Category Archives: Content PR & Marketing

Content PR and content marketing are redefining how brands communicate with audiences. Inbound tactics featuring content that answers audience needs attract attention and create gravitational pull for a brand.

Measurement & Connection: Takeaways from the PRSA International Conference

Brian Solis maps the future of PR. Image via Vanessa Bravo (@vanessabravoCR)

Brian Solis maps the future of PR. Image via Vanessa Bravo (@vanessabravoCR)

This year’s PRSA International Conference in Philadelphia reprised many themes common to public relations, but with a new twist.  The influences of social media, content marketing and digital marketing measurement were common threads, linking discussions about pitching, strategy and measurement.  There’s a good reason for this – digital activities are incredibly measurable, and our peers in marketing gleaning spectacular amounts of insight about audience interests and behavior from their data, and that data is impacting other communications practices.

Communications success starts and ends with the audience.

“If you keep trying to earn relevance, you will always matter,” said Brian Solis in his keynote, summarizing neatly what many other presenters before him emphasized.  Developing understanding of what your audience is interested in, and using that context as the framework for brand messages, is the key to creating content that people will read, share with their social networks, and act upon.

However, developing understanding of the audience requires us to get comfortable with data analysis, noted Stephen Loudermilk (@loudyoutloud), director, media and industry analyst relations, LexisNexis, in his presentation titled, “Using Big Data and Analytics to Increase PR and Marketing Brand Awareness.”  According to a stat from Ragan Communications, 54% of PR people don’t know what big data is.  This is disconcerting, as another study titled “Analytics: The New Path to Value,” conducted jointly by the MIT Sloan Management Review and IBM Institute for Business Value, revealed that top performing organizations use analytics five times more than lower performing organizations.

Social amplification of content matters.

Brian Solis noted that 77% of consumers are more likely to buy a product when it’s recommended by an advocate, and we all know that social networks are hotbeds of personal connections and recommendations. However, there’s another important reason why developing relevant social interaction with PR content should be a priority. Seven of the top ten search engine ranking factors according to a study this summer by SearchMetrics are derived from social interaction.  

When you think about it, this isn’t surprising.  If a network of savvy, connected people with a similar interest all find a piece of content valuable, and they share that content with their personal networks, it’s easy to see how those actions can be interpreted by search engines as a measure of the value of that content.

Link PR to real business outcomes

“As PR pros, we need to recalibrate our thinking to understand how what we’re doing helps achieve one or more of these things,” insisted Shonali Burke (@shonali) in her session with Heidi Sullivan (@hksully) titled, “Building Your Bottom Line: Integrated Communications Strategies That Work. “We need to ask ourselves: What are we trying to do, and why is it important?”

It’s also time to stop reaching for equivalencies in measurement strategies.  There was some talk about “ad cost equivalencies” supplanting AVEs as a metric PR should be tallying.   However, ACEs (and AVEs) both fail to quantify the value of recommendation and reputation that a good PR message also conveys.  For this reason, and because digital media are incredibly measurable, I believe that PR should focus on linking communications activities to business outcomes, and learn how to correlate ongoing activities and interactions with those outcomes.

Evolving media platforms …. Is PR keeping up?

My own session was devoted to the evolution of media models and news coverage, and what PR needs to do to keep up with those developments.  Media outlets are developing apps, creating infographics and shooting video on the fly.  We have to ask ourselves if we’re providing the right sort of data and content that will work in these evolved presentations of news.  Failing to do so means that our brands will miss valuable opportunities for exposure.

The setting in Philadelphia provided a nice analogue for public relations.  On the one hand, Philly is steeped in history and tradition; however, it’s far from stagnant.   The city has reinvented itself as a foodie and culture mecca, inviting new demographics to discover what it offers.    There are good lessons in Philly’s success for the practice of public relations.

