Part I of this article ended with a suggestion to organizational communicators to get research-and-interactions proactive with vendor, services and association partners. Besides happily taking your money, determine if they are equally adept and sanguine at fielding queries and making social business adjustments.
Proactive steps towards social capital parity
1. Talk to relevant staff at your organization. Discuss what is reasonable to expect from contracted B2B organizations in terms of social capital parity for your robust and creative social media presence. Ensure a shared appreciation of the value of social PR and buy-in from leadership and departmental colleagues before proceeding further.
2. With authorization, approach account managers at external companies and request a detailing of social media policies and guidelines towards clients/partners, including endorsement and sharing strategies.
3. Ask account managers if they have on record all of your organization’s social media accounts, i.e., the robust ones where you expend the most resources. If not, share them.
4. Inquire of account managers whether your company’s social business properties are taken into account on a regular basis for that company’s profile, external roles and content endorsement strategy.
5. Find out how their companies make partners/clients aware of opportunities for high-profile roles and/or endorsements, including criteria for consideration and acceptance—how do you get your organization on to the top 100 blog list or regular retweet rotation, or get a webinar, Twitter chat or other speaking engagement? Per #1, be sure to inquire only about areas where it’s viable to participate.
6. (Only) if you don’t receive satisfactory answers from B2B internal staff with whom you interact, consider taking your questions public, with respectful queries on social platforms. “How can our company guest-moderate a Twitter chat about PR measurement? What are the criteria for making it onto your top 100 list of company blogs re: content marketing?”
In my experience, thoughtful, innovative and honest businesses and employees/ volunteers—who want to provide the best value to the greatest number of core stakeholders and publics—will welcome queries and constructive criticism.
The gold mine of social is listening to what existing, past or future relationships (i.e., core audiences) have to say about a company, and modifying behaviour. It’s not about conventional wisdom from “those who want to cram something toward us because it happened to work for someone else’s business model”, per Alabama Power’s communication strategist, Ike Pigott.
Some resources and ideas to do it social right
I’ve participated in PR Conversations, a global, group blog (not a business), since 2007. Guest contributors are carefully chosen/accepted and vetted (in terms of content, level of experience and skills). We have some loyal commenters, resources and/or promoters (PR practitioners, academics and students). Although no one is paid money to participate, I wanted to recognize ongoing relationships and how key individuals are valued and contribute to the blog’s overall vision and reputation for PR-specific information.
After consulting with the current principals a few years ago, I set up a (free version) Paper.li, calling it @PRConversations Champions. Besides recognizing our main stakeholders and providing a daily (manual), algorithm-based tweet to populate our Twitter feed, Paper.li allows us to monitor and listen to what this core audience finds timely and useful, i.e., what it values.
I contacted Kelly Hungerford, community, communication and content manager for Paper.li, who told me the company’s aim is, “to empower anyone to be a publisher on topics they are passionate about or have an interest in.” This can be for marketing, research or monitoring purposes. Solopreneurs/consultants, small- to medium-sized businesses, non-profits, large corporations, educators—a variety of organizations make use of the service, whether the free or PRO versions. From Paper.li’s end, content is semantically analyzed in eight different languages—a plus for companies connecting with local markets.
- 580,000-plus paper.li papers are updated daily
- 280,000-plus publishers
- 3.6 million unique monthly readers
- 280 million-plus social posts processed daily
Although individual publishers remain its primary audience, Paper.li is widely used by companies of varying sizes; for example, HBO to promote its Game of Thrones, Dell to recognize channel partners and various verticals within its organization, and the WWF uses the service on a geographic basis. Small businesses tend to use Paper.li to create awareness and build community.
Promotional tools—tweets, curated email notifications, daily digests and embeddable papers—provide users with daily reminders on new topics and interest-based content. “Email notifications are playing a key role within the organization; they are a quick and easy way to push content internally to team members,” states Hungerford, who works with multiple users within organizations on best practices for setting-up papers to monitor industry and market trends, as well as competitors.
She indicates the majority put paper.li to work as an inbound marketing tactic to build community, identify sales leads and build reputations. “There is a very strong case for paper.li within the organization as a ‘listening platform’ with the output being an organized daily digest of snack-able and relevant content.”
GaggleAMP’s tagline is Amplify, Analyze and Align Social Media. As a monthly contributor to Windmill Networking, I was invited to join its GaggleAMP, receiving a daily notification and menu of new blog content to share, plus the opportunity to “suggest” content—either my external posts and interviews, etc., or that of other columnists.
Glenn Gaudet, GaggleAMP’s president and founder, was asked for more information on its typical client. “Our customers range from tech companies like CA, to consumer beverage and food company Pepsico, to non-profit United Way Worldwide. GaggleAMP also has companies of all sizes in both B2B and B2C as customers. Additionally, GaggleAMP helps customers ranging from large retailers to night clubs.”
The company’s original vision was to be able to leverage knowledge workers within a company—given that most have at least one social media account and a high affinity for the company and/or its brand. “After we released GaggleAMP publicly, we quickly realized the value of it for use in other stakeholder groups, including partners, resellers, customers and remote entities such as stores or chapters.”
