Author Archives: Victoria Harres

Top 10 Best Practices for Social Media

editorial guidelines sticky noteI recently challenged myself to come up with the top-ten best practices for social media for a presentation. As it turned out, it was hard to keep the list to only ten items.

So I did some research and much scrapping of excessive rules and realized that it all does boil down to ten very basic principles to be successful in social media:

#10 – Have good tools

Sure you can do social media with nothing but web access to Twitter and Facebook, but if you want to measure success and if you want to have a well-orchestrated presence for your brand (personal or business) then you need to think about tools that can save you time and give you useful stats. Some of my favorite include Hootsuite (web and mobile), SocialOomph, Buffer, Twitter lists, SproutSocial, Bit.ly and Topsy.

#9 – Be nice

This may sound simplistic, but I can’t stress enough how important this is. Social media is about being human, participating in the big virtual cocktail party, as some like to call it. So that means being nice and helping others where you can. Offer answers when people are looking for it. Especially when you have nothing to benefit from it. People notice and remember.

Want a journalist on Twitter to remember you fondly? Give them a tip that helps them and does nothing for you.

#8 – Be responsive

You have to ‘man’ the social accounts. Clients will expect you to provide customer service there. You have to be present to respond to questions and handle concerns. It’s better to have one or two well manned social channels than a multitude of accounts you have trouble keeping track of.

#7 – Engage!

No need to buy a diamond ring for this, but you do need to engage your audience. A stream of tweets that have no or few @replies or mentions is really no different from paid media. If you want earned media you have to participate in the greater conversation.

#6 – Have clear editorial guidelines

Your editorial guidelines may be very simple and fit on a sticky-note (guilty) but you do need to write them down. Even if you are the only social media manager. You need it clear in your own mind what topics you will or won’t discuss on your brand’s social accounts.

This, of course becomes significantly more important when you have multiple people managing social media.

#5 – Have a crisis plan

Again, even if fits on a sticky-note and you have it stuck on the wall above your desk, this is a must. List who needs to be contacted or consulted in case of a potential situation. If you have multiple managers you better also clearly state what constitutes a crisis.

And keep it simple. No need to be over-specific and risk confusion.

#4 – Have a clear mission

You should have a reason for your social media endeavors and you should be able to put that clearly into one or two sentences. Again, as above this is especially important if you have multiple people working together, but even if it’s just you, put that sticky-note up as a daily reminder.

#3 – Listen!

Listen to your clients, listen to industry experts, listen to your competitors and then listen just a little bit more to a few more people. Listening is like learning, you can never learn too much.

#2 – Set social media policies and guidelines

Your policies and guidelines don’t need to be complicated, preferably they’re not, but they do need to exist and they need to be housed where all employees have easy access to them. Everyone should be familiar with them and more importantly have a clear understanding of them.

And, last but not least:

#1 – Like your mom said, “Be real!”

Maybe your mom didn’t say that, but I’m sure someone’s did. Seriously, be human, be yourself, be ‘real.’ The greatest gift of social media is the opportunity to humanize a brand and being real is the only way to do it.

What did I leave out? Do let me know if you think there should have been a  #11. I would love to hear your thoughts on best practices.

All press releases and other content distributed by PR Newswire have social sharing built in, and the amount of social interaction these messages generate is pretty amazing.  Get the most out of the content you publish by incorporating some of the easy tactics we recommend here: Headline Hashtags & Other Tweetable Press Release Tips.

Victoria Harres is Director of Audience Development at PR Newswire, the main voice behind @PRNewswire, social media lead for @Business4Better and a frequent speaker and writer on social media for business. 

To Disclose or Not Disclose: FTC Disclosure Guidelines for Bloggers

If you bring up Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations in front of writers, especially bloggers, a lot of ‘opinion’ and hearsay come up.

I posted about a Social Media Club of Dallas blogger panel a couple of weeks ago. The panel covered tips and recommendations from bloggers for PR and communications professionals and received quite a bit of attention and lively conversation on the subject of FTC regulations around endorsement and disclosure.

One Dallas journalist in particular wrote that the bloggers I mentioned and others are not complying with FTC ‘disclosure of material connection’ regulations.

So I did a bit of research on the FTC website and discovered a terrific video explaining what they expect:

FTC Endorsement Guidelines for Bloggers Video

FTC endorsement guidelines for bloggers explained by Mary Engles.

