“New Marketing” and “Social PR” are Simple. Talk With Me.

I constantly see chatter, blogs, articles and tweets out there about “New marketing” and “How PR works – or if it’s even necessary” now that social media is so mainstream, easy and accessible. Oy, I am so tired of the misconceptions that social media has somehow replaced these important roles in business. But I’m even more tired of everyone over-thinking this whole “new marketing” thing. Is it really that complicated? Here are a few quick “rules” to it that I think anyone can grasp:

- Social media is a tactic tied into a larger communications strategy. Key word: strategy. Have one. Actually, have more than one, because it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that there are different communications strategies across different parts of your business. Communicating with customers about a service issue is not the same as trying to sell to a prospect or get the attention of a journalist. Make social media a part of how your business communicates. But don’t tell me your “social media plan” replaces solid marketing and PR.

- Marketing has changed in that marketers (and others, like politicians) now have to talk with their audience, not just at them. One of my favorite quotes on this is from Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff in the book Groundswell: “Marketers don’t understand channels where you have to talk and listen at the same time.” That was in 2009, and I think that while many marketers are now understanding that they need to be on social channels, they still don’t know how to start actual conversations that lead to valuable interactions between their business and its audiences.

- New marketers (and PR execs) make their audiences feel important. You can only do this by building a two-way relationship. That means that you listen as much as you “talk,” even when the “conversation” gets uncomfortable (i.e., complaints about your business or products). Be prepared to handle both your brand champions and your detractors – but always let them know how important they are by talking with them. Ask questions, recognize them, make it clear in your content (Twitter updates, Facebook posts, videos, what have you) that you’ve listened to them. Need an easy example? Think Old Spice. People watched, listened, shared because they were a part of it – feeling important and recognized – even if but for a second.

- Share great content. You’ve heard this a zillion times -  but maybe it’s more important to say share interactive and meaningful content that others will want to share as well. Oh, and it should be relevant to your business, whether it’s meant to be a revenue-generator, a branding campaign or simply an awareness builder. A favorite example of mine is Life is Good Radio. It’s sticky content that ties in perfectly to their culture and company mission. If you don’t know how to build good content, get help. Seriously – without it, you are not marketing in today’s world.

- Remember, it’s not that complicated. It’s just changed. Quite simply, you can’t dance if you don’t stop leaning against the wall hoping someone will talk to you. You have to start the conversation. If you don’t know what this means, you probably shouldn’t be in marketing in the first place.

What are your best tips for “new” marketers and social PR?

If Your Social Content Isn’t Brand-Relevant, It’s Just Noise

In the PR industry, we’re paid to make people take notice. Notice of products, services, people, companies. Notice of articles, comments, updates, events. And it’s not always easy – it’s a crowded world out there and “breaking through the noise” is a big challenge. Social media has opened up the options for promotion – we’re not tied only to third parties, such as media, to spread the word. We can create, share and promote our own content more than ever – and ask fans, customers, and followers to validate such content through “liking” it, sharing it, commenting on it, etc.

The biggest mistake we see in this type of promotion is a failure to connect the dots. Too many companies are so busy providing status updates and ad hoc content just to fill a page (or justify someone’s job), that they aren’t thinking about an integrated strategy. There’s also a lot of unrelated content posted by businesses that doesn’t seem to support the brand, the products or the company’s mission. Even if you are just trying to entertain your community and be conscientious to not over-promote to them, you should still make sure you’re posting content that makes sense. Otherwise, it’s just unnecessary noise.

The old ABC adage – Always Be Closing – doesn’t apply to social media and community efforts by brands. Of course you don’t want to be overly-promotional in your networks, or you’ll turn your fans away. They don’t want to be marketed to – they want to be talked with. And that means sharing interesting content that’s helpful, entertaining or intriguing in some way – but it should still tie to your brand.

One good example I saw recently was by the Life is Good company on Facebook. As a company that sells “optimistic apparel & accessories,” they are constantly posting inspirational quotes and images. They’re lucky in this aspect because it ties to their company’s mission. Recently, I noticed a post with a link to “Life is Good Radio.” I thought it was interesting that an apparel company took the time to create an online radio station. But when I listened, it made total sense – the songs were all upbeat, inspirational and happy. The station reinforces the company’s mission – optimism. Music provides that emotion for many of us, and the company describes the programming as “eclectic and reflective of the company’s positive outlook.” They nailed it.

When thinking about your social media and marketing content, how do you ensure it ties to your brand or company’s mission? Are you considering the tone you’re setting with the content you share? Are you taking the time to train anyone responsible for growing social networks and community on your behalf, so that they are fully aware of that tone/sentiment, and so that they know how to tie interesting and engaging content to your brand?

Here are a few tips:

  • Post content that gets people thinking about an issue, topic or trend that ties to your business. Content should relate to your business in order to help brand recall. If a customer remembers your brand when thinking about an issue, you’ve won. For example, as a parent, I’m always thinking about ways to keep my children healthy. Say I follow a company on Facebook that makes children’s iPad apps, and they post 10 tips for helping my child to build a strong memory. I’m going to remember that brand as helpful and resourceful, and oh yeah – I should probably check out their app.
  • Post content that gets people to engage with you. It’s all well and good to post a funny dog video but it’s even better – especially if you sell products to dog owners – to get people to answer a question about the video on your Facebook page – spending more time exposed to your brand, logo, messages, etc. – and likely to come back again to see what other people’s answers are to that question (enforcing that sense of community around your brand).
  • Post content that makes sense. This seems obvious, but if you work for or represent Chrysler, Tweeting that people in Detroit don’t know how to drive is … well, just stupid. Even if it was your personal opinion. Social media doesn’t mean you have to share every thought. Especially if you want to keep your day  job.