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Are You ‘Social’ Enough?

By: Kirk Hazlett

It seems like I’m hearing this more and more every day about the “importance of social media,” usually prefaced by “You really need to be active on …”

If you’re the target of this “helpful observation,” the first piece of unsolicited advice I offer is to ask (politely), “Why? Why do I have to be on …?”

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s talk about you and your particular needs as a communicator.

The “bright, shiny object” syndrome seems to still be alive and well today when it comes to social media. Clients and bosses alike are running around yelping, “It’s new. I have to have it.” But slow down a minute and ask yourself, “Who are our target audiences, and how do they get their information?”

In my most recent transformation as a PR professional-turned-PR professor, I learned the importance of this initial research step early on in classroom communications. I reasoned that I had a school-assigned email account and my students had school-assigned email accounts so email was the way we should communicate outside the classroom.

However, when I actually implemented this system, I got crickets!

Nothing most of the time. Not a peep.

Then, one day, I was on Facebook posting my usual annoying weather updates and other mostly-useless stuff. I just happened to glance at the contacts listing on the right and noticed that a particular student, who I had tried unsuccessfully to contact via email (and with whom I was connected on Facebook), was online.

All it took was a click and a quick “Hi! ?” to get a meek “Yes, Professor?” from the culprit.

The moral of this story is, “If you want to reach and communicate with your target audiences, you need to know their information-gathering habits.” And, speaking as a Baby Boomer myself, that might still include traditional print and broadcast media.

But back to your social status …

Being “social” is a commitment. It’s not an “Oh well, it’s May; I should change my ‘Merry Christmas’ posting” kind of thing. You need to establish a schedule of regular postings on whichever platforms (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, a blog, etc.) you select as your avenues for communicating.

And, it’s not about lurking in the shadows spying on others’ activity. Being “social” is about communicating with others, making relevant comments on their posts, posting your own observations,  engaging as an intelligent human being that others can and will want to relate to. They expect you to be visible, viable and valuable.

So, homework time.

  • Who is your target audience? What are their demographics?
  • How/where does your target audience get information? Traditional media? Social media? A combination of the two?
  • What are your objectives? Building awareness? Driving foot traffic? Generating leads?
  • What is your product or service? Which platforms best support your objectives for it?
  • What is your message relating to your product or service? Which platforms (traditional or social) allow you to effectively convey that message?
  • Who will have responsibility for generating your social media content and then monitoring the conversations that will arise as a result of or in response to your messaging?

 

Once you’ve done your homework, you’re ready to implement your social activities.

Social media can be a blessing, a curse or, in some cases, both! You need to give serious thought to your ability to effectively and efficiently incorporate those platforms that best support your goals and objectives and then commit to developing and maintaining a visible presence.

And finally, sit back, take a deep breath and monitor traffic (responses or reactions to your message). As the Boy Scout motto says so well, “Be prepared.”

Dose of reality here: Not everyone is going to fall all googly-eyed in love with you. You will have detractors. You will have people posting snarky remarks about you, about your product or service, about virtually anything.

You will have to make a determination as to how you will (or if you should) respond. Be prudent, and remember: what you say and how you say it will be interpreted differently by any- and everyone who visits your site. First impressions are lasting impressions, so think carefully before you respond if you choose to do so.

So there you have it. It’s the 21st Century. Communicating with your target audiences is morphing at Star-Trekian “warp speed.” Take a moment to focus on your methods of getting your message to your markets and answer this one simple question: Are you ‘social’ enough?

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2 Comments

  1. Elizabeth Taylor

    Apr. 20, 2018

    Well put, Kirk..or should I say "Captain Kirk"? Your steps really help demystify the social process and bring it down to earth.

    1. Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA

      Apr. 20, 2018

      Thanks so much, Liz! Beam me up!!