I have included the full transcript of the video at the bottom of this page, but take particular note of the following statement by narrator Mary Engle in particular: “What does the FTC’s announcement mean for bloggers? Well for most bloggers not very much. We know that most bloggers are out there talking about their daily lives and their thoughts, and so it really doesn’t mean much for them. But if you’re one of those bloggers that is in a marketing program with an advertiser and you’re being paid to blog about a product, or you’re receiving a steady stream of products from a company, then you need to disclose that relationship you have with the company.”

Not nearly as scary as some might believe.

And if a blogger ‘does’ have a  relationship with a company that needs transparency it’s really simple to be in compliance according to Engle: “You can just say, “ABC Company gave me this product to try,” or, “XYZ Company sent me to their theme park to try it out for a day.” It’s not too complicated, and it should just be straight forward and upfront.”

Disclosure of receiving something from a company that one writes about is simple and in a lot of cases perhaps not even ‘officially’ required, although as a consumer and as a regular reader of blogs I would hope that anyone (blogger, journalist or otherwise) that gets into an event for free or receives product or a gift and writes about the company would be transparent about it.

Transparency contributes to credibility for the writer and assures that consumers (all of us) are protected from potentially false advertising.

Here are a few more good links to FTC information. Do check them out:

***

Transcript for the FTC video “The Endorsement Guide”:

Narrator:
What’s new about Endorsement Guides?

Mary Engle:
The Endorsement Guides have been around since 1980, and they’ve always required that endorsers disclose their relationship with advertisers. What’s new here is that we’re applying this principle in today’s world, in the world of social media, where you can’t always recognize an advertisement just by looking at it.
 
Narrator:
Why did the FTC update the Endorsement Guides?
 
Mary Engle:
There’s been a lot in the news about the FTC’s Endorsement Guides lately. What’s the story? Well the FTC cares about protecting consumers, and we know that nowadays when consumers want information about a product or a service they’re thinking of using, they often go online to check it out and see what other consumers have to say. Don’t you want to know if the reason a consumer is giving a rave review is because they’re being paid by the advertiser to say it, or they’re getting a steady stream of free products from that company? We just want to bring some transparency to the process so that when there is a relationship between an advertiser and a reviewer the reader knows about it.
 
Narrator:
What do the Endorsement Guides mean for bloggers?
 
Mary Engle:
What does the FTC’s announcement mean for bloggers? Well for most bloggers not very much. We know that most bloggers are out there talking about their daily lives and their thoughts, and so it really doesn’t mean much for them. But if you’re one of those bloggers that is in a marketing program with an advertiser and you’re being paid to blog about a product, or you’re receiving a steady stream of products from a company, then you need to disclose that relationship you have with the company.
 
Narrator:
How do bloggers follow the Endorsement Guides?
 
Mary Engle:
If a blogger does have a relationship with an advertiser that needs to be mentioned, it’s pretty simple. You can just say, “ABC Company gave me this product to try,” or, “XYZ Company sent me to their theme park to try it out for a day.” It’s not too complicated, and it should just be straight forward and upfront.
 
Narrator:
Is the FTC planning to sue bloggers?
 
Mary Engle:
Is the FTC planning to sue bloggers? Well, let me put it this way: that is not why we issued this guidance. We issued this guidance to make it clear that everybody should be playing by the same rules, whether you’re a professional reviewer or an amateur reviewer. Just be upfront about the connections you have and any conflict of interest you might have with the company.
 
Narrator:
Where to go for more information.
 
Mary Engle:
To find out more about the FTC’s Endorsement Guides, go to our website at ftc.gov. There, you’ll find the Guides themselves. They have a lot of practical examples that really may help answer a lot of the questions that you have.

***

Victoria Harres is Director of Audience Development at PR Newswire, the main voice behind @PRNewswire, social media lead for @Business4Better and a frequent speaker and writer on social media for business. 

‘Dear Blogger’ & Other Pitch Mistakes PR Pros Make

“My time is worth something,” said fashion and celebrity blogger Cynthia Smoot, aka @OhSoCynthia, at last week’s Social Media Club of Dallas monthly meeting.

A PR person in the audience had asked the panel if bloggers always expect to get something for free. Every head in the room turned in unison to see who was at the microphone. I think I also heard a gasp from somewhere.

