On Tuesday I had the pleasure of welcoming Alex Nicholson, social media strategist at USA TODAY, to Ogilvy Washington’s offices to speak about the intersection of mainstream and social media.
According to Nielsen, Americans spend 23% of their online time using social media—that’s almost three times more time than they spend on email (8%). Among other things, social media is increasingly serving as a gateway to the mainstream media, with Facebook the #7 referrer to USA TODAY’s website.
Alex shared several best practices for public relations practitioners using social media to reach their audiences:
- Know which segments of your audience are using each platform. Some key demographics of Twitter and Facebook users are vastly different, and identifying who you will reach through specific social media platforms is key to engagement.
- Test what the audience likes and tailor content to their preferences. When asked what audiences responded to on Twitter versus Facebook, Alex noted that Twitter is ideal for breaking news and updates, while Facebook is ideal for good news and heartwarming stories.
- Get creative and try new platforms. USA TODAY Tech sponsors Fark.com’s geek tab. While Fark is not as well known as many other platforms, it has a dedicated, extremely engaged audience.
- Monitor your brand. Alex emphasized the importance of knowing what is being said about your brand online. She recommended using the Air Force’s Web Posting Response Assessment, which is a flow chart that has been lauded as a guide to determine appropriate responses for various web postings.
- Use social media to make things easier. USA TODAY’s #AmericaWants campaign, which encouraged charities to tweet in order to win a full-page ad, worked because it presented a very low barrier of entry for participants. Charities simply had to tweet to enter, and encourage their followers and supporters to tweet on their behalf.
- Use numbers. Alex’s presentation included supporting numbers, graphics, and statistics that validated her points. Finding a way to capture and analyze the numbers behind social media success can help ensure that it is supported throughout an organization.
Most importantly, it is crucial for public relations practitioners to stay abreast of how social media is changing journalism. Journalists are using social media more than ever– to find sources for their stories, conduct research, communicate with their readers. Alex’s blog, social.usatoday.com, and the Nieman Journalism Lab are great places to start.