To be successful in social media, you have to contribute to the conversation. Authenticity, veracity and transparency are all critical factors of that conversation and your reputation hangs in the balance.
This is quite similar to traditional media relations — a cornerstone of the public relations profession. To earn coverage, in the traditional sense, the PR professional had to determine what was newsworthy about an organization’s philosophy, approach or product and pitch that idea to a reporter. If the reporter deemed that pitch to be relevant then there’s a good chance coverage would result.
Sales pitches rarely interest a reporter and are unlikely to make news. Reporters that will run with a sales pitch are few and far between…and for an important reason: with a few exceptions, like the classifieds, it’s hard to argue readers visit a news site or pick newspaper for the advertisements: it’s quality content that generates demand for writing, online or otherwise.
People desire ideas, analysis and understanding. Nearly every organization has something important to say — finding what that is, and effectively articulating it, separates the good PR professionals from the wayward. It also separates those organizations or businesses that are able to establish a public reputation as forward-thinking from those that are just one of many. I believe the same is true in social media, but with a very dangerous twist.
If your pitch to a reporter was lousy — in the traditional media relations sense — the consequence was relatively mild: you’d just never see ink. In social media that journalistic filter doesn’t exist and your content is published at the click of a button.
Sales-oriented content is not only likely to be rejected by the social network community, it may also cause a backlash. This has dire implications to your reputation or the reputation of the organization you represent. This is why I believe public relations should own social media. Those organizations that understand this will be build positive reputations in social networks and those that don’t either won’t have one or worse, will rightly earn a bad reputation.
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