Social Media Update: January 5

Social media steps onto the pitcher’s mound

You’ve probably heard about the new pitcher in town—known broadly as Social Media. Social Media’s average pitching success rate is quickly building and, in some cases, exceeding that of its competitors—telephone and even e-mail. The audience, known as the Reporters, who were once some of Social Media’s biggest critics, are now starting (slowly but surely) to switch seats and cheer for Social Media.

In fact, according to a recent survey, 85 percent of journalists find media pitches and story ideas they receive from public relations professionals very or somewhat useful.

But, it’s all about strategy. Twitter and Facebook can be extremely effective for pitching stories to members of the media, but like in sports, you have  to show up for practice and take the time you need to build relationships with fellow teammates and fans.

A perfect social media pitch can be tough to craft—but, without doubt, it can score you a home run story. Here are some great tips for pitching media on Twitter—and these rules carry over to Facebook, too. Although pitching for the two networks is different, the basic rules are the same:

  • Develop and strengthen your online brand first. Take time to build an online presence and interact with fans and followers before going out for the pitch. No reporter is going to trust a brand that doesn’t seem to have credibility.
  • Foster relationships with reporters. What is the likelihood that you are going to respond to a message (especially via social media) from someone you don’t know—or even have just interacted with once or twice? Highly unlikely. Take time to friend and follow reporters on social media. Introduce yourself and your brand. Engage with them. Then, when you send them a pitch, they’re much less likely to hit “delete”—or worse “unfriend” or “unfollow.”
  • Stay on topic. This goes back to the PR basics: Don’t pitch off-topic. Just because a reporter works in news and likes to accept social media pitches doesn’t mean that they want to be pitched news about recipes when they work in fashion. Seems like a “duh” – but you’d be surprised what happens if you don’t do your research first.
  • Be personal. When e-mailing a pitch, you don’t publicly include the e-mail address of every reporter, coworker, friend and family member on the message (if you do, we have a whole different set of issues).  Same goes for social media. Don’t post a pitch on a reporter’s Facebook wall for his or her entire network to see, and, similarly, don’t tweet it to them—instead, send a private message, known on Twitter as a DM (direct message).

Now, to say that all reporters are fans of social media when it comes to pitching would be a lie. Some reporters claim they don’t have time to use social media or are so overwhelmed by everything they receive via the networks that they simply can’t keep track of what’s what. Here are some other criticisms.

It all goes back to the basics: Know who you’re pitching and how they play the game. Be strategic. Get to the point (you may only have 140 characters). Unfortunately, there is no “three strikes rule” in media pitching.

Facebook Pages: What and Why

We all know what Facebook is—it’s that one social network started by that young guy who apparently stole the idea from these other guys and now he’s rich and the site receives more visits per day than Google—which makes the Big G want to indulge in retail therapy and gobble up some more websites so it’s No. 1 again.

It’s a vicious cycle.

What we might not all know about Facebook, or not fully understand, is that it is an enormously important marketing tool. These days, if a company doesn’t have a website, it often should probably have a back-up plan because it might not last long. If a company has a website but not a Facebook page, it just might have missed the memo that the year is now 2011. That may sound harsh, but it’s a fact that cannot be ignored—especially when developing PR and marketing strategies.

So, what’s a Facebook page? According to Facebook, is a public profie. Pages give a voice to any public figure or organization to join the conversation with Facebook users.

Anyone who has a personal Facebook profile knows that connections made on the site are known as “friends,” and friends’ updates show up on the home “Newsfeed.” However, no one can become friends with a Facebook page—instead, they “like” a page. Once they do, a page’s updates show up in that user’s newsfeed and they are added to the page’s list of “likers.”

Are you friends with businesses and organizations? Maybe, but not for much longer. Facebook is not allowing anyone who is not a living person (or animal, judging from the numerous cats and dogs I am friends with) to have a profile—here’s a full explanation as to why a company needs a page over a profile.

How do you create a page? It’s not hard, but it can be tricky the first time around. To help you out, here is a step-by-step guide to creating and promoting Facebook pages. And, for some added inspiration, take a peek at some of the best page strategies of 2010 and the pages that use them.

Just beware: This whole process could change next week. Facebook has a way of doing that. Stay tuned.

Handling bad, ugly, no-good, very bad comments

Social media has opened up countless doors for businesses and organizations to connect with consumers, build brand support and recognition and share relevant content. But, naturally, along with those opportunities comes risk—in many cases, the risk of negative feedback for the world to see.

In most cases negative social media posts are instantly visible—one bad Facebook comment often sparks a flurry of equally not-so-nice comments. Or, there may be that one person who just feels it is necessary to write vulgar words on a Facebook post for thousands of other people to see. Both of these examples are a very real fear and have caused many to shy away from using social media at all.

Knowing how to handle the ugly with the good is key for social media success—just think of it as a social media crisis plan. As PR people, we know these can be just about as important as the building fire escape plan.

There are different ways to handle the various types of negative comments that crop up. The good news? Much of the feedback is often similar and correspondingly requires similar responses.

Here are some tips on how to deal with haters and bad language on Facebook. (Note: These tips are written for media newsrooms but certainly can be applied to others)

Here is an example of one of the most common scenarios (tailored especially for CMA):

An agricultural membership organization posts a link about how the products its members produce are safe and high-quality food choices for American consumers.

A hater steps in and leaves a comment ranting about how that is completely untrue and, given past events, that food product is clearly unsafe and will cause consumers to get sick—even die!!

(Who are haters? They bash the organization visibly on Facebook walls, Twitter posts and blog comments. Anywhere they can get. There is little anyone can do to change what they think, they have their minds made up and are going to take whatever opportunity they can to get a bad word in.)

So, what should the correct response be to that comment?

  • A. Delete it immediately upon seeing it.
  • B. Respond.
  • C. Leave it and hope no one sees it.

Answer: B. Respond. Did you hear that? RESPOND.

Don’t get into an argument with the hater. Instead, post facts backing up why the product in question is safe and what its producers are doing to ensure it is safe. Be honest. Provide links to legitimate facts and research proving this point. Also, importantly, be careful to stay positive and professional in your response; otherwise you’ll just add fuel to the fire.

Why not delete it? As was mentioned above, social media is instant. Other users will see the comment and might already have by the time it is deleted, and it is not good to look like the organization is hiding anything or censoring its messages.

Don’t just leave it. Nothing ever comes from just hoping bad things magically go away. That’s when the fire can really get started. Like when handling any crisis, quick response is vital. Clear up any misconceptions as soon as possible so they don’t blow up and hatch even more. (See: How Not to Handle a Social Media PR Nightmare (Thanks Chipotle))

Silver lining to negative feedback: It can actually be a great discussion-starter and a way to clear up myths that other users just have not voiced yet. Also, it can help an organization identify where it needs to improve.

More resources:

5 Tips for Dealing with Complaints on Twitter

Battling Bad Press in the Social Media Arena

How to Deal With Negative Feedback in Social Media

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