Social Media: Under Construction

On Wednesday, July 9, Terry Morawski and I collaborated on a social media presentation for the Greater Fort Worth chapter of PRSA:

Under Construction

Social Media: Under Construction

Social Media Under Construction (PDF)

Social Media: Under Construction (PPT)

Social Media: Under Construction (Slideshare)

I am looking forward to reading the comments and feedback from the attendees.

Who are the people in your Twitter-hood?

Using Twitter for PR efforts should not be seen as a suggestion, but rather a necessity.

Now, in no way am I advocating PR professionals join Twitter and start pitching away at any and all journalists they find. This is a bad idea and will get you blocked faster than you can say, “SPAM-a-lama-ding-dong.”

What I find necessary are the useful things about Twitter that every PR person can and should use:

  • knowledge finding
  • personal branding
  • community engaging
  • relationship building
  • idea banking
  • advise seeking

If you keep some of these things in mind, I believe PR people will start to get more out of Twitter than you previously thought possible from this useful application that asks the question, “What are you doing?”

Why do I believe this? Because our organizations or clients are made up of people and not pitches. Todd Defren of PR Squared puts it this way:

In the Social Media era, getting better at Public Relations means getting better at the Relationships, not the Publicity. [emphasis added]

If PR people believe the statement above, then we can be better at putting into practice the statement below:

…public relations builds relationships and creates an ongoing dialogue of interaction and involvement with an organization’s target audiences and those who influence those audiences.

How do you use twitter? Are you using your twitter-hood to its potential?

POST starts with “P”

I am reading Groundswell by Forrester Research’s Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. This book is easily one of the most intriguing professional books I’ve read in a while. According to Li and Bernoff the groundswell is:

A social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations.

While I don’t particularly care for the name they chose to describe the social media phenomenon, I do appreciate the terrific insight and research they’ve provided.

One graphical representation from the book helps explain the Social Technographics® Profile in the form of a Ladder to represent consumers’ social computing behavior categorized by participation.

Social Technographics Ladder

The social participation rungs in the ladder are (from bottom to top): Inactives, Spectators, Joiners, Collectors, Critics, and Creators with explanations of each. The authors provide various samples of profiles to help drive home the point that different people come to you and your company or organization at very different levels of social media participation.

The POST Method

There are implications for business in assessing participation, especially when one applies the POST method for a social media strategy:

  1. Assess the social activities of your People;
  2. Decide what Objectives you want to accomplish;
  3. Plan your Strategy for changes in customer relations; then
  4. Decide on the suitable Technology or technologies to meet your goals.

I was struck by something so simple, but could have serious implications for those interested in social media if forgotten: The POST method starts with “P” for People.

People Matter

If you don’t have your people, (audience, stakeholders, customers, community, or any other term you use) your social media strategy will be much harder to effectively implement and accurately assess.

To often Communication/PR practitioners are presented with the challenge of adding a social media to their communication efforts and they jump straight to the latest and greatest social media technology with buzz.

I am all for jumping in and experimenting with social media mainly because you are more credible if you’ve experienced the various forms of social media. This holds true even if you outsource.

However, I caution (from experience) that your community participation assessment should come first.

If the biggest sin in social media is inaction, then I think the biggest mistake is not knowing your people.

Social Media for the Newbies, Act III

Now for some free pointers from one of the trailblazers in Social Media, Brian Solis. Check out The Essential Guide to Social Media – A Free eBook. Did I mention that it’s free?

So what are you waiting for? Get Started. Be informed. Get in the game.

Social Media for Newbies, Act II

If you are anything like me, and you find social media tools fascinating and the communication potential for your organization growing, please consider yet another video to help explain the big picture.

The folks at Common Craft did it again: Social Media In Plain English

Along with having another way of explaining Social Media, now I want some ice cream too!

Social Media for the Newbies

I recently spoke at the School PR in North Texas group (North Central Texas region of the Texas School Public Relations Association) on the topic of Social Media for School Districts. I received some very good feedback from members. I also noticed a look of eyes that were glazing over at some of the ideas presented.

I think most everyone present had heard of social media in some form or another but maybe had not tried it themselves. There was even a point were it seemed that social media was being confused with social networking and that social networking had a bad rap in society. Public perception problems with MySpace tended to be where the certain group members turned their attention. (Note: social networking is a type of social media.)

This discussion had me thinking during the presentation that I was speaking to individuals with very different levels of engagement with social (or new) media. I realized that for school communication/PR professionals, we need to work to bring as many people as we can to understand the new forms of community engagement.