For some additional ideas on developing relevant public relations and marketing content for your organization, download my free ebook, “Driving Content Discovery.” In it you’ll find tips, examples and ideas for improving the discoverability of your content by making it more timely and relevant to your audiences.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the newly-published ebook  New School Press Release TacticsFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

 

The Media Evolution: Is Your Content Keeping Up?

suntimes iphotogs

In response to sea changes in how people find, consume and share information, traditional media outlets are retooling their newsrooms and evolving their coverage.   Despite the still-challenging economic environment, many outlets are investing heavily on people and technology, in order to deliver a news product that satisfies audience appetites for rich visuals, tablet-friendly design and up-to-the minute reporting.  This begs the question: is PR content keeping up? lil tweet

PRSA attendees: Visit PR Newswire at booth 401 for fun photos & prizes, and mark Sarah’s session (Tuesday morning, 8 a.m.) on your calendars.

Outlets are creating expansive digital teams of reporters, web editors, social media managers, data specialists, designers, photographers, app developers and mobile editors.   They’re also requiring journalists to learn new skills and produce content in a variety of formats.

The Chicago Sun-Times offers an extreme example.  The venerable paper laid off its entire staff of photographers earlier this year, electing instead to equip and train reporters to shoot and edit photos and video using iPhones.

Can a reporter, newly trained in creating visuals, provide the paper with same sort of visual storytelling and evocative images that a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer once did?  Of course not.  But that’s not the point.
PRSAoneworld

Attend the Newsworthiness: New Context & Opportunities for PR session at the PRSA International Conference, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 8–9:15 a.m. Room: Franklin 3 (Hotel Floor 4)

Spectacular images gracing the front page of papers and the covers of magazines drove newsstand sales – once a core revenue stream for print media.  As newsstand sales dwindle, those images offered less return to the Sun-Times.   Digital content and news cycles running at the speed of the internet changed the game.  The timeliness of an image is more important today than its composition or artistry.  The Sun-Times determined that a fleet of reporters armed with iPhones are better equipped to deliver the visual content the organization needs to compete in today’s media environment.

These changes at the Sun-Times, and at other news outlets across the US, beg an important question of PR pros:  Is the content your organization produces meeting the needs of your key media outlets – and your digital audiences? Visual content – images, video and graphics – are all eagerly consumed by digital newsrooms, and by journalists who curate topical content on blogs and social network presences.     And the underpinnings of visuals – facts, figures, processes, trends and other information that lends itself well to visual illustration is particularly useful.   Look at the front page of every issue of USA Today, and you’ll see a mini infographic in the USA Snapshots section.

In order to earn media coverage – and attention in social networks – visuals are almost a requirement, and can certainly help boost the coverage and social media attention a story generates.

If you’re in Philadelphia for PRSA, attend my session, Newsworthiness: New Context & Opportunities for PR,  tomorrow morning (10/29, 8 a.m., room – Franklin 3) 

For some additional ideas on developing relevant public relations and marketing content for your organization, download my free ebook, “Driving Content Discovery.” In it you’ll find tips, examples and ideas for improving the discoverability of your content by making it more timely and relevant to your audiences.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the newly-published ebook  New School Press Release TacticsFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

Redefining Newsworthiness & Finding New Opportunity for PR

PRSA attendees: Visit PR Newswire at booth 401 for fun photos & prizes, and mark Sarah's session (Tuesday morning, 8 a.m.) on your calendars.

PRSA attendees: Visit PR Newswire at booth 401 for fun photos & prizes, and mark Sarah’s session (Tuesday morning, 8 a.m.) on your calendars.

As media paradigms and economics have shifted, arguably so has the very nature of news. Certainly, a big story – one that shapes markets and opinions – is still a big story.  However, a quick look at industry publications and the web sites of some of the biggest news outlets today reveals a shift in coverage, and it’s not so subtle. Media are aligning coverage with what interests their audiences, not the other way around. lil tweet

An extreme example of this is the  coverage that CNN devoted to Miley Cyrus’ controversial performance at the VMAs, despite the fact that the political situation in Syria was coming to a head at the same time.   CNN – a leading outlet by anyone’s measure –  devoted its front-page to Cyrus’ spectacle, rather than the violence breaking out in the Middle East.

PRSAoneworldAttend the Newsworthiness: New Context & Opportunities for PR session at the PRSA International Conference, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 8–9:15 a.m. Room: Franklin 3 (Hotel Floor 4)

Why was that the case? Simple. More people are interested in (and in the ensuing days would be searching) for information relating to Cyrus’ performance rather than the situation in Syria.  From a web traffic – and ad dollars – perspective, the Cyrus story was the clear choice.

