1. Social media is popular — really, really, popular

You don’t need to be a dedicated reader of tech blogs or an expert in online marketing to know that social media is really popular among consumers.

According to the Pew Research Center, 65 percent of American adults use social networks, which means that social media will touch nearly every customer that walks through your door.

Having a social media presence that’s accessible via mobile can improve the chances of your business getting found when someone is searching for a place to eat or a product to buy, while on-the-go.

 

2. Social media helps you gain valuable customer insights

Social media generates a huge amount of data about your customers in real time. Every day there are over 500 million Tweets4.5 billion Likes on Facebook, and 95 million photos and videos uploaded to Instagram. Behind these staggering numbers is a wealth of information about your customers—who they are, what they like, and how they feel about your brand.

Through daily active engagement and social listening, you can gather relevant customer data and use that information to make smarter business decisions.

 

3. Social media reaches all ages and demographics

Social media defies age barriers. A 2015 Pew Research Center study found that 65 percent of US adults are using social networks.

Between 2005 and 2015, usage among ages 30-49 has increased by 69 points from 8 percent to 77 percent. So, no matter how young or old your target audience may be, chances are most of them are already logging on and waiting for you to get started.

 

4. Social Media increases brand awareness and loyalty

When you have a presence on social media, you make it easier for your customers to find and connect with you. By connecting with your customers on social, you’re more likely to increase customer retention and brand loyalty. A study by The Social Habit shows that 53 percent of Americans who follow brands on social are more loyal to those brands.

 

5. Social media users are active

One thing you have to know about social media users is that when they say they are on social media, they are really on social media.

Social media users in the US check their accounts 17 times a day, according to an Informate Mobile Intelligence report. While a customer may visit your store once a week, they could see your social media posts in their feed multiple times during the week.

 

6. Social Media provides rich customer experiences

Even if you aren’t on social media, most of your customers expect you to be. Over 67 percent of consumers now go to social media for customer service. They expect fast response times and 24/7 support—and companies that deliver win out. A study by Aberdeen Group shows that companies engaging in social customer service see much bigger annual financial gains (7.5 percent YOY growth) vs. those without (2.9 percent)

 

7. Social Media helps generate higher converting leads

Social media increases sales and customer retention through regular interaction and timely customer service.

In the 2015 Sales Best Practices Study from research institute MHI Global, world-class companies rated social media as the most effective way to identify key decision makers and new business opportunities. In the State of Social Selling in 2015, nearly 75 percent of companies that engaged in selling on social media reported an increase in sales in 12 months.

 

8. Social media is cost-effective

Social ads are an inexpensive way to promote your business and distribute content. They also offer powerful targeting options so that you can reach the right audience. 

For example, if you run an ad campaign on LinkedIn, you can segment by things like location, company, job title, gender, and age—the list goes on. If you’re running a Facebook ad, you can target based on location, demographics, interests, behaviors, and connections. You can track and measure the performance of your social ads in real time.

 

9. Social media can make a big difference for your email marketing

Social media has completely changed the game when it comes to how small businesses think of email marketing. Sharing your email newsletter across your social networks can open your content up to a whole new audience and generate the type of buzz you’ve been looking for.

Not only that, but you can also use sites like Facebook to attract more readers by including a Join My Mailing List link right on your Page.

Together, these two powerful tools have reshaped the marketing landscape and have really leveled the playing field for small businesses trying to better connect with current customers and reach new audiences for their business.

 

10. Social Media helps build relationships

Social media isn’t about blasting your company’s sales pitch on social, it’s a two-way channel where you have the opportunity to enrich relationships with your customers. It gives you the chance to engage and interact directly with your customers to build a bond.

For example, social media allows tourism brands to create dialogue with travelers, therefore creating relationships with customers before, during, and after they have booked a trip with the company. This kind of social media dialogue between brands and customers is something traditional advertising cannot achieve.

https://blogs.constantcontact.com/why-social-media-marketing/
https://blog.hootsuite.com/social-media-for-business/
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Hashtag2

Most communications specialists know how to take advantage of hashtags, whether it’s to optimize your posts, follow industry trends or keep tabs on a topic or event.