Cynthia took it in stride, lifting her chin with her Oh-So-Cynthia grace and crossing her legs to show the fabulous pair of boots she was recently given for covering a fashion event.

Dallas bloggers: @OhSoCynthia @TexasHolly @FoodBitch @LivingLocurto @Pelpina

Holly Homer, @TexasHolly contributed that they are bloggers, not journalists with a salary and expenses being paid for by a media company. They blog because they are passionate about what they write about and sometimes have a day-job. To cover an event or try a product they have to give of their personal time.

Food critic @FoodBitch works at an advertising agency by day and writes about food by night. She said some PR people have even expected her to pay for entry into their event, even though they invited her to come and cover it for her popular Dallas food blog.

I cringed. We in PR still don’t quite fully comprehend those writers who call themselves bloggers. And yet, our industry is constantly seeking to ‘work with bloggers,’ i.e. get them to promote our stuff to their audiences.

So let’s cover a few basics about working with bloggers that we’ve all heard before, but apparently we need to hear again.

First, a pet peeve, “Dear blogger,” is tops on FoodBitch’s list, as is “Dear _____.” Or how about “Dear Mommy Blogger,” suggested Amy, @LivingLocurto. All the bloggers nodded in agreement. This certainly aligns with the daddy blogger sentiment I wrote about two years ago in a post appropriately titled Don’t Call Us Daddy Bloggers.

Pelpina Tripp, @Pelpina asked that PR pros do their research. Don’t send her pitches if you’ve never seen her work and don’t know what interests her audience. She gets a lot of email. She doesn’t have time for pitches that are not appropriately targeted. Holly added, “If you don’t bother to check out my blog why should I care about your pitch?”

And while we’re on the research subject, Amy begs that if you mention someone in your pitch that you link to somewhere online that explains who they are. “Don’t make me do the research. I don’t want to Google the person you’re talking about.”

Cynthia then mentioned that a huge pet peeve for her are press releases without images to use in her blog or to see the product you’re talking about.

A PR practioner in the audience said, “But a lot of publications don’t accept attachments.”

“Bloggers accept attachments!” responded Cynthia. All the other bloggers agreed emphatically. They need images and only get them in less than 5% of pitches.

A few more suggestions included:

  • Make your pitch interesting for the blogger’s audience you are pitching
  • Write subject lines that capture the attention of who you are targeting
  • Make your email subject line clear about why you are contacting them

If you are a blogger or a PR and would like to add to this, please leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you!

Victoria Harres is Director of Audience Development at PR Newswire, the main voice behind @PRNewswire, social media lead for @Business4Better and a frequent speaker and writer on social media for business. 

3 Basic Perceptions of Content You Should Have For Successful Marketing

Adrian Parker (left), Brett Relander, Eddy Badrina, and Victoria Harres

When you bring three people together for a panel, who don’t know each other, chemistry is almost impossible.

I lucked out.

On April 3rd PR Newswire teamed up with the Business Development Institute to bring together three experts on content marketing in Dallas to share knowledge and thoughts on the subject. I had the pleasure of being the moderator for the event.

I expected good conversation from the group. What I didn’t expect, and have never done before, was to be taking notes as much as the audience while being on stage.

Although not planned, and completely at different points during the forum, each of our three experts made statements about how content should be perceived.

I took notes mentally and on paper and in the end I had a new perception, or perceptions that really help me in my approach to content.

Content As Food 

This came from Eddy Badrina, co-founder of Buzzshift: “You have to create/share content people actually want. Think of content as food for the mind. People want to be fed good content.” Brilliant, and so true. The most successful content marketers share information that is truly useful to people.

Eddy also said we should remember there are three types of content to share: (1) created content, which you create yourself or pay someone for, (2) contributed content, which can be attained from guest bloggers, and (3) curated content, which you do not own but can add context to when you share.

People want content that has value, but you don’t necessarily have to create it or own it to benefit from it. I myself share a lot of content on Twitter that I did not have a hand in creating, but I do curate what I find valuable, and hopefully the audience appreciates that.

Content As Opportunity 

Content gives you the opportunity to engage with your audience, an audience that may become customers, according to Brett Relander, co-founder of Tactical Marketing Labs.

