If you, like me, are a PR pro committed to functioning at the leading edge, you’re more than likely addicted to experimenting with social platforms that help you listen to, meet and engage with like-minded individuals and key influencers. While I try to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram with the best of you, Twitter with its open, free and 24/7 fire hose of #NEEDtoknow info on every topic, in every language, has become my go-to, open-source classroom, sounding board and travel advisory – a non-stop, online networking opportunity only limited by character (no, don't take it personally!) count.
Through the years Twitter has become my addiction and a passion that has helped our Toronto-based PR agency, Strategic Objectives, become Canada’s most award winning Public Relations firm, while reinforcing my belief in the power of PR in the ever-evolving social and digital world.
Based on what I’ve learned, over more than 10 years swimming in the stream, here are my TOP 10 Tips for PR Pros on Twitter.
- Define Your Voice
Whether you’re just starting out on Twitter, or a seasoned veteran, you must always carefully hone, define and redefine your social persona, since it shows the world what kind of person and Tweeter you are. Your Bio, avatar, Tweets and the people you follow and befriend define you in the social sphere. Here are a few things to remember when defining your voice:
- In my humble opinion (IMHO), your avatar should be a picture perfect headshot you’d be proud to attach to your resumé.
- Make sure your Bio is completely filled out, truthful and authentic. It should identify your interests – both professional and personal, and must be TOTALLY typo-free. It’s important to remember that many, or most, of your new social friends and potential employees may not understand your sense of humor. This is why I recommend positive messages and wording, and that you avoid irony or sarcasm in your Bio at all cost.
- Tweet good stuff! Whether it’s themed, random, or focused, you need diverse and interesting content to entertain and engage your friends and followers. Your voice should have authority and intent.
- Express yourself. Start conversations. Go beyond simply retweeting quotes, other people’s ideas, posts and opinions.
2. Build Your Community
One of the best things about Twitter is meeting new people, but there are not enough hours in the day to befriend everyone, including the bots, who follow you. Here are a few things to look for, before following new friends on Twitter:
- Check out their avatar, read their bio, and review their Tweets to see what you’ll find in their stream. Bots are usually easily identified, and avoidable, by their egg avatars and blank bios.
- What do they Tweet about?
- Do they Tweet on a regular basis?
- Do they give attribution/thanks when it’s due?
- What type of content do they provide? Are they selling, engaging or spamming?
- Is this someone you would like to know in real life?
- Do they RT and/or engage with their followers?
3. Engagement and Engaging with Key Influencers
Engaging and befriending key influencers is a great way to build your own credibility and influence. You can find influencers by searching hashtags, top trends, and by using Twitter’s advanced search tool. Once you’ve discovered Tweeps who share content that interests you, engage them in conversation. Ask a question, make a comment, RT or fave. Why not make it your mission to generate a conversation with at least one new key influencer a week? This interaction will help build your Twitter community.
BTW, (by the way), “Quote” retweets, where you can add a comment and a via attribution crediting your source, is a fine way to show someone you respect and appreciate their content. Revising the headline, adding a fact, or a hashtag, even commenting on the link will draw attention, and present the opportunity for you to create meaningful, two-way dialogue with the author.
4. Use Twitter Lists
Creating and/or following Twitter lists, or “Twitlists” as I like to call them, will help you organize users by subject matter such as #cmo, #custserv, #SOcialceo. I am a strong advocate of Twitlists because:
- They help me identify and organize groups of highly-qualified sector experts without having to follow them all, on a daily basis, in my main stream.
- They’ve become my own, custom-tailored focus groups that help me track hot new trends, social HOW TOs, news and information.
- They allow me to follow lists created by people and social experts I admire, with the click of a button, no muss no fuss.
I’m fortunate to have been included on close to 1,500 Twitlists since I joined Twitter, and follow lists religiously to see what my esteemed colleagues in the marketing universe are obsessing over at any given moment.
At Strategic Objectives, we’re fascinated by social leadership, which is why we created and continue to build our first-ever, Ultimate List of Social CEOs on Twitter. Our list started with 60 brave souls two years ago, and now features more than 450 CEOs from around the world. You can follow my Twitlist here to see what the most powerful socialites in business are up to, at any given time, day or night.