News outlets have to make calculated decisions about what they cover. There’s a balance between serving the stories they know audiences are interested in, are searching for and are likely to share on social networks. On the flipside of that coin are the less sexy stories– those covering foreign policy or local government, for example.  I don’t think anyone of us would deny that those types of stories are really important. However, let’s face it– in most cases they don’t set readers interest aflame, and they don’t generate the sort of click throughs, search engine traffic and social buzz that a good celebrity scandal does.

Lessons for PR: redefining news 

Within this reality are some important lessons for public relations.

One of the most important, I believe, is rethinking what our definition of news is. In addition to the big announcements relating to events that impact our organizations top lines, we have to be thinking about what audiences are into interested in our day-to-day basis, as well.

Maintaining a constant flow of interesting content is crucial if your organization wants to stay top of mind and today’s digital environment, however, this exercise requires PR to re-think messaging strategy, and expand the definition of news, just as media outlets have, to encompass content that educates and informs the audience.  Developing a stream of useful information keeps the brand top of mind, and wins valuable share of voice for the brand around key topics.

If you’re in Philadelphia for PRSA, attend my session, Newsworthiness: New Context & Opportunities for PR,  tomorrow morning (10/29, 8 a.m., room – Franklin 3) 

For some additional ideas on developing relevant public relations and marketing content for your organization, download my free ebook, “Driving Content Discovery.” In it you’ll find tips, examples and ideas for improving the discoverability of your content by making it more timely and relevant to your audiences.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the newly-published ebook  New School Press Release TacticsFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

How Cross-Channel Storytelling Engages Broad Audiences

honda drive in

One example of a campaign that incorporated storytelling was Honda’s “Project Drive-In.”

Yesterday’s Variety Entertainment and Technology Summit, held in Marina del Rey, CA, brought together a powerhouse panel that focused on the role of storytelling in today’s media environment.  Top digital marketers and their technology partners across the entertainment and brand landscape discussed campaigns that are making an impact now.

Moderated by David Hayes (@heydch), Entertainment Evangelist, Tumblr, the panel was thick with heavy hitters from impressive brands.

  • Bettina Sherick (@bettina), Senior Vice President, International Strategic Digital Marketing Twentieth Century Fox
  • Malcolm De Leo (@innovationmuse), Chief Evangelist, NetBase
  • Alicia Jones (@aliciajones), Manager and Head of Social Media, American Honda Corporation
  • David Gibbons(@gibbosf), VP Product Marketing Ustream
  • Nicolaus Beraudo, EVP Worldwide Sales, GM US, App Annie
  • Jared Hoffman, EVP Content and Programming Partnerships, Alloy Digital

The panel first gave a nod to their favorite brands.  They ranged from some long standing, tech-oriented brands like Sony and EA Sports to retail and apparel giant Nike as well as the uber successful sandbox indie game, Minecraft. The most interesting brand mention was Star Wars.  Jared Hoffman explained that he is fascinated by how it has come to mean many things to many people.  It has now engaged at least two generations, showing its enduring tale has serious staying power – - it has has infiltrated Angry Birds and is currently featured in a Verizon commercial.

Alicia Jones gave two very powerful examples of Honda campaigns that made good use of storytelling.  “Million Mile Joe” is a real person whose Honda was just about to tip the odometer over 999,999 miles. This story was brought to Honda’s attention by Joe’s local dealer in Maine.  It was an organic, authentic customer story– easy to tell and easy to digest.  Moderator David Hayes basically defined a successful campaign by having brand pillar messaging hidden inside a consumer story, like “Million Mile Joe”.  See the campaign here: http://www.rpa.com/portfolio/honda-million-mile-joe_surprise-parade/

In the same vein, Bettina Sherick elaborated on 20th Century Fox’s  “Life of Pi” promotion  using Yahoo!’s contributor network and encouraging the telling of real-life accounts of heroism, stories of overcoming adversity and inspirational vignettes in the same vein of the award-winning film.  This resulted in editorial impressions and many levels of engagement via comments and sharing.

