Posted At: April 9, 2008 12:33 PM
by CJ McCormick and Mary Elizabeth Roberson
For Aaron Uhrmacher, social media is not just a way to network and keep in touch with friends and family—it is a way to pay the bills.
Uhrmacher is the global lead for peer media practice at the public relations consultancy firm Text 100, where he is responsible for educating clients about the benefits of using social networks and developing peer media strategies for clients.
“Peer media is the same thing as social media but we prefer the term peer media because it really best describes what we’re doing,” he said. “I do a lot of presentations and really try to get people educated about peer media and why it matters and how they can participate.”
From traditional media to peer media trendsetting
While Uhrmacher now uses social media on a regular basis with Text 100, his first public relations job with the New York-based boutique firm HWH Public Relations focused on more traditional media relations strategies.
One of his first accounts with HWH was working to get international coverage for a video game event in San Francisco hosted by the South Korean company, World Cyber Games.
“The goal was really to get coverage and raise awareness about what they were doing,” he said. “It was a challenge because it wasn’t a big company and they didn’t have a lot of time or money to spend on it, so we started out doing regional campaigns instead of trying to get CNN to write about it, and as the coverage grew, we did get interest from CNN.”
Although Uhrmacher has now found his passion pursuing social media and PR, he said he was successful with the Cyber Games account because of the subject matter.
“I was doing something that I was passionate about,” he said. “I couldn’t have gone into public relations working on an account I didn’t have a passion for and the same applies today.”
From HWH, Uhrmacher took a position with Text 100 in 2005 as an account executive in its New York office, where he worked on a number of consumer electronic accounts.
“I was doing a lot of traditional account executive work like pitching to trade media, working at trade shows, and it was here that I really started to work with social media,” he said. “They were interested in doing outreach to online communities and that was pretty much my first experience with it.”
Uhrmacher’s passion for technology and peer media led to Text 100’s presence in the virtual world of Second Life.
Second Life is a three-dimensional virtual world on the Internet completely run by its residents. Residents have the capability to create their own characters or avatars and their own island. The fact that people can become anything on Second Life is what makes it so appealing.
The growing trend in Second Life is for large companies like Nissan, IBM and Coca-Cola to set up islands in Second Life to communicate with consumers and promote their products. This is where Text 100 got the idea to set up its island.
When Text 100 CEO Aedhmar Hynes announced that they had plans to get involved in Second Life, Uhrmacher knew that he wanted to be a part of it. Uhrmacher quickly became the driving force for Text 100’s existence in Second Life and the company spokesperson for it.
“I was already on Second Life, and my passion for games and technology really created opportunities for me that I would otherwise not have,” Uhrmacher said.
A new frontier
In 2006, Text 100 became the first public relations agency to launch an office in Second Life.
Its presence on Second Life is focused around innovation, education, marketing and communication.
“Being on Second Life really allows us to meet and network with companies that we would not normally be able to communicate with,” said Uhrmacher.
Because of the successes that it has experienced, Text 100 is now helping other companies build a presence in Second Life.
Second Life is unlike traditional Web sites in that people who visit the islands spend more time on each island and are valuing the experience by interacting with others and participating in virtual events.
“Second Life is almost like being at a cocktail party in that you are able to communicate and have conversations with people in real time,” Uhrmacher said. “I think that is one of the reasons that Second Life is so special.”
One of the most intriguing and important aspects of the people on Second Life is the wealth of knowledge that they possess, acquired in part by their involvement in other peer media outlets like Twitter and through blogging sites.
“The best part of the users being involved with other social media is that we can take the relationships that we build on Second Life and extend them to other platforms,” he said.
While companies still use Second Life to interact with customers, market and build relationships, the new trend is to create virtual worlds that cater to specific audiences and is more secure.
Photo Credits: Aaron Uhrmacher provided his own Second Life avatar screenshot.
How do you think peer media is changing PR?