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Using Classic PR Techniques To Support Brands In Social Networks
Marketers nearly all agree that properly published recurrent content feeds, pumped into social channels and Google’s index, serve SEO, branding and public relations stakeholders alike.
Social media channels are huge: 300 million people use Facebook and Twitter alone. Figuring out how to share content and be a good citizen in these networks is easy. Techniques for building distribution networks can be also be quickly mastered. That said, sourcing existing business communications, to facilitate the transition from “traditional” brand PR to social PR, requires planning, guile, guts, commitment and skillful execution.
Brand distribution networks
Social media pros (and tons of everyday users) know how to wire up personal distribution networks spanning Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube and other feeds and feed readers. This simply means recruiting a group of users, spread across social platforms. Give your brand’s “friends” a reason to subscribe to social feed(s). “Social feed” means any content stream where “submit” means publishing by an RSS feed users can subscribe to. In addition it’s great to publish permalinked posts of feed items, for indexing by mainstream search engines.
If 5,000 total unique friends subscribe to a feed, each of them averaging 500 unique friends themselves, then the second degree of separation is 2.5 million users. The theoretical third degree is 1,250,000,000 (yup, that’s 1.25 billion). “Viral” means sharing content your friends think enough of to pass along to theirs… and so on. It only makes sense as a PR channel.
Here are some examples of personal distribution network nodes: LinkedIn users can subscribe to and display feeds in their profile. Blog posts can be pulled into Facebook profiles as notes, which are indexed in Facebook organic search.
Try displaying your Flickr stream headlines in LinkedIn. Google Alerts are available by feed and can be used to populate blog sidebars, Twitter search feeds, etc. Don’t forget Google’s mainstream search engine results. If your feed also publishes to a blog, the posts can drive keyword traffic—always a good thing.
Where should feed content come from?
Nearly every brand has numerous daily human-to-human communication feeds, both in-house and outbound. The marketing department talks to customers, support folks to struggling or unhappy customers, PR to journalists and lots more. The intersection of social media and PR is about distributing these existing channels to subscribers surrounding seven classic nodes of public relations:
1 – Media relations. As long as there have been individuals and crowds to listen, there have been reporters. Since brands rarely want journalists to hate them, maintaining relationships is important. As other writers deem your news meaningful, they’ll subscribe to your news feed.
It surprises me how many mentions and links our blog has received without our promoting individual posts. We’re lucky because writers consume our feed and watch for material that will interest their readers. The same can happen for your brand. Feeds are essential for media relations. Poll every potential stakeholder in your company, from PR to tech, and organize funneling any news to be published by feed and permalink.
2 – Community relations. Most brands “live” somewhere. The cities they live in (and market to) comprise their physical communities. Since social media sites are communities too, reaching out is a process that helps solidify the public’s perception of a brand.
Where the brand truly reaches out to community, it’s important to discuss any initiatives online. If a new factory raises environmental concerns, speak directly to issues. If your parent company helps build a city food shelter or supports lymphoma research, share the heartfelt story online. The public eats that stuff up.
3 – Customer relations. Brands have to keep customers or they cease to be viable brands. Customers as a rule are a snarky lot. To keep them happy, reach out without fail to preempt concerns; listen, provide crucial information and serve their needs.
Publish serialized FAQs, debunk myths, ask for feedback and offer more channels by which to interact with the brand and contact brand owners. Social media networks are awesome conduits to listen and hear customers. We all know that one malevolent user can takes a beef public and ruin out day. Be prepared to meet and great customers on their terms and publish matters important to them via social media.
4 – Internal relations. At first glance internal relations seem like a private affair. However that’s not always the case. Feature cherished employees in public feeds and serve worker populations with any important information suitable for public consumption. We’ve seen posts, as mundane as where .edu workers park their cars, result in organic traffic which converted.
It’s interesting to note how internal relations can cross over to community relations. Sometimes individual employees take on personal causes on their own. Engage them as emissaries of the brand’s parent company to reap the benefits of mutual support. Publicizing employees’ actions above and beyond the call of duty rallies other employees and piques community interest. Whole families engage and there can be a lovely ripple effect.
5 – Human interest. Did someone use your product to rescue a cat from a tree or fish a diamond bracelet out of the bathroom drain? Maybe a founding family member passed away and their story speaks volumes about brand integrity. Inquiring people want to know! If someone survived cancer, climbed Mt. Rainier or won the lottery, humans love a good story so stay aware of hyperbolic content in whatever topical niche’ feel your brand is known for.
6 – Crisis management. Bad things happen to good brands. Recalls, riots, explosions, failures of executive character—you name it—things can go wrong. Many crises require the quick broadcast of information to serve and contain damage to the brand. These days there can even be SEO benefit to serving crisis-content in feeds.
Links received from fda.gov, irs.gov or fbi.gov, though damaging at first, can be effectively channeled after incidents wane. One site we work with made massive SEO strides after a PR disaster because of link juice provided to the whole site. We diffused semantic damage on the inbound anchor text and distributed power deep into the site. Effective use of content, fed to the public, can help spin gold from garbage.
7 – Investor relations. If your brand’s parent company publishes a public annual report, there’s a good possibility that periodic teases, report schedules and other salient financial data will matter to someone, or possibly to many. Investor relations are an obvious place that publishing by feed could be useful.
The next old PR thing
There’s near consensus amongst marketers that publishing recurrent content feeds, pumped into social channels and Google’s index, serve SEO, branding and public relations stakeholders alike.
Keep in mind that what worked yesterday in person, in many cases, essentially works the same way now online—just on a larger scale with better analytics. Also there’s no doubt that information moves at the speed of light in modern social media.
Ask, “What communications already emanate from our brand that might serve, inform and delight users, even to the extent of viral proclivity if published properly.” Look often to classic public relations nodes to source business feed content.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.