Another great story from Honda was one that PR Newswire was proud to play a part in executing.  Project Drive-In was created by Honda and tapped into the major challenge of drive-in movie theater’s conversion to digital projection.  By telling a story integral to American car culture, a car company was able to engage the public with a good emotional draw and maintain a positive message without over commercializing the brand.  Honda used digital delivery, social engagement and traditional press release distribution methods to garner editorial coverage and increase overall exposure.

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/hondas-project-drive-in-helps-save-four-additional-theaters-nine-in-total-continues-fundraising-effort-to-help-others-224840162.html

Overall, the panel seemed to agree on the success of storytelling as a sales tool, but what must be recognized is that the narrative must be told across platforms to drive and sustain audiences throughout the story arc.  Marketers need to embrace the sheer size of the potential audience and it’s important to listen as much, if not more, than you talk.  Malcom De Leo summed it up by reminding us that we live in “post-authoritarian economy” and to a very great extent, the audience controls the success of your message.  So we need to take all this into consideration, sit side-by-side with those audiences and craft a good old fashioned story with a beginning, middle and end.

Author Heather Williams (@heatherw716) is a national broadcast manager with PR Newswire/MultiVu. 

Content We Love: Resorting to Great Content

ContentWeLove“Content We Love” is a weekly feature written by a team of our content specialists. We’re showcasing some of the great content distributed through our channels, and our content specialists are up for the task: they spend a lot of time with the press releases and other content our customers create, proof reading and formatting it, suggesting targeted distribution strategy and offering content optimization advice. In Content We Love, we’re going to shine the spotlight on the press releases and other messages that stood out to us, and we’ll tell you why. We hope you find the releases enjoyable and the insights gained from discussing them enlightening.

Growing up, family vacations were my absolute favorite. We kept a list of the states visited and show-and-tells in school were filled with pictures of pilgrims, museums and nature. So when I saw the release by Holiday Inn Resort about launching a campaign for kids on vacation, I couldn’t help but feel giddy.

The Holiday Inn Resort® Brand Launches Kid Classified Campaign

The headline is pithy and intriguing. I couldn’t help but find out what “Kid Classified” meant. Within the reasons for having a dynamic headline, readers taking action to read the release is paramount.

But center stage and stealing the spotlight is the infographic. I absolutely love infographics because it combines two great things: visuals and content. What a great way to showcase the results of a survey, Holiday Inn Resorts!

Within the great content and engaging language of the release also contained bullet points. Bullet points are the breath of proverbial fresh air; they break up chunks of text. This aids for optimal readability because it lets the reader hone in on important information and not skim.

After reading this release I couldn’t help but reminisce on my incredible childhood traveling and also yearning to travel even more. It is always a joy to read such great content! A big thank you to Holiday Inn Resorts for providing an excellent press release.

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-holiday-inn-resort-brand-launches-kid-classified-campaign-225178642.html

Author Emily Nelson is a Customer Content Specialist for PR Newswire. Follow her adventures on www.bellesandawhistle.wordpress.com or on twitter www.twitter.com/emilyannnelson.

4 Keys to Creating Hummingbird-Friendly Content

Summary:  Google is emphasizing conversational search with its new Hummingbird search algorithm, placing a premium on relevant content in response to vast numbers of unique search queries, as well as the increasing shift to mobile search.  Here are four ways content creators and PR pros can build relevance into their content creation strategies. 

By now you’ve probably heard the news that Google quietly dropped a new algorithm into their search engine a couple months ago.  Christened “Hummingbird,” for its speed and precision, the new algorithm rolled out smoothly and didn’t create real waves in the search community, which is surprising given the scope of the change (which could be compared to putting a whole new engine into a car.) However, the fact that the change was a quiet one doesn’t mean that it didn’t bring significant new changes.

Google is focusing on what they call “conversational search,” and Hummingbird is delivering better answers for longer, more detailed queries.   Essentially, Google just raised the bar on relevance.lil tweet  As their search engine algorithms drill more deeply into the context of searches, less-relevant content drops out of search results.

