A guest post by journalist and influencer, Samantha (Sam) Saenz.
I started writing for a hyperlocal blog in Austin about a year ago and was quick to learn that as soon as you reach a massive following, think 100,000 page views per month, and more than 20,000 Facebook and Instagram followers, you are no longer a blogger, but a member of the media according to the Public Relations folks in the capital city.
As a contributing blogger, it wasn’t long before my inbox quickly filled up with press releases and personal invites to the best events and newest restaurants around town. Many of them saying, “We’d love to be included in any coverage you have planned, even if it’s only social...”
The fact that so many public relations firms were willing to exchange a ticket or invite for social media coverage was surprising but eye-opening nonetheless. This revelation prompted me to amateurishly scribble out the ROI a restaurant could expect if they asked me to try their new cocktail menu, comping a hypothetically estimated $50 worth of drinks and I posted a review of those cocktails on a website that garners 100,000 visitors per month.
Somehow I got the number down to around 5,000 people who might engage with the information I would potentially present in a blog write up about the new cocktail menu. Moreover, if even 1,000 of those people bought 1 drink at $10, that would equate to some serious sales far exceeding my comped $50 tab. I texted my editor about my random scribblings to which she responded, “Yep, that’s the power of social influence.”
Here’s are a few things I’ve learned about social media through my experiences as a blogger/journalist.
1) Anyone armed with a Smartphone can now document.
Got a smartphone and a decent following? You can now be an influencer (and that's how most of them get started)!
In today’s techy times gone are the days of taking notes with pen and paper and writing up a magazine article or even blog to report your findings and in are the days of Instagramming, tweeting, and Facebooking information as it happens in hopes of likes, comments, and re-tweets.
However, while, anyone can accumulate a social presence it’s important to make sure that if your company is working with influencers that you’re choosing those who are going to produce a good return on investment, like my hypothetical scribblings above. Essentially, what is the potential value an influencers likes and retweets hold and how does that translate into sales.
The latest e-book from TrendKite, entitled PR: The Next Scalable Marketing Channel, touches on this very topic stating that although, PR professionals have a sea of influencers, journalists and writers to choose from, they should focus on those content creators who can impact business the most. Looking at reach, engagement, traffic and SEO impact data can help them do just that.
2) Coverage is now instant.
Everyone is connected to his or her smartphone 24-7 making it increasingly easy to document anything and share it with everyone in real time.
In short, social media provides instant gratification for posters and followers and ups the FOMO (fear of missing out) factor which can do wonders to boost engagement.
However, just because you can post, should you? It’s important to speculate if the content you’re about to share is valuable to your audience? Is it relevant, unique, and timely or is it just noise? Does your post support your brand’s overall voice and message or does it distract followers from what you’re trying to take action on? Just a few questions for thought I’ve often faced when I’ve found myself in a room full of influencers and writers who are covering the same thing I am.
Read more: How Burger King Mastered PR Newsjacking
3) People are watching.
Most people are on some form of social media be it Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat making the ability to share a single message to the masses easier and faster than ever before. This is another reason why engaging with the right content creators is vital if you want to increase engagement and convert leads.
However, sharing a message with hundreds of thousands can be a double-edged sword, because the bigger the audience, the bigger the chances are that you’ll be criticized or post inaccurate information and risk damaging your companies reputation. I for one have been called out rather harshly for accidentally typing Washington D.C. instead of Washington State (whomp whomp). Luckily, I’ve had no problems continuing to find work as a writer.
The moral of the story? Triple-check everything, including your sources and the sources of your content creators before you post to make sure your content is error-free and accurate. Also be 100% certain that what you post aligns with your company’s voice, tone, and mission.
4) Social media is essential for organizations, now more than ever.
Typically PR has been reserved for big companies with big bank accounts, but thanks to social media mom and pop shops can now take a seat at the Public Relations table. Yes, even that niche, Moroccan Soul Food joint that's tucked away in the corner of the city can have its 15 minutes of fame so to speak.
As PR: The Next Scalable Marketing Channel reminds us, social media enables people to create content every day. The content can be good, bad, or neutral and it can be directly about your business. The plus side is that if this type of earned media is positive, it can inadvertently become shared media and its value relative to your business can be measured.
On the flip side, small companies must be social media literate or at least be on the big social media platforms and post decent content. This is asking small businesses to put one more thing on their already full plate (pun intended). It’s also asking them to understand the importance of PR professionals and the role influencers play.
Read more: Fuel Your PR Strategy with Social
5) Social media creates a human connection.
We’ve all heard of B2B and B2C communication, but recently I learned about something called B2H or business to human communication. Whether a company is talking to another business or a consumer, it’s crucial to strip any communications of their jargon formal robotic tone. At the end of the day, everyone wants to be communicated to like a human via concise and clear messaging.
Social media helps companies, journalist, and public relations firms establish B2H communication. Behind-the-scenes and insider information can be shared thanks to platforms like Instagram stories humanizing a brand or person to create a deeper connection with followers.
However, how much is too much connection? Is being connected 24/7 a bad thing and how does that affect a company at the end of the day? Companies must be strategic about social media so they do not saturate their followers feeds and create noise. As PR: The Next Scalable Marketing Channel mentions, it isn’t about how many posts or pitches you send out, it’s about bottom-line impact and answering real questions like “How many leads or deals did we close as a result of our social media/or PR strategy.”
With that being said, companies and PR professionals aren’t the only ones that should be asking themselves such questions. As a writer, I for one feel even more inclined than perhaps the writers before me, to ask myself these same queries to quantify the value of my own work. In doing so, it allows me to pitch better, stronger, faster and ultimately help increase bottom-line impact for the clients of the PR professionals I work so closely with. And by repeatedly doing so has often led me to more meaningful writing opportunities.
Are you coming to the PRSA Icon Conf this year in Austin? Check out the Austinot for local recommendations!
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