Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Eight Decisions Businesses Should Make for Using Twitter

For the last two days, PRSA San Antonio and the SA Public Library have kicked off our joint training sessions for local businesses and organizations on getting started with Twitter and how to use some amazing business tools that are available free on the library web site.

Since the Twitter part of the session is designed for organizations and businesses, I created a list of decisions they need to consider for using Twitter to engage customers and partners. Here they are:

1. Create a username (Twitter ID) that is short, memberable and associated with you. A factor in this decision is whether to use a branded or indiviual username or a combination. There are pros and cons to each option.

2. Select your Twitter image. Do you want a photo of yourself or the owner or do you want a logo. Again, the right choice depends on how you will use Twitter.

3. Create a background for your Twitter “home page.” This is also where you will put information about your company that won’t fit in the 160-character bio in your profile. You can either design your own template, or find a free one online or hire a designer who knows how to do it. The background and info should reflect your brand clearly.

4. Decide who in your organization will tweet and set a general guideline for how often. This is probably more important in the early stages. Later, the enagement of your followers will guide your level of activity. But I must say, if the boss’ photo and name are on the account, then the boss should be the one using the account. If he or she can’t or won’t, then someone else’s name and photo should be on the account.

5. Plan how you will promote your business’ Twitter ID. Include it in the footer of your emails, on your web site, in all your fliers and brochures, etc.

6. Plan for how you will respond to criticism. If there is any, it was happening already. Twitter gives you an opportunity to engage critics and customers who are having trouble.

7. Make sure you have set up organizational policies for your employees, including for their personal use of social media in terms of how it might affect your organization. Tie your social media policies to your existing ones. For example, that policy you have prohibiting sexual harassment applies to the online world.

8. Decide how you will measure success. Why are you using Twitter? There are very specific ways to measure links to your web site through Twitter, types of tweets that tend to get retweeted, growth in followers right after a specific appeal, etc. You can also build in processes like asking customers how they heard of you.

There is more information and suggestions about most of these topics online. In addition to searching, you can refer to our chapter's Delicious page for some links. (Click on the "Twitter" tag.) I'll also be posting the session PowerPoint slides there later today or tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Think of the Social Media Release as an Online Press Kit

The social media news release concept has been in a kind of development stage for several years. During that time, we’ve seen creative ideas and lots of confusion. The main point of contention is the mistaken idea that the social media news release should replace the traditional release. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

What is the Purpose a Social Media News Release?
The social media news release is really an online press kit. It provides your news in ways that assist journalists and bloggers to write stories about your news. It gives people tools to share your audio and video clips, download logos and photos, and immediately find key stats and quotes rather than sorting through prose. Since a sizeable percentage of stakeholders are generally online, they are more likely to get your news there.

How do You Use Both Kinds of Releases?
There is still value in the traditional release. Some trade publications in your industry may still practically print your release unaltered. And it presents your story in a narrative form. Storytelling is good. I’ve also found that when there are lots of internal levels of approval, the final traditional news release serves their purposes, while the social media version is more of an aid to journalists.

There are several places you can go to learn more. One of the best recent ones is an audio presentation delivered by Shel Holtz, ABC, co-host of the For Immediate Release podcast. You can listen to his engaging down-to-earth speech and see his ppt presentation online. It’s a great way to get a crash course on a powerful communication tool.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Tell the Boss: We Need A Social Networking Policy

At a recent PRSA San Antonio Luncheon Program focusing on Ethics, speakers Dr. K. Matthew Gilley (St. Mary’s University Chair of Bill Greehey Chair in Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility) and Earnie Broughton (executive director and ethics program coordinator for USAA), referenced a recent survey by Deloitte CCL called Social Networking and Reputational Risk in the Workplace.
The findings of this survey offer public relations practitioners a clear challenge.

  • 58% of executives said that reputational risk and social networking should be a boardroom issue. Only 15% said IT ACTUALLY IS.
  • 74% of employees responding to the survey said it is easy to damage a brand's reputation.
Even more frightening are the statistics from executives that highlight recognizing and responding to risks.
  • Only 17% had a monitoring or mitigating program in place.
  • 22% cited a formal poicy for how employees can use social networking tools.
How can you get executives to take notice or "elevate the discussion" on social networks which Deloitte's study suggests?

First, share the results of this study and take responsibility for taking the discussion with senior management to the next level. After that, do our homework. Spend some time researching policies designed and implemented by other organization (You're bookmarking them in delicious, aren't you?). You will no doubt find organizations of a similar size or culture who have started. That's a great place for you to start in your organization, too.

Finally, expand the dialogue to include other stakeholders. Get a group of your employees, customers and clients together an assess what common questions and practices are already happening. Find a way to harness it.

Last, come back here and tell us how you did it and what your new policy looks like. We can all learn from each other's success.