“Rather than just examining each individual word in a search, Google is now examining the searcher’s query as a whole and processing the meaning behind it,” writes Jeremy Hall in a post on Wired titled Google Hummingbird: Where No Search has Gone Before. “Previously, Google (and most other search engines) used more of a “brute force” approach of looking at the individual words in a search and returning results that matched those words individually and as a whole. Now Google is focusing on context and trying to understand user’s intent in order to deliver more relevant results and better answers.”

There are a few reasons why Google is paying attention to longer, conversational search queries.  Every day, about 15% of the searches (that’s about 500 million) people plug into Google’s engine are new, representing combinations of words never before seen by Google.    Hummingbird takes aim at improving search results by answering the questions behind the queries, rather than simply returning lists of potentially relevant results.   And as people increasingly move toward using mobiles and tablets to do searches, the nature of searches are changing.  People are dictating search queries, creating a whole new dynamic.  And mobile searches continue to increase, as people increasingly look for information that will help them out moment to moment.

Herein is the opportunity for content creators.  Recalibrating content, and employing a laser-focus on publishing information that is useful to audiences is crucial to successful content and public relations campaigns and capture valuable long-tail and in-the-moment opportunities.

There’s more to developing relevant messaging than sprinkling keywords throughout the copy, however.   Search engines are good at understanding context, and also place value on the relative popularity of digital information.

Here are four keys to creating content nectar for Google’s new Hummingbird:

  • Highlight the questions a new product answers in a press release.  Turn your headline into a value statement that answers the question, “What is the most important thing this product/event/announcement does for my audience?”
  • Mine your organization’s web analytics to identify content gaps and opportunities.  What keywords are people using to get to your web site?   What content is most popular?   Are there any obvious
  • Questions are queries.  Talk to your front-line teams, and find out what questions customers are asking.  Use those questions to frame content, and imbue materials like press releases with relatable and relevant information.
  • One product may have different value propositions that appeal to different audiences.  Surface different messages by tweeting the specifics, highlighting them in an infographic and calling them out in a bulleted list in text copy.

Building audience interest and a customer focus into every message – especially owned media like press releases – will help generate visibility for the content over time, as people hunt for specific information online.  Organizations that learn to do this well will fare well in the Hummingbird’s realm.  On the flip side, content that doesn’t attract visitors, inspire social sharing, answer questions or serve audience needs will drop from view.  In fact, metrics relating to online reads, social shares and ongoing popularity are among the KPIs content and PR programs should use to measure results, and keep content programs on track.

For some additional ideas on developing relevant public relations and marketing content for your organization, download our free ebook, “Driving Content Discovery.” In it you’ll find tips, examples and ideas for improving the discoverability of your content by making it more timely and relevant to your audiences.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the newly-published ebooks  New School Press Release TacticsFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

Multi-channel distribution of multimedia content drives results

sodexo caseThe lines between marketing and PR are blurring, as social media and content marketing continue grow in importance. The reasons for these changes are many, including the evolution of the media environment, changes in how people find and consume information, how search engines index and serve up results and the swift adoption of mobile devices and tablets by both consumers and business decision makers.

“Shift your mindset from news-making to conversation-joining.” lil tweet

audinece at the centerCommunications tactics have evolved, and a great example of a blended approach that reaches audiences in new ways – and achieves new outcomes for the brand – is Sodexo’s use of PR Newswire’s ARC engagement platform to reposition the brand as a quality of life provider, reflecting the company’s expansive portfolio of services.

To capitalize upon the publication of the company’s annual “Workplace Trends Report,” the Sodexo team worked with PR Newswire’s MultiVu division to create and host a variety of content elements within an ARC.

 

sodexo case mnr

The ARC is essentially a custom microsite, albeit with an important twist.  Dynamic, multi-channel distribution of the content housed in the ARC is built into the platform.  The result?  The Sodexo ARC provided an in-bound microsite, designed specifically for the brand’s target audience.  But with content distribution built into the platform, the ARC also provided strong outbound traffic to Sodexo web properties.

“The ARC functioned much differently in this respect than our corporate web site,” noted Stacey Bowman-Hade, director of public relations for Sodexo. “I think the ARC is a great tool for combining your marketing and public relations efforts. If you have similar goals in marketing and public relations for pushing out different pieces of content, the ARC is a very good tool for the collaboration of those departments in achieving the same goals.”

