In the last week, I have had the chance to speak to two seasoned, skilled communications professionals about social media. Both had identified the need to bone up on their skillset in the online space and wanted my advice on what they should focus on. I thought I would share what I told them with you.
More than any other social platform, Twitter is probably the most important for those in the public relations or communications field. In my view, it is an essential skill to master. There are a few reasons. First, Twitter is where most public debates take place. Virtually any subject worth paying attention to – from the NHL lockout to the US Election to the Grammys – takes place on Twitter. Twitter describes their service as the “pulse of the planet”.
Secondly, the target audience for most PR professionals, the media, are voracious Twitter users. Not only do journalists offer commentary on current affairs on Twitter, but they also tweet about the subjects they are reporting on – as they report on them. It provides the opportunity to shape the story in real time, essentially as it is written.
More than Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn or YouTube, Twitter is where news breaks and where is it discussed. Which is why PR professionals need to be fluent in how Twitter works and how to work within it. In fact, as both colleagues noted independently of each other, most job descriptions require a social media element. If I had to prioritize one for those kinds of positions, Twitter would be at the top of the list.
PR professionals need to be fluent in how Twitter works and how to work within it
Now, it is all well and good to say you “get” Twitter. Anyone can say that. It is even easier to check to see if that is true. If I’m an HR person looking to hire someone and they claim to be an avid social media participant, I’ll be taking a quick jump over to their Twitter profile. Here are some obvious red flags:
- They tweet once or twice a month – or less
- Incomplete or blank profile pic and bio
- Little or no interaction with other users
- Unimpressive Klout score (say under 25)
With an open platform like Twitter, it is quite easy to see for yourself who talks the talk and who “tweets the tweet”, as it were.
If you aren’t on Twitter but know you should be, I suggest jumping in with both feet. Twitter is great at getting you started. Sign up, grab a username, fill out your profile and start following those who interest you. Even as a lurker, it is important to understand how Twitter works; there is an unwritten etiquette you can only pick up being active on the platform.
But make a habit of engaging and adding to the platform. That will be your primary task in your day job, so you should use this low-stake personal time to try techniques out, comment on who killed it on the red carpet or why your favorite player shouldn’t be traded. Get comfortable and find out what works.
But with 200 million users and over 400 million tweets generated per day, you can no longer afford to be left out of the conversation.