If you post an intriguing and informative blog or video you audience will comment. They become engaged and you have the opportunity to respond and add strength to that relationship.

Guest blogging is one opportunity that should not be overlooked. Some may scoff that putting content on online property you do not own diminishes the value to you. Not so. Guest posting gives you access to audiences you would otherwise not be able to tap, and if you link back to your own property, say in your byline, then you will hopefully lead that audience back to where you might engage them further.

Content As a Service 

Adrian Parker said content should teach, illustrate and inform. It should be word-of-mouth worthy. Hence it is a service you are providing to your audience.

“Content is the currency of social media,” said Adrian, and oh how right he is. Look at all the most successful people doing content marketing. They are excellent content creators.

One might say that the content creators will inherit the Internet. Or perhaps they already have.

Adrian gave us one last bit of advice, to not look at content life in a straight line. Think of it in a cycle: distribute, post, and repurpose. Good content can always be repurposed because there is always an audience that did not receive it before. Just make sure you update for relevance.

In this blog post I’ve tried to follow the advice that Eddy, Brett and Adrian gave. I’ve tried to share information that is useful, that feeds, that opens the doors to opportunity and that serves our audience.

Let me know if I succeeded.

Victoria Harres is Director of Audience Development at PR Newswire, the main voice behind @PRNewswire, and a frequent speaker and writer on social media for business.

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Who Do You Trust: Journalists, Bloggers, Social Media?

My notes and thoughts from the SXSW 2012 panel: Vetting In The Age of Social; Who Do You Trust?

SXSW 2012 Panel: Vetting In The Age of Social; Who Do You Trust? - with Alicia Stewart, CNN; Shelli Whitehurst, CodeNameMax.com; Michael Pranikoff, PR Newswire; Tony Uphoff, TechWeb. Tom Miale, (far left) of PR Newswire moderated.

It was a provocative question addressed by the SXSW 2012 panel sponsored by PR Newswire:  When it comes to news and information, “Who do you trust?”

Tom Miale of PR Newswire/MultiVu brought together an interesting panel to tackle this discussion.

As brands, we have to understand what our audience trusts, so I was sitting front-and-center taking notes.

Shelli Whitehurst, aka @CodeNameMax, who calls herself an information junkie says she reads sources she likes before she reads ‘official’ news sources. She loves what bloggers have to say. She wants to read the opinions of real people.

“By the time the news covers it its just verifying rather than vetting,” stated Shelli, with her beautiful Australian accent.

Everyone on the panel admitted to starting most days looking at their smart-phones while still in bed and checking either the news organizations they work for or Twitter.

So what is the role of media in a world where the first place so many of us go to for news is not traditional or ‘official’ news sources.

At another panel a day earlier, Richard ‘Koci’ Hernandez said that he heard of Osama Bin Laden’s death on Instagram. “Others saw it first on Twitter [where the story broke] because that is where they are. I’m on Instagram” he said, “and so is CNN iReport. So I heard about it there.”

Is the role of media now just to vet after the fact?

Alicia Stewart said at CNN they would rather be right than be first, and she does make a very good point. In the case of Bin Laden’s death the citizen journalist was correct.

But breaking Twitter news is not always right.

Michael Pranikoff of PR Newswire said people just don’t trust the media today, and there’s some truth to that.

Remember Dan Rather? He represented an official source, but one mistake of not verifying information before broadcasting it brought to center stage the fact that even official news sources sometimes get it wrong.

“You can say whatever you want, but it’s my job as a journalist is to vet the sources/story,” chimed Alicia Stewart.

Yes, but that takes time. We live in a world of real-time expectations.

“Quality scales and good journalism always rises to the top,” said Tony Uphoff. “We’re not going to fall back into the search/RSS model. People want to hear what others opinions are.”

But can we tell what quality journalism is? And do enough of us care?

I sure hope so. I hope we are not loosing sight of strong reporting which digs deep in to matters that affect our lives.

In the end I suppose we the audience now carry a greater weight in the vetting process. We have to decide who and what we trust more carefully than ever before, because information is reaching us via more avenues than ever before.

I suppose I continue to trust that CNN and other more traditional news organizations will do the homework for me, the fact checking. But I’m still going to go to Twitter at the first whisper of anything because repeatedly I find that breaking news is being talked about on Twitter minutes before anything appears on any ‘official’ news site.

