Posted At: January 11, 2013 2:20 P.M.
by Jules Rice
If the words “hashtag,” “follow,” “tweet” and “retweet” mean nothing to your PR plan, you may be falling behind in the ever-advancing world of social media. Twitter has emerged as an extremely powerful PR tool over the past couple of years, and PR pros should be taking advantage of their 140 characters.
It took me quite some time to get into the tweeting world. I wasn’t too sure what all the hype was about, but then the April 27, 2011, Tuscaloosa tornado <http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1186008/index.htm> hit, and I realized it was a valuable PR tool. Twitter was the only way I could receive information about the crisis.
Whether your goal is to connect with reporters, improve crisis communication, find your next job or show your company’s personality, Twitter can be your savior. Twitter offers a direct line to mainstream media and can help assure instant coverage.
PR pros should tweet frequently but not overload their followers with information. There is only so much information a normal person can consume and remember each day, so try to limit your tweets to about five informational tweets per day.
To be sure your Tweets are impacting your audience, be aware of and follow current trends by monitoring search terms and key words. You may look at global, national or local trends depending on your audience. The quickest and easiest way to do this is by looking to see which hashtags have been most commonly used that day.
Twitter is a great way to monitor the reputation of and opinion about your organization. It gives you a chance to directly respond back to followers. For example, a Comcast customer <http://www.slideshare.net/corinnew/twitter-for-public-relations-presentation> posted a tweet lashing out that he had not had Internet in 36 hours — within 20 minutes, a customer service representative called asking how he could help.
Twitter does not replace traditional PR, but it is a way to control what already works. As with anything, Twitter has pros and cons to using it. The key to successful PR tweeting is knowing how to take advantage of the pros and steer clear of the cons.
Let’s start with the pros. By posting traditional news to your Twitter account, your search engine optimization increases, which increases your chances for more followers and, in turn, more customers.
Another positive is cost. You can promote your company and its events for free while having the opportunity to reach more people.
For example, the company I intern for has an almost non-existent budget, but we were able to get news of our grand opening out to more than 500 people for free by using Twitter. Every time one of our tweets was retweeted, our follower count increased and our information became widely circulated.
Twitter is helping to build strong relationships with people we may otherwise never get the chance to communicate with. I have personally had the experience of direct messaging the “DenverPRGuy” who is someone from whom I have learned a lot of valuable information. Had I not connected with him via Twitter, there is almost no way I would have ever gotten the chance to converse with him. Twitter has helped to increase my PR network and has the potential to help with job searches in my future.
Although Twitter is a great advantage, you still need to meet people face to face. Networking and talking in person is how relationships continue to grow. Without face-to-face interactions, connections would diminish. Also, not every audience uses Twitter, so you could be missing a target audience by neglecting to network offline. It is smart to use a wide variety of media outlets to reach your audiences.
Finally, some brands on Twitter have made the mistake of accidentally tweeting personal information from their corporate account (link to Becca’s article). Many people have been fired over tweets even if they were merely mistakes. For example, the Huffington Post <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/04/worst-twitter-pr-fails_n_844748.html> offers a list of the worst PR tweets.
If your company is struggling financially, in the middle of a crisis or just needs a little more publicity, follow these steps and don’t be a quitter — just get a Twitter.