Although most employee Gaggles see a mix of posts coming from GaggleAMP together with their own posts, Gaudet emphasized, “Keep in mind that this is not an absolute and you will always get some people who will just post messages that are given to them. That is the nice thing about social media: it is really up to the individual as to what they post and the frequency.”
The best GaggleAMP usage strikes a balance between corporate and personal-choice messaging on the same account.
Note: I believe there’s a tremendous, transparent opportunity for messaging options of individual staff, such as employer clients and partners in the B2B (and B2C) space.
Some things that delighted me
#cxo Twitter Chat
The IBM-company sponsored Twitter chat is an open, educational one about best practices in customer service, including use of big data. When #cxo celebrated its two-year anniversary, all active chat participants received a Sprinkles cupcake coupon—”active” equated to one tweet of conversation outside of simply retweeting.
Natasha Bishop (IBM Software, information management) also provided #cxo badges to everyone in her email database. Other books and prizes were given out randomly. Names were placed in a spreadsheet and Bishop asked a co-worker to provide numbers between one and 55. “When I declare someone a #cxo superstar or rock-star that’s random as well. I tweet six to seven names per thank you…so typically the first seven in the stream may get that.”
Bishop waxes eloquently about the #cxo chat: “I really believe each person in the stream is a rock star. I liken the #cxo to the body. Without the neck the head can’t function. If you stump your pinky toe, the pain reverberates throughout the whole body. Sure volume gets you picked up in the stream but when I’m doing the Storify [version of the chat] I read all the tweets, and look for content that resonates—though I try to include at least one nugget from each person.”
She continues, “During the chat, if I could RT everyone I would. But that’s a sure way to end up in Twitter jail, and it’s impossible to do, given the pace of the chats. When I’m going back, though, I’m amazed at the wealth of insight I missed during the chat itself.” The primary @IBMbigdata handle follows IBM’s social media guidelines. (It is helmed by David Pittman.)
Crowdsourcing the conference program
This year’s (volunteer) committee for the annual CPRS conference decided to change things up and let the membership/other potential attendees have a say in conference offerings.
Léa Werthman, APR, chair, Conversations2013, detailed sending out the request for speakers through normal channels. Volunteers were delighted with the response, both numbers and calibre. She told me, “When the submission window closed…we wanted to be able to celebrate the quality of speakers, so we came up with the idea of sharing our ‘shortlist’ with the community at large, and inviting it to vote on which sessions were of the most interest.”
The shortlist comprised the top 25 speakers and programs. “It’s very important to underscore that this was not a popularity contest; however, we had a panel of PR folks do the initial review, and they helped us come up with a shortlist. It was those [peer-reviewed] 25 speakers that were presented to the ‘crowd’ for feedback. And, in the final analysis, the ‘votes’ were one of three factors in the final decision.”
The final decision included:
- Feedback from the reviewers on the overall quality.
- Feedback from the planning team—did [the submissions] fit the conference theme and format?
- Feedback from the community.
Werthman explains the polling exercise was done as much to generate interest in the overall conference as it was to garner the feedback. “We were very pleased to see the response to the poll, and in the end, much of that feedback aligned nicely with our planning team and reviewers’ views. It seems the crowd was definitely ‘wise’ in this exercise.”
Upon inquiry, she confirmed: “CPRS members were certainly looked at more carefully—they are, after all, our community. It was one of a number of criteria, though, as you can see above.” She credits the conference crowdsourcing idea to program chair, Victoria Procunier, “Who has been great at pushing us to innovate through social media engagement.”
Recently a friend told me about purchasing tickets to this year’s Stratford Festival. She was amazed—and impressed—to see a Shakespeare quote from me included on a chosen play’s Twitter feed on the dedicated web page.
I asked Lisa Middleton, director of marketing and audience development, about how long this had been in place. “We integrated the feed two years ago on our play pages (this is the third season) and it was my idea. I wanted to engage Festival fans that aren’t on Twitter with those that were. This way it gave them the personal recommendations from those who had seen the performances and they didn’t have to join the medium if they didn’t want to.”
I also asked Middleton why the company’s Twitter account had followed me, originally. “I followed you because we were interacting on Twitter. I follow those that want to be involved in a conversation, not just because they follow me.”
Get smarter about social PR, including which companies and individuals you allot the most social capital parity: allocate the majority of your resources on the company relationships and profiles that matter the most. Go for quality, not quantity. Aim for specific, industry knowledge, content and skills, not quantity or ubiquity.
The above resources and ideas take more time and perhaps a financial outlay. But there are simpler ways to indicate how you value your stakeholder relationships. You can Favorite or retweet a company representative. In the case of the Toronto Star, I’ve had social media staff proactively sourcing and sharing a link to an article I’ve mentioned. I’ve had the CBC +1 or comment on one of my GooglePlus posts—phenomenal, SEO-friendly endorsement. Companies can also make better use of the Like and comment sections on appropriate LinkedIn updates and Groups, in addition to Facebook pages.
I would appreciate hearing of stellar examples of social PR—relating the inside out and the outside in—you’ve come across in the comments section.