So now the question goes to you. Who do you trust?

Victoria Harres is Director of Audience Development for PR Newswire and the lead voice on @PRNewswire.

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5 Keys to Developing Your Organization’s Online Voice

Brett Simon, Thomas Hynes, Victoria Harres, Christine Cube: Four people, one team, one consistent voice on @PRNewswire.

I regularly have people say that they know their business needs to be “doing social media,” but they just don’t know what  to say.

“I don’t want to make the mistake of making my organization sound silly,” they say, often with a pained look on their face.

Truth is, they have good reason to be concerned.

An organization’s online voice is what people “hear” from a brand through blogging, tweeting and community conversations. It’s what people engage with. It can give a brand a human connection to its audience. Or, if inappropriately done, it can confuse, or worse — irritate the  audience.

The latter, of course, you will avoid, and you can do it by keeping a few key things in mind.

Authenticity

People speak of authenticity quite often when talking about how brands should represent themselves online.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s really much more than just being ‘verified’ on Twitter. It’s about being genuine.

Think of the last cocktail party or networking event you attended. Remember the people who came across as trying to be someone they’re not?

Don’t do that.

Your online voice should represent who and what your organization really is. This gains trust. And trust is not an option when building a credible voice.

Humanity

Your online voice should not sound like messaging from your legal department, and you certainly should avoid traditional PR and marketing jargon. It should represent the things your organization stands for and promote those things that benefit the business, of course, but you must say it in a human way.

Also, don’t forget those little human details like owning your mistakes with dignity and humility, and sharing some of the details of everyday life. But take care you don’t overdo the latter.

Remember, people want to connect with people. They want to have intelligent conversations. They want to know if they comment or reach out to a brand online that they will get a real human representing the organization responding in a genuine manner. A human manner.

Reflection of Culture

Every organization has a unique internal culture. It may include skateboard races with the CEO on Friday afternoons, or perhaps high standards of corporate social responsibilities.

Your culture should be reflected in your online voice. This is your organization’s “personality,” and it goes hand-in-hand with presenting a human identity online.

Credibility

Credible sources get respect. Respect gets you meaningful relationships. So be a source of useful, reliable information, and keep that content flowing on a regular schedule.

Remember that it doesn’t have to be all your own content. Promoting or linking to credible content (with appropriate attribution, of course) from other trusted sources would also gain you credibility.

Finally, don’t forget that part of being credible is being responsive. You can’t just be a megaphone of information. Traditional marketing is good for that.

If you want to have a strong voice online you must engage and be responsive to your audience.

Consistency

Whether you are writing a blog post for your company blog, a comment on an industry community site, posting a video to YouTube or a tweet on Twitter, your brand needs to have consistency of voice.

This gives your audience a sense of trust and comfort when connecting with you online. If you have an industry authoritative voice on your organization’s blog but a mostly silly and not very credible voice on Twitter, it will confuse people and certainly hurt your credibility.

Is it really that simple to create a credible voice for your organization online?

Yeah, pretty much.

Sure, there are lots more granular things to think about (details, details), and you may prioritize things a bit differently, but the five key points above will get you a long way to a strong online voice and a meaningful relationship with your audience.

Victoria Harres is Director of Audience Development for PR Newswire and the lead voice on @PRNewswire64

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Tips And Tactics for Managing PR Through Social Media

This summer I was asked by Tim Moore to speak at SocialCrush, a nuts and bolts social business conference for small to medium sized companies. Tim asked me if I could talk about how PR has changed because of social media, along with the things businesses need to consider in doing PR in this new environment.

At its core, PR really hasn’t changed much. We are still an industry of communication. It’s only the tools and opportunities for engaging the audience that have changed.


Here are some of the highlights from my presentation:

Audience Relations (Huge! opportunity through social networks.)

  • Use Twitter to find journalists and bloggers in your target industry
  • Read what they are reading and what they are writing
  • Help promote their work to build relationships
  • Target ‘your’ influencers, but remember they are not necessarily the people with the highest Klout scores or the most Twitter followers

Listen

  • To what your industry is saying
  • To what your customers are saying
  • To the media and bloggers are saying
  • To what others are saying about you
  • To what others say about your competitors
  • To what others say about your industry

Create sharable press releases

  • Write tweetable headlines
  • Use anchor text with links that lead back to your site, to your product
  • Optimize your release for search
  • Include multimedia which is proven to make your releases more sharable
  • Make sure your release is super sharable with social buttons
  • Don’t forget to share your own releases!

