A survey of 2,500 journalists finds Twitter is still their favorite social media network – here are time tested PR tips for B2B to earn some traction on the platform
It’s no secret that media relations gets harder every year.
Some 94% of 2,547 reporters responding to an annual survey by Muck Rack say email is still their preferred way to receive pitches, but anyone that works in PR knows that a journalist’s inbox is a very competitive space.
There are things brands can do if PR is important to them: turn your Twitter handle over to a capable PR person and let them get to work. Why? Because Twitter offers PR advantages for brands willing to put in the effort.
Consider the following statistics from that Muck Rack survey:
- 77% of journalists say Twitter is the most valuable social network – the next most valuable network isn’t even close with 39%.
- 39% plan to spend more time on Twitter this year – the highest of any other social network. Another 46% will spend the same about of time and just 12% will spend less time on Twitter.
- 60% of journalists consult a company’s social media in their reporting – if they look at your company’s handle, what will they see? For many B2B companies it’s a drizzle of promotional links – not a story ideas – with very little engagement. Not the best way to make an impression.
- 18% of reporters say they get their news from Twitter – that’s about one in five. This means Twitter is another place where they can potentially find stories.
- 13% accept pitches on Twitter – and those that do tend to make this clear in their Twitter bio. Reporters are competitive – they don’t want competing writers to know about stories they are sourcing. But you shouldn’t just waltz into a reporter’s DMs until you know them – and know the stories that interest them.
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This boils down to one fact: if PR is important to your company, it’s not enough to merely be on Twitter. You must be active and engaged and interesting. This isn’t any different from the real world. If you showed up to a room full of journalists at a physical networking event – and spoke in person like many brands do on Twitter – every reporter would avoid making eye contact with you.
Here are some ways to do the Twitter better for your company:
1. Treat it like editorial content (because it is).
It’s best to treat Twitter like any other channel. You don’t have interns firing off marketing emails or press releases – don’t do that here either. That’s not a slight against interns, but the point is you need someone with the time, experience and judgment to be what is, essentially, the face of a company to an important group of people.
On the other hand, you can’t have a committee approve everything that goes out either. Or you can…but you won’t be effective. If you are worried about it, develop some guidelines – simple and do’s and do not’s to follow. If a mistake is made, resist the instinctive urge to shut it all down. Instead, learn from it and add it to the guidelines.
2. Humanize it.
Humanize may not be as trendy to talk about as it was years ago, but it still matters in practice. The best way to humanize your brand’s Twitter handle is to put the handles of the people managing it in the brand’s bio. Reporters will look to see who these people are – and they respond well when they see a real human behind the handle – not just a nameless, faceless corporate shadow.
Depending on your organization, this can be political. If you are in a leadership position, this is your job to handle and get whatever pre- or post-approval you need.
We did this at one company when the CEO found out about it…I got a call from another senior leader on the down-low suggesting strongly that the CEO wanted his handle added too. That’s fine if your CEO is active on Twitter and has skin thickness to resist getting excited by the haters. It’s even better if they are open to professional help – for the good of the company.
Lots of ghostwriters work with CEOs to write LinkedIn updates. There’s no reason you can’t run this play for Twitter too. As far at tools go, Buffer is good one for this use case (and others).
3. Share ideas too (rather than just links).
Status updates and posts without links tend to get greater distribution on many social networks. Why? Because links take people off the site – every social network is judged by investors based on actively engaged users.
Lots of brands are doing this on LinkedIn. You should share big ideas this way on Twitter too. These ideas can be found during internal calls, calls with customers, analysts, or on Slack.
This might make some executives nervous. This is good. Nerves are usually a signed you are actually sharing something that matters. If there are no nerves about sharing, then nobody else is going to care either. This is where guidelines have an experienced person doing the work make a difference.
4. Share and curate content that isn’t yours – and tag the author.
If you want to get a reporter’s attention – share their stuff and let them know you are sharing it. Go beyond sharing a headline. Strive to pull out interesting quotes or lines that capture the essence of the article. This requires reading and understanding what you are sharing.
If you do this once or twice, you can be perceived as sucking up. However, if you do this consistently over time, then it becomes more apparent that your brand is an advocate for the space. That’s the perspective that opens the door to an occasional, timely and relevant pitch via DM or helps you stand out later in a crowded inbox.
If there is a reporter that you think would be interested in covering your company – chances are they are writing articles of interest to your customers and prospects. It just makes sense to share their stories and make sure you get credit for doing so.
5. Retweet, like, and comment
Giving engagement is just as important as getting. You have to give to get but you don’t always have to have something to say to give. Sometimes just liking or retweeting something is enough. Just like any other platform engagement drives engagement. Your engagement activity helps the reporter obtain distribution and you are curating content for your audience too.
Twitter lists are a handy tool to create lists of reporters whose tweets you want to read. Lists can grow stale as reporters change beats and publications often, so you have to manage these. I suggest making multiple lists by beat or category.
Sometimes you get reporters on your list that you later find that tweet things that don’t really interest you (political rants, cable company grievances, lunch photos). Twitter has a mute button too – so you can mute such voices while keeping them on a Twitter list for a periodic check-in.
6. Get creative.
You can be as creative as you want on Twitter. You’ll have to try a lot of things to see what sticks. Sometimes you’ll try something today and it flops, but in six months, it takes off. So, it’s important to continuously re-evaluate some of your earlier creative ideas.
Some things that come top-of-mind:
- Twitter takeovers. Invite an influencer to “take over” your hand for a day. You can host an AMA or just let them do their thing. Again, broad guidelines are helpful here. You don’t want to restrict an influencer, but you do want to have some left and right limits.
- Cross-talk. Consumer brands do this all the time. B2B can build on this and be more collaborative – I don’t recommend the battles – but a polite but spirited debate might work. You probably need to plan this out a little bit but don’t be too scripted or it comes across as wooden. A good way to kick it off is to go in on a co-marketing initiative – a study or webinar for example. Then your brands have something in common.
- Tweet threads. Threaded tweets are a great way to communicate more on Twitter. Experts can use this when a news story breaks, and you have behind-the-scenes information that can add detail to the collective knowledge. For example, a cybersecurity company might relay an anecdote in a threaded tweet about their experience securing an air-gapped network, when news breaks about an ICS breach.
7. Sponsor tweets on Twitter
Sponsored tweets are an excellent and cost-effective way to gain exposure with journalists on Twitter. While you can’t target an individual journalist, you can target a “like” audience – and journalists all follow each other.
You can use this technique to pitch new ideas – this works well for research reports. It’s a very passive and non-intrusive way to put good ideas in front of them.
In addition, you can use it to promote earned media pieces you’ve already landed. This is important because nobody watches the media like the media – it’s social proof. Coverage tends to beget coverage.
You don’t have to spend a lot on paid social – put between $100 and $500 a month into this program – and run it consistently. You will gain outsized benefits from a very modest investment. I’ve written more about this in a piece called Two Reasons PR Needs to Budget a Little Paid Social Budget if you want to learn more.
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While Twitter has been around for a while, and none of these tips are new, very few B2B brands do this well. This means there’s less competition on Twitter than perhaps there is in the old inbox.
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Priorities of B2B Marketing: Owned, Shared, Earned, Paid – in that Order
Image credit: Unsplash and respective study