaching out, edit your message ruthlessly (give me the facts!).
Use Twitter as a research tool. Before contacting journalists, make sure you’ve done your due diligence. Look through their past tweets, retweets and likes (which is what I find personally most telling). Arm yourself with the topics they’re interested in and the people they engage with and use this insight to craft your message. Not only will your obvious interest in who they are and what they do play to their ego (we’re all human), but it will help you speak to them in their own language, creating a message that really sticks.
Finding Media Opportunities
If you want to find media opportunities, I suggest Twitter or Facebook. Given the size of these platforms, it’s important to approach them with a strategy or specific goal in mind, lest you find yourself drowned out by all the noise.
Identify journalists and publications you like, and look them up across platforms. Additionally, think about circles you want to run in and leaders you identify with. Look for like-minded groups on Facebook and join them. Facebook is its most effective when you embrace its more personal side by connecting with people rather than brands or companies. So build those connections, and play the long game.
If you want to find influencers, go to Instagram. It’s hands-down the most relevant channel for influencer marketing. Influencers are part of real-life conversations, telling people where to go.
We regularly invite influencers to our events now; they’re that important. The best way to find them is through Instagram, and it’s easier than you might think. Just hop on the “Discover” page, and sift through the content. Like posts that speak to you, and follow their accounts. Instagram tracks your interests and will make it easier for you to find content that resonates. Pay attention to the hashtags that accounts you follow use, and start following and using those as well.
As your feed becomes more curated, don’t be afraid to comment on or DM accounts you like. Instagram is incredibly social and holds the potential for you to form genuine, long-lasting relationships with those in your space.
Anyone looking to get publicity needs to leverage social media. If you have aspirations of achieving national press, you had better be active on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and/or Facebook because national media typically doesn’t cater to the unknowns.
Regardless of what platforms you use, make sure your messaging is consistent across channels and in line with your area of expertise. Remember, though, that you’ve got to walk before you can run. Just because you have an intentional Instagram account does not mean you’re going to land The New York Times tomorrow. In fact, I can guarantee that you won’t. Give yourself time to build up to that level of success. And remember, broaden what success means to you in the first place.
Bottom line: Stop treating your social media like an afterthought or a nice-to-have. Your social media account is a crucial part of your strategy if you want to generate buzz. Hop on board; the industry already has.