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4 Social Media Tips for the Overwhelmed

I wanted to devote today’s post to a topic that continually crops up when I speak with small business owners: social media. While everyone understands that it’s here to stay and that they should be taking advantage of it because it’s a free way to market their businesses, there remains a “deer in the headlights” look on many of their faces when this comes up.

First, a disclaimer: I don’t consider myself a social media “strategist,” which I’m quick to point out whenever I talk about social media. However, I do handle social media for some of my clients and for myself, so I share this knowledge based on my experience. (Hire with care when it comes to those who do claim to be social media “experts.”)

So, for those of you who may be experiencing social media “paralysis” (!), here are a few tips to get you moving:

1) The first tip I want to share is to decide which social media platforms you want to focus on. For B2B types, I suggest LinkedIn and maybe Twitter or Google+. For B2C, it’s probably Facebook and one of the others. Obviously, Pinterest is huge for some B2C companies. Why only two to three, you may be thinking. The answer is if you focus on ALL of them out of the gate, most likely, you’ll want to quit before you even get started. I’ve seen this happen, too. Small business owners get on a kick to hit social media hard and decide to go after all the major platforms at once. Then, they quickly see they can’t keep up, so they stop. Entirely. So, my advice choose two and master those before adding others to your repertoire.

We could discuss why I suggest these particular outlets, especially Google+–not everyone “gets” that one. I never did either until a colleague explained that whatever you post there contributes to your SEO (search engine optimization) results. It’s true. Try it. I’ve posted about clients on Google+, then when I’ve Googled them, my post comes up on the first page of results.

2) Which brings up another important point: don’t be afraid to experiment. Even if you use the wrong hashtag or forget to include a link the first time or two, it won’t hurt anything. You can learn as you go. We’re all learning as we go with social media. Look at what others are posting to get ideas. If you feel it’s truly that poor a post, you can always edit it–or worst-case scenario–delete it.

3) And let’s talk for a minute about how much time you should spend. To start, it may take a little longer. Spend 30 minutes three days/week to see how much you can get done. Once you get the hang of it, it shouldn’t take a lot of time. There are, of course, ways to set up automated posts via Hootsuite and other solutions. You can investigate those, as well, if you feel so inclined.

A word of caution: It’s good to post on a regular basis once you start. I often see folks on Twitter who look like they got started, but then haven’t posted for six months. That’s a no-no. There may be weeks when you can’t post as often, but try to commit to making sure you post at least a few times a week to show that you’re serious about it.

4) This would be a good time to mention, too, that the frequency of posting varies from one platform to another. For example, I tweet more often than I post on Facebook. I post on Google+ more often than I post on LinkedIn. The school of thought on this varies, but because the life of a tweet is so brief (I think I just read 20 minutes), I post there most often, sometimes five times/day. There’s a lot of research on what times of day to post, as well, which you can Google and read if you’re interested. On Twitter, at a minimum, I try to be sure to post first thing in the morning, again around lunchtime and maybe again later in the afternoon. I don’t always post on weekends.

I see this is getting lengthy, so I’ll talk more next time about what to post. Hint: It doesn’t all have to be original content.

 

Think Spring: Five Ways to Spruce Up Your PR and Marketing Efforts

Ah, spring is here at last! Spring is the time of year when our thoughts turn to freshening up our homes, cleaning out our closets, and by the way, have you checked out that cluttered garage lately?! All kidding aside, while spring cleaning your home may be on the top of your list, how much thought have you given to your business and to freshening up your marketing, and specifically PR, initiatives?

In the spirit of spring cleaning, here are five things you can do to spruce up your marketing and PR:

1) If you haven’t made the commitment to social media, do it now. Social media isn’t going anywhere…and it’s a free tool just waiting to be taken advantage of. If you haven’t dipped your toe in the water yet, come on in! Start small, so as not to get overwhelmed. Pick one or two platforms you can commit to consistently updating. LinkedIn is a great place to start. I also like Twitter and Google+. Of course, there’s Facebook, Pinterest and many others, depending on the audience you’re trying to reach.

2) Consider a press release. Press releases are a multi-purpose tool in the marketing mix. They’re like the Swiss Army knife in your marketing arsenal! They help you get the word out to the masses and also help your SEO (search engine optimization). They can be posted to your site and to social media. You can pitch the release directly to reporters who may be interested in covering the news. Your sales team could use the press release in their efforts.

3) Content marketing is hot in 2014. Have you embraced it yet? To develop your own content, look internally for ideas. Are there customer case studies or success stories you could create? Is there a trend in your industry that might make a good white paper? Maybe look into creating an infographic you could publish. Once you have the content, make sure to add it to your site and post it to all your social media outlets. If you mention a customer or partner, perhaps you can ask them to blast it out on their social media platforms, as well. PR plays right into content marketing, as it can be used to create much of the “content.”

4) Have you booked a speaking engagement? Speaking is one of the best ways to increase visibility and be seen as the “expert.” Many organizations need speakers for their meetings and conferences. While these are generally unpaid speaking gigs, the benefits you’ll reap in the form of visibility can really boost your business and help your product or service get on the map. You can publicize the speaking engagement before, during and after the fact to get the most visibility from it. Again, using this as content on your social media platforms is a great idea. And those at the event may try to book you for another event or even purchase products or services from you.