However, there are several ways PR pros can benefit from hashtags that are often overlooked, including:

Following the Right Hashtags

While trending hashtags get a lot of mention in the press, Ciaran Blumenfield notes they’re not always the most relevant to your company. 10 Hashtags Your Business Cannot Ignore identifies the categories of hashtags that are important for any business or not-for-profit organization.  They include:

  • Competitors
  • Industry topic
  • Industry experts
  • Industry conferences
  • Trade organizations
  • News
Analysis

Each business should then identify the hashtags specific to its industry and issues. Useful Twitter Hashtag Analytics Tools reviews three tools to identify influencers, find useful links and references, analyze trends and more. Among the tools listed:

  • Tweetbinder, which allows you to analyze chats to see who is engaged in conversations, who is most influential and which tweets and links were shared.
  • Tweetcategory, an iPad app that organizes your tweets around topics and hashtags.
  • Hash Tracking, which provides hashtag analytics like tweets, reach, number of contributors and their followers.

Benchmarking

How to Use Hashtags for Competitive Analysis delves into one key application of hashtag monitoring: benchmarking. If you’re tracking your competitors (and you should be) it’s also a good idea to evaluate which hashtags they’re using and how they’re performing, Blumenfield affirms. She includes the types of hashtags to keep an eye on:

  • Brand and Campaign
  • Events
  • Alliances and Partnerships
  • Community Conversations
  • Pop Culture

Measurement

Though not specifically about hashtags, 10 Ways to Measure Twitter Audience beyond Follower Count shares methods into measurement of reach and influence of tweets. As Nate Smitha explains, measuring your follower count helps you understand your Twitter audience and how to grow it more effectively. Measuring the reach and engagement of your hashtags is good practice to test what’s working and what isn’t.

 

For more information: http://www.cyberalert.com/blog/index.php/4-beneficial-ways-to-use-hashtags-in-pr/

Here we go again: 5 reasons hiring a good PR firm is smart business

Here we go again: 5 reasons hiring a good PR firm is smart business
May 10, 2013 11:34 AM
Patrick Ward

I feel like I have this same argument at least twice a year when a disgruntled entrepreneur lambastes PR agencies. And I am invariably bemused when I dig deeper only to find the complainer has poured a bunch of negative experiences into a collective bucket and thrown the PR industry baby out with his or her personal bathwater.

So, following Kevin Leu’s recent post on “5 reasons you’ll regret hiring a PR firm for your startup,” here I go again, but this time I’ll mirror his points with my own five reasons you won’t regret hiring a good PR firm for your startup.

1. They will keep your story honest

I have always been a PR agency guy and have been working deeply with startups for almost my whole career — starting with companies like Sun and Autodesk in the late 1980s through launching Digital Chocolate and Webroot 10 years ago to companies like Evolv today. I have never met a CEO or founder who thought his or her product was anything but newsworthy.

Good PR agencies temper that enthusiasm and ingest some realism. No one wants to hear their company isn’t newsworthy, but some companies just aren’t. Good PR agencies keep it real and really good ones find other creative ways to communicate the company’s brand value. Bad PR people feed egos and apologize later — that serve’s no one’s interest. You want unfettered praise about your product or your company, it’s Mother’s Day on Sunday, ask her. The more sober and honest you are about your story and your media goals, the more strategic you can be.

By the way, anyone who thinks a press release is anything more than search engine fodder isn’t paying attention. Releases have value, but no reporter worth his or her salt gleans stories from press releases. Press releases are for your web site and other, let us call them, receptive audiences (again Mother’s Day is Sunday). You want to tell a story? Write three good lines in an email to a reporter whom you know covers your company or industry. If you can’t hook them in three lines, you’ll never hook them. And if you don’t know who to send the email to, well then let’s move on to Point #2.

2. Their past experience means they know the right reporters and outlets

I have worked with Pulitzer Prize winners. I’ve worked with arrogant sloths. Some of my best friends are reporters. I’ve hung around them since my days drinking with the staff of Electronic News in 1986. That means my experiences color, influence, and inform every client engagement I take. My past successes don’t mean I can always make a future client successful, but they do mean I have access. If the story is good, it will get a hearing — and that’s a valuable thing in this competitive world. If it’s bad or even mediocre, all the contacts in the world won’t help. But if the story is good, then they can help immensely (see Point #1).

