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PR and Social Media: Are You Clueless?

August 29, 2016 Damon Maida

man-1466365_960_720Friendster. MySpace. If that’s what social media means to you, you are woefully behind the times. Sure, you may pull up your favorite 80’s music videos on YouTube from time to time, but that’s not going to cut it in the business world. I’ll admit it. As a GenX-er and part-time Luddite, I’ve been slow to get on the social media train. But now I’m fully on-board. It’s obvious this “new” communication medium is not only here to stay, but that it will continue to transform “traditional” media.

eMarketer projects that social media use will grow by 32.7 percent in the next four years and that 2.44 billion of the world’s population will be using social networks. According to CNBC, by 2039 social media will likely be integrated into wearables tracking our habits. In addition, virtual experiences will also be part of the social media experience and humans will have to figure out how to cope with massive amounts of data.

That said, whether you’re willing to admit it in public or not, if you’re “of a certain age,” you’re probably not as in touch as you should be. Here are a few tips for the reluctant Tweeters and Instagramers (is that even a word?) out there to help bring you into the 21st century:

A Tweet is much louder than it sounds. It’s true. Whether you’re sharing news about a client on Facebook or publicly complimenting a reporter on a recent article on Twitter, social media allows your message to be read by an entire network of followers. You never know who’s reading and listening. Today’s reader could be tomorrow’s client and that reporter (who now knows you actually read her articles) might be more apt to respond when you come calling.

If you want to learn something, the best way is by doing. You may never run the Digital practice at your agency or live Tweet from company events, but at least you’ll be in the game.

Your message becomes a conversation. If you’re in communications, you probably like to…well…communicate. And, one-sided communication can get really boring. We’ve all sent one or two emails or phone messages out into the ether and received only static as a response. With social media, your chances for engagement grow exponentially. Your network – and sometimes the network of each of your connections – has the opportunity to not only read what you’ve shared but to comment and engage in conversation and debate. If you’ve crafted your message carefully, engagement can be positive and productive. There are exceptions, but for the most part, you’ll find you’ve become part of a larger world.

Millennials can help you. Accept it. Your office is full of twenty-somethings who know more about digital communication than you ever will. But, that’s okay because you’re all on the same team. Don’t be afraid to ask, “What does that mean?” or say, “Please explain this to me slowly.” You’re likely to make a friend who’ll be willing to update you on what’s “now.” You may slip and ask your colleague if she heard something from one of her “Twitter friends,” but that’s okay. You’ve admitted you need help, and that’s the first step.

Put yourself out there! If you want to learn something, the best way is by doing. You may never run the Digital practice at your agency or live Tweet from company events, but at least you’ll be in the game. It’s fun, and important that you be able to understand the concepts even if the nuts and bolts leave you stymied for now.

So far, I’ve managed to explore Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. My former boss is a Tumblr fanatic and my wife is really into Pinterest. I’ve been told that Instagram will “change my life,” so that might be next. Whatever it is, make sure you get in the game and see what it’s all about. You may not end up wearing an Apple watch and posting your fitness progress to your entire network (across all platforms), but you’ll be surprised how much social media can change your ideas about how to do business, craft a message and engage your followers in a meaningful way.

PS. A member of my team just took a picture of all of us for Instagram. See what I mean? And, apologies to my Twitter followers – It was not possible to make this case in 140 characters.

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