5)Have you considered an award submission? Many industries and publications have awards programs you can enter, some at no cost. What does this get you? If you win, you can publicize it with a press release and once again, blast it out via all your social media platforms. You can also post the win on your site (some awards come with an icon you can use). Awards create credibility that lasts forever. Think of the Oscars—Tom Hanks will forever be known as “Academy-Award Winner Tom Hanks.”

Try leveraging the power of some “fresh” PR and marketing initiatives this spring by putting some of these ideas into action.

 

Media Pitches: To Pitch or Not To Pitch Via Social Media?

Vocus just published a study regarding pitching reporters via social media. They asked them via which social media platform they prefer to be contacted with story pitches. Although I suspect some would rather not be pitched at all (fodder for another blog post!), a large percentage (45%) responded that they don’t like receiving pitches via social media.

This comes as no surprise, in spite of the many volumes of articles you can find out there talking about how to pitch reporters via social media. So, how do reporters prefer to be pitched? The good old-fashioned email came out on top. For those of us who’ve been using this method with success for some time now, this article vindicates our approach. No changes are necessary.

For those who are primarily using social media to contact reporters, perhaps consider using that method as a backup. Of the social media platforms, Facebook came in on top, followed by Twitter. It certainly can be effective in some cases, so use it when it feels like the right way to go (i.e. when email isn’t working and the reporter looks to be active on social media). For example, I used Twitter recently to reach a reporter, simply sending a tweet to ask how she preferred to receive pitches as her email address was unpublished. She replied with her email. I then I sent her a pitch that way. However, in general, it’s tough enough to keep a pitch brief even in an email, let alone boil it down to 140 characters.

It never hurts to include social media in your media relations strategy, but focus most of your time and attention on email pitches. And to improve those, you can:

  • Focus on the subject line to grab attention
  • Make sure to spell check and proofread your email
  • Keep it short and include data, if applicable
  • Offer resources, such as customers or partners to speak with and visuals such as photos and video
  • If you don’t receive a response, follow up with another email perhaps a week or so later.

Bottom line: While social media has its place in media outreach, don’t rely it on for everything.

 

My Holiday Gift—10 Ideas to Pump Up Your PR and Marketing Efforts in 2014

Today’s blog post is my holiday gift to you—here are 10 ideas to pump up your PR and marketing efforts in 2014:

1) Try a press release: If you’ve never issued a press release or if it’s been a while, find a reason to issue one in the new year. Press releases help search engine optimization (SEO) and can be used in a number of ways to help market your product, service or company.

2) Reach out to local publications in your area: If you haven’t reached out to your local media,  be sure to consider that in 2014. Most cities have a major daily paper, as well as smaller community newspapers and magazines that are specific to certain suburbs. You can also try local TV and radio, if your story lends itself to broadcast media.

3) Sponsor an event: Have you tried sponsoring any charitable events, perhaps in conjunction with the types of businesses you’re trying to attract as clients? If you attach the company to a benefit or charity, that could attract potential clients’ interest.

4) Try social media: There’s always social media—every smaller business probably needs to do more here. Start, if you’re not doing any, by choosing one or two platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or Facebook, or beef up your efforts, if social media is already in your marketing mix.

5) Online news area: Add an online news area to your site, if you haven’t done so. This can be an area for press releases and news stories about your company. You can also add a downloadable “press kit” with more information on the company, team bios, photos, logos, product shots and other material. This makes it easy for reporters who may want to cover you to grab what they need. It’s always PR’s role to make their job easy!

6) Create case studies: Position yourself as an expert by creating case studies and/or white papers to distribute not only to the media, but to potential customers and other influencers in your industry. Content marketing continues to be all the rage, and this is perfect example of that.

7) Speak to increase credibility and visibility: Speaking engagements are a great way to attract the attention of potential clients and positions you as the expert. It’s important to select the appropriate venues, so do your research on local, regional and national trade shows and other industry events that accept speaker proposals.

8) And the award goes to: Awards programs are fairly easy to implement and can help attract attention to your product, service or company. If you win an award, it makes great marketing material! You can tout it on your site or issue a press release and forever after be known as the “award-winning” company! Think of Tom Hanks—“Two-time Academy Award winner” always precedes his name!

9) Reach out to vertical media: Don’t overlook media outreach to industry publications and/or bloggers, selecting those publications and blogs that your potential customers are reading.

10) Network like you mean it: Networking isn’t really in the PR category, but for referral-based businesses, this should be an obvious one. Be sure to dedicate the time to do it and select the events your potential clients attend. Get involved in an organization or two at a deeper level to really get to know people. I’ve seen how his pays off over time to keep business coming your way.

Just a few ideas to get you started…please feel free to comment with your own ideas or questions. Wishing you the best for the holidays and a successful and happy 2014!

 

Spring is here—is it time to “freshen up” your ideas about PR?