3. They may not know everything, but just might know more than you

There is something in the coffee at many PR agencies that makes junior and mid-level staff think they know much more than they sometimes do — but I’ll take a confident staffer over a tentative one any day. And remember one thing: they do this everyday, all day. So when an entrepreneur is dealing with QA or buying Aeron chairs, or in a board meeting, your PR agency is doing PR. So when they say it’s uncool to send a gift to a reporter after a story has hit, don’t send it. When they say is TA-reese, not TA-rez-A, listen to them. And when they say that your enterprise software story won’t work in TIME Magazine, they’re right. Oh, and don’t always assume they don’t understand sometimes arcane technology — like what a software abstraction layer is. Sure, some PR people are, shall we say, over-extended, but others are brilliant. Again: babies and bath water.

4. They’re thinking beyond publicity

The more brilliant ones are starting to think beyond publicity. Clients complain about inflated clip reports because that’s the only measure some smaller-minded clients can think of. Here’s a fun fact: According to a Pew study a few years ago (and it’s absolutely trending this way even more now), about 10 companies represent more than 40 percent of all tech press coverage. You know which companies they are; there in the press every day.

So guess what, your media chances just got sliced almost in half. Moral of the story: you had better find another way to communicate with your audiences. The good PR agencies are doing just that. But if a client insists on making buggy whips, well guess what, we’re going to show them how many horses there are on the street. And I can guarantee you, the most carefully crafted ideas — at this time when communications are undergoing such rapid change – are not going to come from the PR manager at your new startup.

5. They’re a better value than an internal employee

That brings me to my final point. Anyone who thinks a PR manager can do the work of a PR agency is either cheap, has never had a good PR firm, doesn’t really care, or some combination of all of the above. And don’t give me some financial analysis that shows an internal hire is cheaper. If that were true, you’d have formidable accounting and law departments at every company in the US and fewer accounting and law firms. And the fallacy that a $100,000 PR contract is better spent on one or two employees is especially ill-conceived. With payroll taxes and benefits, any employee actually costs about 20 percent more than a service contract.

But, here’s the real kicker: When you hire an employee, you only get that individual’s personal experience. When you hire an agency, you get the whole team’s perspective and background.

Finally, what do you think happens to that PR manager after six months? He or she realizes that the growth path inside the company is outside PR and he or she starts to attend a bunch of meetings to demonstrate their other skills and assess where they might contribute to the organization in a larger, more lucrative role. Then, they turn to you and say, “You know, with all the other stuff I’m doing beyond PR, I’m really not getting to my core function and I think we should consider hiring an agency.”

There are business reasons to hire or not hire a PR firm. Many reasons are valid. But to dismiss any option categorically or to blithely substitute one’s own poor experiences as a reflection on an industry is questionable advice.

Read more at http://venturebeat.com/2013/05/10/5-reasons-why-hiring-a-good-pr-firm-is-smart-business/#BZFJhRIT5kfE84CL.99

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5 huge mistakes PR interns should never make

By Mickie Kennedy | Posted: May 6, 2013

An internship can be a great way to get your foot in the door in the PR industry, but if you don’t take the right approach, it can also be a sure-fire way to ruin your reputation and kill your career before it gets off the ground.

Make no mistake—you’re going to make mistakes along the way. That’s perfectly okay. That’s what being an intern is about. You’re learning; people expect you to screw things up now and again. No sweat. But honest mistakes coming from a hardworking intern are one thing; the following mistakes are ones you simply cannot afford to make.

Act like you’re above lowly tasks. As an intern, you’re going to have to do a lot of boring, lowly tasks. You’re not going to get the exciting projects right out of the gate. Your boss wants to see that you are dependable and have a good work ethic before he or she will hand you more interesting work.

Dress unprofessionally. Dress for the job you want to have, not the job you have. If you come in dressed like a casual student, no one will take you seriously. Pay attention to how the true professionals in the office dress and try to mirror that in your own dress.

Talk bad about others in the office. No one likes the office gossip, especially when he or she is an intern. Keep your mouth shut, and respect everyone around you. Not to be too harsh, but you’re the lowest person on the totem pole, and you’ll never gain respect by talking bad about others in the office.

Not thank the people who help you. A lot of people will take time to help you as an intern. It might be a co-worker showing you how to do something, your boss offering helpful feedback, or someone giving you a recommendation for a career opportunity. No matter the situation, always offer a heartfelt thank you. Show everyone just how appreciative you are for their help.

