Social Media PR Lessons Learned the Hard Way [+Infographic]

Social media PR is a great way to drive traffic to a website and gain exposure for your brand. However, it’s not as easy as it sounds; the whole process takes time and the response may, in some cases, be unpredictable.

Having worked in the digital marketing services space for the past 5 years, I have picked up some very valuable experiences and insights, a few of which I will now reveal to you.

Double face palm from Star Trek

Have Great Content Or Get Out!

The first, and the most important, lesson I had to learn was that without great content you’re not going to get anywhere – you might as well not even try. Many businesses tend to think their website is the most interesting thing on the Internet since Facebook, which of course is often far from the truth.

Many clients already know that they need an incentive in order to gain people’s interest, and most of them have already organised competitions on their website. For those who haven’t, it is definitely recommended to have one, as people love them.

Of course it is also important to ensure that the rest of your site is interesting and engaging. Do you own an online knitting yarn shop that has an informative knitting tip section for your visitors? – good. Do you have a financial services website with a great tool for your visitors to determine their money savviness, with the appropriate social media share buttons accompanying the tool? – even better.

The Shotgun Approach Doesn’t Work

The most time-consuming phase of the whole process is searching for the appropriate social media channels. These have to be highly relevant to the client’s business, otherwise you won’t get any interest. If you plan to email every blog, Facebook page and forum under the sun about your extraordinary pet tortoise beauty contest, it won’t work; a good portion of the recipients will feel that you do not understand and/or care what they’re about and will tag your email as spam.

Explain What’s In It for Them

When contacting the different channels via email, you have to be very mindful about the wording of your emails. It’s important to explain the benefits of sharing the client’s website to the recipient. For example, it’s likely that readers of an adventure travel blog would be very interested in a holiday competition and feel that it enhanced their experience of the blog. This is also a nice test for yourself; if you cannot justify to the recipient why they should share your message, then your message is probably not worth sharing.

Remember Your Manners!

It’s important to inform the recipients about your employer, what they are all about and give people the option to opt-out from any future correspondence. As with anything related to the Internet, the response from the recipients can sometimes be unpredictable.

This is partly because quite often PR people are not interested in paying for sponsored blog posts or banner ads, but are first and foremost aiming to offer interesting and relevant content that would benefit the channel, their readers, as well as the client. Some people misunderstand this point and advertise their media rates, and some people take offence and reply accordingly.

It is of course natural for blog writers to feel protective about their blogs because they seek to preserve their integrity and may find PR suggestions as something that invades their territory. Despite the odd negative reply, responses from people are mostly either positive or simply non-existent.

Regardless of the nature of the reply, it’s always important to reply politely to any emails. You are representing a company and have to be professional about it. Besides, this is the perfect opportunity to establish some relationships. Be it a reply from a Facebook administrator telling you that they would like to write about your client’s website or an email declining your idea, you should always send a reply either thanking them or asking whether it’s ok to contact them in the future. People appreciate this and are often happy to receive more ideas down the line.

Record Everything

All your actions and responses from people should go into an Excel sheet dedicated for each campaign, as it’s good to keep tabs on all the details for future reference. These lists are especially helpful when identifying ‘non-PR friendly channels’ and most influential channels.

The effects of the social media PR efforts are clearly visible in visitor statistics. Campaigns tend to cause a peak in the number of site visitors, with a sharp decline after a few days the message has been sent to the recipients. This phenomenon can be combated by contacting new channels every week and evening out the exposure a bit more.

All in all, despite the time and effort that go into each campaign, social media PR is well worth it. The work has truly opened my eyes to how different the online world actually is to the ‘meat world’ (=real world).

Social media public relations infographic