Ah, the flowers are coming up, the weather is getting warmer and all thoughts turn to spring! With spring comes spring cleaning. Maybe it’s time to freshen up your PR initiatives, as well.

What are some fresh ideas you can bring to your public relations planning? Here are some thoughts:

 Have you tried a press release lately?  Yes, press releases are one of the best tools for PR, yet they’re often over-looked. Releases are great, because they’re cost-effective and can be leveraged in a number of different ways. You can issue a release via a paid or free service to create links to your site and get visibility. You can pitch the release directly to reporters who may be interested in covering the news. Your sales team could use the press release in their efforts. You can post the release to your site. You can share the release as in your content marketing efforts via social media channels like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. And those are just a few ideas to get you started.

Have you booked a speaking engagement? Speaking is one of the best ways to increase visibility and be seen as the “expert.” Many organizations need speakers for their meetings and conferences. While these are generally unpaid speaking gigs, the benefits you’ll reap in the form of visibility can really help your business, product or service get on the map. You can publicize the speaking engagement before, during and after the fact to get the most visibility from it. Again, using this as content on your social media platforms is a great idea. And those at the event may try to book you for another event or even purchase products or services from you.

Have you considered an award submission? Many industries and publications have awards programs that you can enter, some at no cost. What does this get you? If you win, you can publicize it with a press release and once again, blast it out via all your social media platforms. You can also post the win on your site (some awards come with an icon you can use). Awards create credibility that lasts forever. Think of the Oscars—Tom Hanks will forever be known as “Academy-Award Winner Tom Hanks.”

Have you started using social media? If you have yet to start leveraging this valuable yet free tool to reach out and drive traffic to your site, you should start today. Starting small and focused is OK. Pick one platform—I recommend LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook—to start and develop some ideas to post. Or re-tweet or share others’ content. See my blog post here about social media for small businesses for more ideas.

Those are just a few ideas to get you started on “freshening up” your PR as part of your spring cleaning this year. For more ideas, be sure to follow me on Twitter, @PRisUs, visit my Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/GarrettPublicRelations , or watch the site for upcoming blog posts.

Of Small Businesses and Social Media…

 

It’s no secret that many are overwhelmed by social media. I recently saw a tip advising small businesses who’ve avoided social media to date to choose an outlet that fits their type of business/target market to focus on. Great advice, as it seems many small businesses (and larger ones, for that matter) are overwhelmed even by the idea of social media.

While I always go out of my way to explain to clients I’m not a social media expert or strategist (as many who claim they are unfortunately are not), I do see the value in incorporating social media in marketing and PR efforts and often help clients to do so. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when there are so many social media outlets out there to choose from. The bottom line is you probably can’t keep up with them all and do them all well—and you probably don’t need to.

Focus on one or two outlets: Picking one or two social media outlets where your target customers spend time IS a good investment of your time or dollars. Maybe your customers use Facebook a lot, so you’ll want to focus on that. Or maybe your customers are more of a LinkedIn crowd—put your time and effort there.

What do I post? Once you choose one or two outlets on which to focus, you need to update them consistently. I’ve had clients tell me, “But we don’t know what to post.” Not a valid excuse. There are no end to the sources where you can get content ideas. I’ve retweeted many articles about that very topic—do a Google search to find some. Here are a few examples:

This was a great article that appeared last week by Joan Stewart (@PublicityHound) on how to create blog content, for example: http://www.ragan.com/Main/Articles/46121.aspx#

And a couple of others:

7 Effortless Ways to Find New Ideas for Your Blog

6 ways to find relevant and valuable content ideas for your social media marketing

And those are just a few of many great articles on the topic of creating content.

Once you start, keep up with it: It’s a mistake to start and then not keep up with your social media channel(s) of choice. It only takes a few minutes a day to post something—even less to retweet/reuse something, if you don’t have any fresh content of your own.

PR feeds social media: Another point—use PR efforts to feed social media content. So every press release you issue, every article that results from your media outreach, every case study or success story on a customer, every speaking engagement, every award and so on should be issued via your social media channels.

So don’t be overwhelmed. As with any marketing effort, it’s fine to start small and grow from there. Just pick your poison and get started!

Got content?

You have your accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the list goes on. Now, you need content to push out through all those social media channels, as well as for your site, and perhaps even for your customer or employee communications—but where do you get this content? Who creates it? Where does it come from?

Leverage what you already have, such as company news—new hires, new partnerships, awards your company has won, speaking gigs your executives are participating in, new products or services, new customers, customer successes, events your company is participating in and so on. The stream of possibilities is endless, if you take the time to look for newsworthy items.

Then, you need someone to write the content. Think everyone’s a writer? Wrong! I’m so often amazed by the number of typos I see in business communications. Typos mean more than just a misspelled word or a missed punctuation mark. They make your company look unprofessional and weaken your credibility. Make sure to use a strong writer, if that isn’t among your talents.

If you commit an hour or two per week to plan and craft content to use in your various channels, you’ll be surprised at the results. If you don’t have the time or the ability to create the content yourself, consider hiring a professional business writer to craft the content for you. Once you have it, It can be repurposed in a number of ways, making your minimal investment of time well worth the effort.