Not learn or improve. Internships are learning experiences, but you have to be committed to actually learning and refining your skills. I recommend always having a pen and notepad on you so that you can take notes and avoid asking the same questions or making the same mistakes over and over again. Write everything down. You never know when that information will come in handy. If you’re committed to bettering yourself every day, your skills will improve, and that’s all anyone can ask from an intern.

PR pros, what mistakes did you make during your internship?

The Hidden Benefits of Social Media Marketing: Why Your Strategy May Be Working Better Than You Think

Stephanie Chandler, Contributor

Most businesses venture into social media expecting to see a big return on investment. The hope is that new customers will come in droves, and that the benefits and revenue generation will be huge. However, this is rarely the case. It takes time to build momentum with social media, and the benefits aren’t always as obvious as we would like.

If you’re feeling a bit skeptical about social media marketing and whether or not it’s worth the effort, following are some reasons why it may be working better than you realize.

1. Brand Recognition – One of the most powerful ways to use social media is as a brand-building tool. With social media, you get to decide how you want to position your company and what you want people to know about what you do. With consistent effort and great content, you can build a reputation for your brand around your company’s values, benefits, and advantages.

2. Community – There is nothing like social media when it comes to cultivating a community. When your followers become part of your community, you gain instant access to them. That means you can find out what challenges they are facing and what they like and don’t like about your offerings. You can engage in ongoing dialog that can be more valuable than any kind of paid market research.

3. Repeat Exposure – There is an old marketing adage that says it takes six to eight exposures to a product before a customer decides to buy. A clear benefit of social media is repeat exposure with your network. You have the opportunity to remind them over and over again about what you have to offer, which can shorten your sales cycles dramatically.

4. Authority – For coaches, consultants, authors, speakers, and other service-based businesses, social media can be very powerful in helping you establish authority in your field—making you the go-to resource for your target audience to seek out for help. Share great content, answer questions, and serve your audience, and you will inevitably build loyal fans.

5. Influence – As your following increases, your influence grows. Having a substantial social media audience creates a snowball effect that can attract new customers, media interviews, joint venture partnerships, and all kinds of other opportunities. It’s a bit like when you see a crowd hovered around something. You can’t help but want to see what all the fuss is about, so a large audience will only attract more interest.

6. Website Traffic – Many people don’t realize that social media can be a leading traffic generator. When you share blog posts, videos and other content from your website, you give your audience a reason to click through and visit your site. Once there, you have the opportunity to inspire those visitors to take action by inviting them to sign up for your mailing list, make a purchase, or call to schedule a free consultation. Install traffic monitoring service, such as Google Analytics, and if you are committed to your social media efforts, you will clearly see that social media brings traffic. Also, make sure that your visitors receive a clear call to action when they visit your site so that you can convert that extra traffic into business opportunities.

7. Ahead of the Curve – Whether you realize it or not, your prospects and clients are checking to see if you are engaging in social media. I always find it a bit odd when I’m investigating a potential service provider online and I can’t locate a social media presence or worse, I find Facebook pages that haven’t been updated in months, empty Twitter feeds, and a clear lack of interest in engaging. Social media isn’t a fad and it’s not going away. Even if it’s not your top priority, if you stay current with activity, your prospects will notice.

8. Mindshare with Lurkers – There may be days when you wonder if anyone is paying attention to your social media networks. But if your efforts are consistent, I guarantee that more people are paying attention than you realize. Give it time and you’ll start to understand what’s happening behind the anonymity of the internet. You will eventually hear from people who say, “I’ve been following you on Twitter for ages. I love your posts!”

9. Competitive Advantage – The reality is that most of your competitors aren’t likely doing a very good job with social media (most companies aren’t), which gives you the chance to stand out. Also consider the flip side. If you avoid social media, you leave a big opening that allows your competitors to capture your audience.

10. Big Wins – While many businesses large and small are trying to justify the cost and time investment for managing social media marketing, an important benefit often gets overlooked: Big Wins. For example, if someone from LinkedIn connects you with a significant government contract, then that would certainly qualify as a Big Win. If a major media outlet finds you on Twitter and interviews you for a national article, then that is also a Big Win—one that you can’t measure based on revenues directly generated.