And in an interesting twist, the company’s sales team found another application for the ARC, using it as a ‘mobile app’ enabling them to engage customers with highly visual thought-leadership content.

The ARC delivered a variety of results for the company, including increased awareness of the company’s new positioning, and even more importantly, engagement and conversation around those efforts, in addition to significant media visibility.

“To date, we’ve seen 56 million impressions that the ARC has given us just in content, and that is across many media outlets,” said Kevin Rettle, director of marketing at Sodexo. “I think more importantly, when you look at traditional strategies, the quality of the content that we’ve delivered is much higher; for us, it is so much more about the ability to stay top of mind with a client with research and true thought leadership rather than just flat and static advertising.”

Read the full case study, along with interviews of the Sodexo team and view Sodexo’s ARC here:  Using a Campaign Microsite Presence to Establish Industry Thought Leadership

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the newly-published ebooks  New School Press Release Tactics and Driving Content Discovery. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

Your Audience Knows Best: Content Format

A conversation I had yesterday with a PR textbook author got me thinking about our habits and the tactics we employ to communicate with our audiences. We were talking about digital storytelling, and the conversation turned to multimedia.

What format should a multimedia press release take, he asked.   I think my answer may have surprised him — and wrecked his chapter outline, to boot.

The format of the content shouldn’t dictate the message.

My answer veered off the path of what I think he expected, because I said that the answer to that question depends upon the audience, and is informed by the assets you have at hand.

You won’t go wrong if  you start with your audience.  Where do they look for information?  Do they gravitate toward a particular social network or digital community?  If so, what sort of content does that audience prefer?   Asking these questions and allowing the answers to inform your content strategy will ensure more effective communications.

Some networks, like Instagram and Pinterest, are built on visuals.  However, visuals are also make messages more effective on networks like Twitter and Facebook. And they carry extra weight with search engines — and speaking of search engines, YouTube is the second largest.  Point is, incorporating visual elements – video, images, downloadable content such as presentation decks or white papers — will ensure your message is available to the denizens of those networks.  Making visual communications a habit will improve communications results.

I don’t like thinking in terms of formats, simply because they discourage people from incorporating multimedia elements if they perceive they don’t have all of the right content lined up.    Instead, allow your audience’s needs to guide development of your content. 

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the newly-published ebooks  New School Press Release Tactics and Driving Content Discovery. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

A 14-Tweet Press Release? Genius.

amazon tweets

Amazon created buzz yesterday among the denizens of Twitter (read: important target market)  when it issued 14 tweets about the new Kindle Fire HDX, earning themselves a lot of extra attention from high-influence, well-connected social media and marketing gurus.

The genius in this story isn’t in the tactic of issuing a spate of tweets.  The genius is in employing tweets in a way that earns the company extra coverage for their broad-appeal product.  lil tweet tweet it!

The approach got me thinking about other opportunities these sorts of tactics offer communicators, especially with respect to visuals. Personally, I would have liked to see more visuals loaded into the tweets.  A beautiful FlipBoard or Storify collection of the brand’s tweets, along with tweets about the resulting media coverage and enthusiastic response from the Twittersphere would make a compelling presentation and give the whole story more continuity, and longer legs.

Lessons for all press release writers from the Amazon Twitter release  

One of the most important lessons from Amazon’s example is how a focused press release should break down into crunchy bullet points.    If you can go through a release, and pull out a dozen pithy and interesting tweets as you skim it, I’d say your content is in pretty good shape.  However, if you find that in your inspect of the copy that you’re hamstrung by run-on sentences or myriad topics from easily extracting a coherent series of tweets that tell the story — well, I’d say that some editing is in order.    Thinking of a story as a series of tweets creates a great framework for press release writers, and builds discipline into the process.

There’s another reason why thinking of press releases in a series of tweets is a good idea – it surfaces information that appeals to niches.

amazon niches

Case in point: I’m not in need of scrolling music lyrics (the words of my favorite 80′s tunes play in my head and that’s almost all I listen to, I admit it) I am a frequent traveler, and I am always interested in smaller gadgets and better batteries.  I’m also tech support for my mom, and I won’t kid you – I looooove the idea of a “mayday” button.  Point is, while a tweet about the lyrics wouldn’t have elicited any notice from me, the others would have.  This is why it’s a good idea to tweet out different nuggets from your press releases (and white papers, and blog posts and ….) rather then just firing out the headline and calling it a day. 

