Online Communications

Doug Schumacher has a good piece on iMediaConnection that showcases how valuable social media can be. He wraps it in the context that social media is safer than you think. I am not so sure that safe is a word I would use for social media, although he does make a good point about it.

Social media provides your organization with the opportunity to engage people that are interested in your brand, your services, your products, and in what you do for your community. It can create a solid support system from your followers and fans, but these are people with opinions and ideas that might not necessarily mesh with yours. Doug writes from an advertising/marketing viewpoint, so perhaps this is where we view the meaning of “safe” differently.

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Twitter is still the hot social media tool, despite not being “for everyone.” At AHA, we participated in a social media teleseminar yesterday with Peter Shankman and Chris Brogan (you can check out the tweets at #broman). It was very interesting and engaging and, as always with Peter and/or Chris, we learned something.

After the call we discussed the value of different social media tools and when we got around to Twitter, it was very interesting. We have clients that wouldn’t benefit from being active on Twitter, but we think it’s important for them to be aware of it and to monitor it to make sure they know what is being said about their organization.

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I have spent a lot of time in my professional life pitching story angles either as a journalist with an idea for an article, where I had to get my editor’s buy in, or as a PR person putting forward a pitch to media about a client’s organization. Since many of my colleagues and friends are either journalists or communicators, I also spend a fair bit of time discussing what makes a good story, even when it isn’t about a specific pitch.

One of the things that AHA clients rely on us for is to help them with media and blogger relations. In the new world of communication, it is important to understand how to pitch both mainstream media (most of which now have some kind of online component), as well as online media, which includes bloggers. At the core of a good pitch is the story.

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Your online presence, no matter whether you are a newspaper, a not-for-profit, a small business, a large corporation or government is important. We talk to clients and workshop participants about this a great deal. Your website is key in your communications strategy. Without a good site and using Twitter, Facebook or any of the social media tools available to us, you are really not doing your organization justice.

Twitter is great for sharing and discovering information, but if you follow some of the best Tweets, they lead you back to a blog, a website or somewhere you can get more information. Don’t lead people back to an old website that hasn’t been updated in months.

Take a good look at your website – is it dynamic, do you have fresh content posted regularly, is there an opportunity for feedback and interactivity? What are your stats and are you digging in to see who is coming to your site, what they are engaged in, and what they stick around to read?

Online communication is of great value, but don’t run before you walk. Take a good look at your website and make sure it is of value to the people you want to engage in conversation.

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There was an interesting article in BusinessWeek last week about Web 2.0 and managing corporate reputations. I am often asked about the challenges that come with the open conversations created by social media. It’s a valid concern for organizations and one that should be taken seriously.

Some organizations choose to block employee access to social networking sites. That seems to be old paradigm thinking to me and it is a bit like locking the barn door after the horse has already walked out. There are all sorts of ways around being blocked. Think about how many staff members have an iPhone or a BlackBerry and can get online that way (and that number is only growing) or they can use an Internet stick (we use one quite often when we give presentations to organizations). And – there is always time away from the office.

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