Feb 23, 2012

New Approaches to Audience Engagement with Social Media

Did you miss the webinar?  Access the archive of the discussion here: Social Media Toolbox Webinar Archive

While many PR pros are still working on integrating social media basics into their PR tactics, others have embraced these new tools, and are looking beyond the basics into new ways to attract and engage their audiences.

I had the pleasure of moderating a webinar yesterday featuring three women who are in the publicity trenches every day, and are using a variety of social media channels as integral parts of their strategies.  Joining me for the session titled, “The Social Media Toolbox: Unlocking New Strategies to Resonate with Your Audience” were:

Karen kicked off the discussion by mapping the dynamics (and realities) of today’s social networks, discussing the evolution of earned media – specifically, how social interaction can generate new credibility and visibility for earned and owned assets, creating, as she put it, “a self sustaining engine.”   Pushing further into the interest ecosystem, Karen described the interactions of platforms, networks and tools, “a dynamic combination of hubs and spokes, both our own and those where our audience spends time.”  She wrapped it all into an overview of a holistic approach to measurement (which you see in the image at the top of this post,) combining business objectives with desired consumer behaviors and toolset, to build a solid measurement framework to track reach, sentiment, participation and influence.

In her discussion, Karen also emphasized how imperative it is to develop a real understanding of the audience. Wunderman builds personas to better understand their clients’ targets, combining demographics, technographics, psychograpics and the social graph to develop a deep understanding of audience interest and behaviors.

Rebecca drilled into a variety of creative ways she’s used social tactics to build visibility and gain efficiencies for Pentaho, a B2B software company.  The first tactic she highlighted sounds simple: she stared doing a webcast for almost every press release Pentaho issued.   Webcasts are held about a week after the release runs on the wire, during which time the company can continue the conversation and build buzz about the webinar, effectively extending the timeframe for attention around the announcement.

The webcasts have delivered myriad other benefits for Pentaho, and have had a profound positive effect for the company, Rebecca noted, by providing an immediate call to action for interested prospects (and a source of sales leads the marketing team loves). In addition the leads, Pentaho has also been able to develop a much better understanding of who their real audience for their messages and products is by observing who attends the webinars.  As Rebecca noted, webcast numbers are now a KPI (“key performance indicator”) the company uses to measure the results of launches and announcements.

Andrea wrapped up the discussion, diving right into the intersection of publicity and business results by recounting how her agency has successfully used group buying sites like Groupon and Living Social to build visibility – and business – for their clients.  She noted that this is unchartered territory for many PR pros, but feels that it’s a logical and productive fit for many clients.  She did offer the caveat that the client needs to be organized and prepared to successfully handle the influx of business in order to convert new customers into repeat business.

Lead-gen and hard sales don’t sound too much like traditional PR.  As Karen noted, you have to go where your audiences are.  When they’re on social networks, they self-identify and wear their interests on their sleeves.  Savvy PR pros won’t be bound by traditional roles – they will embrace new tools and new opportunities to deliver a whole new spectrum of results.

Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media, and is the author of the free ebook Unlocking Social Media for PR.

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