A series of smart tweets derived from your press releases –  if your target audience is on Twitter – is a great way to earn additional visibility for your company messages.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the newly-published ebooks  New School Press Release Tactics and Driving Content Discovery. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

Hashtags are #lame … on Facebook

 

On Twitter, the hashtag #rocks.  On Facebook, not so much.   In fact,   using hashtags is having a negative effect on the visibility of posts on Facebook according to a new study from EdgeRank Checker  (“Hashtags on Facebook Do Nothing to Help Additional Exposure.”)

The function of the hashtag on each social network is broadly similar – one can click on a hashtag to pull up other tweets and posts carrying the same marker.  However, the application of the hashtag differs between the two, which starts to explain why denizens of social networks embrace hashtags on Twitter, but deride them on Facebook.

Same hashtag, different results

On Twitter, generally speaking, hashtags are used as a way to categorize content, functioning almost as an old-school tag.  They provide taxonomy for tweets.  Example:  A search of #cloud pulls up tweets that (for the most part) are about cloud computing.

cloud tweets

Tweets carrying the #cloud hashtag are about cloud computing.

On Facebook – a much larger social network, where posts can be considerably longer than 140 characters, use of hashtags is much more freewheeling.  This probably has to do with the fact that Twitter users are used to using hashtags in a more disciplined way, for the purpose of organizing content, and is aware of the collective ‘whole’ a hashtag creates.  On Facebook, where hashtags are new, many use a hashtag to simply denote emotion or deliver an aside. Searching the same hashtag #cloud on Facebook generates entirely different results.

The #cloud hashtag on Facebook yields a mix of results.

The #cloud hashtag on Facebook yields a mix of results.

Understanding & respecting the differences between social networks

The networks are different, and people use them differently.    Communicators should respect those differences and plan their content accordingly.  Lumping them together is a recipe for wasting time, energy and resource – and diminishing your organizations’ stature in the eyes of your audience.    A savvy move on one network can open your brand to ridicule on another.

A response the EdgerankChecker study elicited from Facebook shed a little more light on hashtags in posts, and the fact that they don’t appear to be helping visibility, insinuating that the use of the hashtags hadn’t been terribly rigorous.

“Pages should not expect to get increased distribution simply by sticking irrelevant hashtags in their posts. The best thing for Pages (that want increased distribution) to do is focus on posting relevant, high quality-content – hashtags or not. Quality, not hashtags, is what our News Feed algorithms look for so that Pages can increase their reach. “(Via The Next Web)

3 ways to guard against being lame on social media 

First, understand nuances between Facebook, Twitter and any other social network your brand uses.  Look to your own behavior. For example – chances are pretty good that you’re active on both Facebook and Twitter.  Do you use the two networks interchangeably?  Probably not.  You’re probably connected to different people, and you use the two networks to share and consume different kinds of information.   In your professional PR or marketing capacity, it’s wise to let some of your personal experiences guide your approach to using social media.

In addition to developing your own savvy on different social networks, there are several other tactics you can employ to help ensure your brand against lameness  in social media, and even more importantly, glean real benefit for your organization across the social sphere, including:

  • Observe conversations.  What topics generate the most interaction?   What topics are being ignored?  As you study the top(ic)ography of your audiences’ online conversations, take note of which topics could be used as a context for brand messaging.
  • Observe content formats.  What kind of content gains the most traction on each network?  Pictures, video? Infographics?   Multimedia content draws and holds audience attention.  Understanding what kinds of content your audience most appreciates will help you create a more effective content strategy.
  • Study popular messages. What kinds of messages are most widely shared?  Tips? Humor? Advice?  This is particularly important, since amplification of messages is a primary benefit social media offers brands.

In retrospect, the advice offered by Facebook is really good guidance.  Don’t use hashtags (or any other mechanism) as an artificial means to garner attention for a message.  Relevance and utility are the foundations of successful digital and social messaging.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the newly-published ebooks  New School Press Release Tactics and Driving Content Discovery. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.