Break a press release down for sharing and post accordingly on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Flikr, etc.

  • Quotes
  • Stats
  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Slides
  • Audio

Crisis management

  • Crises now happen in real time – have a plan for action in real time
  • Use your social channels to communicate in real time throughout a crisis
  •  Be aware that little issues can become a full blown crisis on channels like Twitter if not handled appropriately and in a timely manner

And don’t forget the greatest gift of social media: the opportunity to humanize your brand. Use social channels to connect on a human level with your clients and others in your industry. It’s now time for truly ‘public’ relations.

Author Victoria Harres is PR Newswire’s director of audience development and the voice of @PRNewswire.

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Flipboard as a Content Reflection Tool

The Flipboard rendition of the @prnewswire Twitter feed

You did everything by the book. Your company now has a Facebook page, a Twitter account, photos on Flickr, an active blog with contributors from throughout your organization, and a multitude of other social media presences that you track on an Excel sheet with columns for IDs and passwords.

You work hard coordinating a fresh flow of content to these networks and deserve a like, a +1 and a follow. You’re doing well, my friend.

But when was the last time you stopped and took a good long look at yourself in the proverbial mirror?

As marketers, we start tweeting,blogging and sharing with a certain business intent, but it’s easy to keep cranking out content while getting quite lost or side-tracked from your original objectives.

Sometimes you have to stop and look back to see where you’re going.

Not long after I got my iPad last year I downloaded the popular app Flipboard. If you’re not familiar with it, Flipboard collects content from social networks and displays it in magazine fashion.

One of the first things I connected to my Flipboard was @PRNewswire, and I was immediately struck by the fact that my content looked like a real publication.

I was mesmerized by it.

Sitting in my armchair with my feet up on a Saturday morning, I got a fresh perspective on what @PRNewswire had become, and it actually helped clarify what I wanted it to be. I knew all along that I wanted it to be super informative about issues in our industry, but until that Saturday morning I really didn’t have a clear concept of how it was coming across.

For the most part, I was successful in creating something that was a combination trade publication and meetup, but it wasn’t perfect. The “not working” bits became glaringly obvious in this format, making it much easier for me to adjust.

Now I stop regularly and look back through the Flipboard looking glass.

Along with Twitter, try looking at your Facebook, blog, Flickr, Instagram or anything else you have with an RSS feed through Flipboard. To add, just click on the “More” tab and do a search. Flipboard will give you available options.

Through Flipboard I learned how to balance content to provide a more pleasant experience for the reader, creating something I, myself would want to read, in my armchair on a Saturday morning.

Let me know what you learn.

Author Victoria Harres is PR Newswire’s director of audience development and the voice of @PRNewswire.

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Five Key Elements of Community Management & Crowdsourcing

Daniel Honigman and Len Kendall of the The3six5 Project.

“A great tool for community management is guilt.” - Len Kendall, Better Crowdsourcing: Lessons Learned from #the3six5 Project, SXSW 2011.

When Len said those words, I reached for my iPad.  A new tool, I thought. Then the room started laughing and I froze. Ah, guilt! As in that very traditional tool used by mothers everywhere for thousands of years.

Len went on to explain that he didn’t mean badgering people, but simply making sure that people understand that the  community is depending on them. They can’t let the community down.

Having participated in The3six5 project in 2010 I knew exactly what he meant.

The3six5, nominated for a 2011 Webby Award, recorded the year 2010 with 365 stories told by 365 different writers. I penned April 23rd. The only rule was to tell about your day from your perspective, rather than some general news report. The results were varied and fascinating to read. In a way, the3six5 recorded history in a much more authentic way than history books will ever aspire to.

Responsibility
Len and his brilliant partner on this project Daniel Honigman were quite successful in giving each participant, or community member responsibility for their day. I can attest to having felt a great sense of responsibility over my assignment. Others were counting on me to do my small part to make this project work.

Tight Deadlines
I heard something similar at a SXSW panel for Star Wars Uncut. The community managers for that project, which assigned 15 second scenes from the movie to fans around the world for re-filming in their own creative ways – a monumental undertaking –  said they managed by keeping people to tight deadlines and impressing upon individuals that the project was depending on them.