5. P2P: Person to Person
As I’ve stressed before, Twitter is about learning, sharing and generosity. That’s why it’s SO important to credit the author, and to give an HT (hat tip), RT (retweet) or S/O (shout out) to the peeps whose content you’re sharing. It’s a small but meaningful gesture. It’s also important to remember that social community building is about reciprocity, and that Twitter works best when you engage in P2P, person-to-person, interaction. Here are a few suggestions on how to create connections:
- Keep your Tweets positive and to the point. Avoid profanity.
- Be responsive. Keep the convo going, ask questions, and give answers in a timely way.
- Thank people for retweets and mentions, daily.
- RT people who RT you
6. Participate In Twitter Chats
The Twitterverse hosts more than 600 Twitter chats, or Twitchats, every week. They are organized and attended by large or small groups of like-minded people who regularly gather around a hashtag to discuss specific topics ranging from marketing, to food, fashion, social etiquette, leadership and more. Twitchats are the perfect opportunity to meet and engage with influencers. Rather than lurking, listening and RTing, I strongly recommend you step up and voice your thoughts on the subject at hand. No one will ever know you’re there unless you speak up!
It’s easy and appreciated when you retweet an ‘A HA’ moment shared by the chat’s guest star; and it’s always a good idea to thank the Twitchat moderator and key participants you found helpful, at the end of the chat, to make yourself known.
Your continued participation in weekly chats will establish your cred, make friends, and you might even meet someone you’d like to collaborate with, or hire in the future. In fact, I’ve met several Strategic Objectives new hires online, through social participation, long before we ever met in person.
Joining Twitchats was one of the best moves I made when I joined Twitter. One of my faves was #MMChat, every Monday night at 8PM ET, starring marcom pros from around the world. As an agency owner, I still find it useful to visit #custserv, a thriving chat hosted by best-selling book author, futurist and podcaster, @marshacollier, on Tuesday nights at 9PM ET, where I find valuable insights to help grow our business.
7. Make It Real
One of the greatest benefits of engaging on Twitter is establishing real, solid relationships. Always remember, there’s a real person behind that Twitter handle, so be sure to extend your connections into real life and meet up, in person, whenever possible. I’ve participated in numerous social speaking engagements throughout North America, where I’ve been lucky to meet some great Tweeple IRL, like the 140 Montreal Conference, where I created a Twitlist of participants so I could continue our real world friendships, online.
When I’m travelling to foreign destinations I often advance Tweet that I’ll be visiting NYC, Austin, Amsterdam, or China (which is how I came to meet and make friends with Paul Lin AKA @tribal) in Shanghai, so I can arrange in-person meetings. Through the years, I’ve met-up with several individuals I got to know on Twitter, and made enduring real world friends.
8. Recruitment and job opportunities
As I mentioned earlier, Twitter is a great place to meet and greet potential employees and has become an excellent recruitment tool, since it attracts the right kind of people for our agency – communicators who engage, share, and have that certain “je ne sais quoi.” Our @SO_pr Twitter handle is now a go-to destination for people looking for exciting, meaningful and creative jobs in Public Relations and Social PR.
9. Sharing and Amplifying Client News
When I see great, positive media coverage about our clients I want to tell the world, and Twitter is a great place to support your clients by promoting and sharing their positive third-party, earned media coverage, AKA news! It’s also an excellent place to show journalists some love by giving a byline/@mention credit for their story, media outlet or blog. We PR pros use a microphone at events to speak with large crowds. Now think of Twitter as your massive virtual microphone, amplified a million times, for global social spread. We hashtag Strategic Objectives #client news for full disclosure.
10. Don’t Feed the Trolls
As a practicing PR pro I can tell you, there will always be a Negative Nancy with his/her heart set on raining on your parade. In the social world we call them Trolls – people who seem hell bent on making you feel bad, and ruining your day, even though you’ve likely never met.
There are two ways to deal with Trolls: you can either ignore and unfollow them, or engage and get them on your side. I personally use both methods, but the most satisfying solution is the latter. I suggest meeting your Troll in the real world, offline, and neutralizing them with good fellowship whenever possible. After all, didn’t Mom tell you, “It’s always better to make friends than enemies.”
My best advice for PR pros looking to get the most out of Twitter is to get out there and join the action. Engage in conversation, share content, and don’t be afraid to make your voice heard.
Here is my SOcial 4H Club for PR Pros on Twitter:
Our Strategic Objectives team has PRoduced several ground breaking Social PR programs for clients on Twitter. Check out our award-winning #PringlesDIPbate, here.
Are you a brand or business leader looking to cut through the clutter and make good news that will change minds and drive sales? We can help, please contact us.
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