I’ve decided to find and bring to you dear reader a few quality, ground-level explanation-type links or ideas for the Social Media Newbie. There is no shame in being a newbie, in fact be proud of wanting to be a learner and expanding your communication repertoire.

Up first, Social Media by video:

I am a huge fan of The Common Craft Show. These guys are great explainers. They call it “sense-making for the masses.” There is a collection of videos called In Plain English, where seemingly difficult concepts are explained in, well you get the idea. Check out their In Plain English Videos covering the following: Blogs, Social Networking, RSS (Feed Syndication), Social Bookmarking, Wikis, and for fun check out Zombies.

Here’s the Common Craft Show Video: Blogs In Plain English:

When you are ready to move on, check out Social Media Strategies covering “the basic ingredients of social media.” Then proceed to archived lessons. Not all of the videos will cover aspects pertinent to school communications, but having the individual knowledge will only help make you a more effective communicator.

I’ll find more to add to the collection, but I would encourage you seek out other new media basics so we can get closer to speaking the same languages.

New Media for School Districts

Being Social has its benefits!

How do you engage your district’s community?

How much do you rely on the traditional media to reach your community?
School PR people can have some fun with new media, but where does one begin?

There is a difference between talking to and talking with. It should be understood that social media, when applied correctly, like a conversation, is talking with a community.

New Media (or social media) can be categorized into 7 main types
[From Kami Huyse’s Communication Overtones blog: If the Shoe Fits…Social Media in Seven Boxes]

I. Publishing Platforms: These consist of platforms and tools that allow the author(s) to set the content of the initial offering. Most offer a way for others to comment on the content and include RSS feeds to syndicate the copy

II. Social Networking Sites: These sites allow users to interface by becoming friends and/or sharing favorites. They allow the individual user to have their own space, while also incorporating links and other connections to other users

III. Democratized Content Networks: These sites allow all users to contribute equally, usually with some sort of ability to vote for the best content, or to override, in the case of Wikis, previously submitted content.

IV. Virtual Networking Platforms: These often require third-party interfaces to participate (though some can be accessed through the browser), and consist of a virtual reality experience with other users.

V. Information Aggregators: These are publicly available, machine driven aggregators of niche content, usually with some human editing (such as adding RSS feeds) involved in the process.

VI. Edited Social News Platforms: These are sites where users recommend links and can make comments on the stories that make it through the human editors

VII. Content Distribution Sites:
Sites that allow the user create, collect and/or share content and distribute by providing RSS, code and/or e-mail options. Widgets would also fall into this category.

In School PR we can start by focusing on Categories I and II. (The others might have some school PR use and commenting on their uses is highly recommended.)

I. Publishing Platforms
Blogging – A school district official blog can be a great place to get the conversations going. Think of the district’s Web site as the source for information and a district blog as the water cooler, around which you engage in more of an opportunity for conversation

[Example from Mansfield ISD’s Your Mansfield ISD blog]

The basic idea behind the Your Mansfield ISD blog is that if your home is located within our district boundaries, our schools are your schools. And let’s face it – a school district is a large organization with lots of moving parts…Our goal with this blog is to simplify many of these complexities and also key you in on many of the great things that are going on.

Some considerations when starting a district blog: Do you have blogging policies/guidelines? Will commenting be turned on/off? Note: this one will make administrators nervous. What will you do if/when your staff decides to blog?

Podcasting – Podcasts from a school district can be integrated and, like blogging, become part of any effective communication plan. Many teachers are already using podcasting to engage students in and out of the classrooms. School PR people could explore this option at a district level as well.
[Example Grapevine-Colleyville ISD Off The Page Podcast.]

II. Social Networking Sites
For many school districts sites like YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, etc. are likely blocked from student/staff use because of potentially inappropriate content. In a few cases, sites such as Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn, etc. are left open. I am not going to argue for or against any social networking site’s being blocked/unblocked at this point. But, when this opportunity arises I would encourage school PR people to explore the potential for district use. Consider creating a Facebook, Ning, or even MySpace profile for your school district.
[Example: Mansfield ISD uses Twitter: http://twitter.com/mansfieldisd, related post on districts using Twitter.]

These new media tools can be used to deliver relevant and useful content to communities in a format that is either already gained in popularity or continues to be on the rise. Either way, catching up or keeping up with social media’s impact on school communications is at least worth looking into or even worth jumping into with both feet.