Big Wins don’t happen often, but when they do, they make it all worthwhile. It’s easy to forget results like these six months down the road you’re trying to assess whether your social media efforts are paying off. But that one contract you landed could cover your social media marketing costs for years. And that major media interview could lead to subsequent interviews and a line item on your resume that impresses a corporate sponsor three years from now. Never forget to factor in the Big Wins in social media.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2013/03/12/the-hidden-benefits-of-social-media-marketing-why-your-strategy-may-be-working-better-than-you-think/

12 things to expect from a PR firm

By Beth Monaghan | Posted: January 25, 2013
How should I choose a PR firm?

Each time someone asks me this, dozens of answers flutter to the forefront of my mind, but I always choose two fairly tangible criteria: fit and experience.

On the surface, it can be easy for all agencies to sound similar, which makes fit and experience crucial. You need an agency that understands your audience and your market, and the reporters you need to reach. Fit is equally important. You’ll be working closely with the PR agency every single day (and many evenings), so you’ll need to be able to work well with the assigned account team.

However, fit and experience alone will not make your agency successful on your behalf. Here are some important qualities you should expect form an agency that is committed to your success. You need an agency that:

1. Owns the process. You want an agency that will never say, “Well, we sent you the guidelines for the Forbes contributed article three months ago and never heard back.” Your agency should be a professional nagger—they should never let you be the reason for a missed deadline.

2. Pushes back. You are hiring a PR firm for its expertise, so find one that provides firm recommendations. If your account team is constantly nodding their heads and yessing you, there is a problem. The success of your PR program requires a team leader who can adamantly say no in the face of tough scrutiny when something just won’t work.

3. Knows when to give in. There are times when other company goals, such as sales campaigns, take priority over PR (for example, when a sales team is under the gun to meet quarterly goals and needs to push out a direct email campaign in advance of the press release). Your PR firm should tell you the optimal plan for getting great media coverage, but should also accept it when PR is not at the top of the list.

4. Makes it happen. Only clients should have the luxury of asking big questions without offering solutions, such as, “How can we maximize our attendance at an upcoming trade show?” Good PR firms know that the right response is a list of viable options, not more questions.

5. Surprises you with unexpected and creative ideas. Your PR firm should march to the beat of the PR plan, but they should also bring you unexpected and creative ideas. This demonstrates that they are paying active attention. Only intellectually hungry people will tie the right pieces together to make you relevant in a way that matters to the press.

6. Owns mistakes. If your agency needs to be right all of the time, it’s a problem. You need an agency that abides by the rules of crisis PR (even when the crisis is a very small one): tell it all, truthfully, and tell it now. This takes confidence and humility, but it is the sign of a great communicator.

7. Hustles. Look for an agency that is pushing you, not the other way around.

8. Writes well. Content marketing has changed PR forever. Adequate press release writing skills are no longer enough. You need an agency that can sift through mountains of information, zero in on the interesting angle, and ghost author an article for your spokesperson. Ask for samples, and look at the agency’s blog.

9. Listens intently. PR people are renowned great talkers. We need to be. However, we need to know how to listen, too. You need a PR agency full of the kind of analytical and open minds that can scan the conversation for points of interest, drive the discussion toward them and relate them to your broader industry.

10. Empathizes. You need a PR agency team that can imagine what it’s like to be you. What pressures do you face internally, from your board, from competitors, others? Is PR central to your role or tangential? Coincidentally, this skill also makes PR people great at media relations—we must imagine what it’s like to be each reporter if we have a prayer of selling a story.

11. Navigates options and contingencies like an attorney. There are many decisions we must make along the winding route between the pitch and the placement. You need an agency that understands the media landscape—which outlets (and journalists) compete, which reporters require exclusives, which ones care about embargoes, and which angles will compel coverage.

Sifting through these and responding appropriately when an embargo is broken or an exclusive falls through tests the skills of the best PR professionals, so make sure you have a team that can bend gracefully when a critical relationship is at stake, and hold firm when your company goals require it.

12. Thick skin. PR people sit in the middle of two constituents whose goals are not always aligned: the media and our clients. Finding the common ground that creates successful outcomes for both requires an ability to handle discord well.

Anything you would add?

Of course, success is a two-way street. Stay tuned for my next post on what clients should bring to the relationship for success.