One Emmy later and there is no question that Casey Pugh, Jamie Wilkinson, and Annelise Pruitt succeeded in managing a ‘very’ large community. If you haven’t checked out their project you should.

Credit
June Cohen of TED, who also presented about crowdsourcing and community at SXSW said something that should ring as ‘duh,’ but is oh so worth a reminder. She said you have to give people credit for their work. Not only is it the right thing to do, but people will also take greater pride and have a deeper sense of responsibility over their contribution when their name and a link to their personal site is provided.

Clear goal
Perhaps most important, June reminded us that to gather a community and inspire contribution, you have to have a clear goal that people will get excited about.

Engagement
Another thing I remember distinctly from being part of the3six5 community is that Daniel and Len kept everyone talking. Now and then one would direct message me on Twitter and ask if I would help promote another writer or would reach out to thank me for promoting the project.

In short, they kept me engaged the entire year of the project and I’m sure they did the same with others. Clever!

I would love to hear your thoughts on good community management practices and crowdsourcing.

Author Victoria Harres is PR Newswire’s director of audience development.

Scaling a Brand Twitter Presence To a Growing Community

The @prnewswire Twitter team: (l-r) Brett Savage, Tom Hynes, Vicky Harres, Christine Cube

The following comes from a presentation I had the pleasure of making last week at Web 2.0 in San Francisco about the need for careful planning to scale a brand Twitter account to a growing following.

There was a time, when I first started tweeting as @PRNewswire when the account was very intimate. The community was intimate. The people I followed and those who followed me were all part of the same industry in some way. We got to know each other quite well. I read ‘everything’ people posted.

Because I could.

I read every bio of every twitterer that followed @PRNewswire so that I could understand my audience. I spent countless evenings and Saturdays doing this. It took until around follower number 2000 before I threw up my hands and decided it was no longer possible to do this. There were just too many new followers per day to keep up.

But it was a valuable lesson in understanding that audience and I don’t regret it for a moment. On a regular basis I still look through bios of recent followers to keep myself clued-in to who this community is made up of and who I am communicating with.

Community

At some point along the way I realized the followers of @prnewswire on Twitter were not an audience. We are a community. We share information, promote each other, cheer each other on and do favors for each other. When we meet in real life we often hug each other as if we were long lost friends. Pen pals meeting for the first time.

I sometimes miss that intimate community of my early days on Twitter, when the most followed person had around 20,000 followers, which may have been everyone on Twitter.

When PR Newswire reached 1000 followers it was a really big deal. We put out a news release! A multimedia release that included a video of me talking about why PR Newswire was on Twitter. We gave $1000 to the charity of choice of follower number 1000.

Things were intimate then and I really didn’t have any big aspirations about having a large following. To be honest I thought the fairly quick growth in the first four months to 1000 was a fluke. Surely it would take at least another year to hit 2000.

I’m not sure anyone foresaw the rapid growth of Twitter that would affect all our following.

Procedures

As the followers for @prnewswire grew so did my need for structure to manage the needs of my community. I started by dividing the community into groups by creating columns on a dashboard. I made decisions about what was truly useful tweeting and what was fluff or filler. I pared down and honed my content to only that which was the most useful to the community.

I started using scheduling for PR Newswire promotional tweets to both save time on something that would be very repetitious and to make sure I was spreading them out appropriately and not annoying people.

Eventually I realized I couldn’t continue managing this community on my own and enlisted the help of the three people that were already part of my audience development team at PRN. They took to it quickly aided by some guidelines I put in place for content management, engagement, editorial duties, customer service, promotions, scheduling and how to deal with crises big and small.

Humanity

People have asked me what the biggest challenge is to serving a large following for a brand on Twitter. Most think it would be customer service, but actually it’s keeping the authenticity of the voice, keeping the human touch. The greatest gift of Twitter to a brand is the opportunity to humanize it. As the following grows and the demands on the person behind the Twitter account grow, the biggest challenge is just keeping that human touch present.

If Twitter is done well, personality will replace the brand logo.

Author Victoria Harres is PR Newswire’s director of audience development.  She’s also the author of the free white paper: The Straight Tweet: Giving Voice to a Brand .