Can Public Relations Have Fun With Facebook?

A SuckerBuilding Facebook into PR strategies can be an obvious win and a lot of fun too if you get it right. Or, it can be a terrible idea – if you don’t. With an audience of more than a billion people who log an incredible 3.15 trillion minutes on the social network monthly, Facebook’s potential for communicators is undeniable. However, Facebook is first and foremost a very personal space for many users. Communications , even between brands and individuals  have an intimate, one-on-one aspect. Respecting individual preferences and boundaries is important.

 Audience research

While Facebook definitely has a place in PR strategies, the charge to simply “get it out on Facebook” isn’t the approach to take. And yet many businesses take this root. Before communicating via Facebook, learn about your audience first. Chances are pretty good that a large number of them are on Facebook.

However you need to know this:

~        Why are they there, and how do they use Facebook?

~        Do they tend to be eager and rampant networkers?

~        Are they more focused on friends and family?

~        Are they active in groups?

~        Are they enthusiastic game players?

~        Are they only “lookers”  or are they  “likers” too?

A little  research into how your audience interacts on Facebook will inform and improve your messages and strategies.

 But exactly how does one research an audience on Facebook?

You can start by simply purchasing an ad on Facebook (if you can). As you go through the process, you’ll learn more about your audience in terms of size and demographics. That said, you can use the gumshoe method , meaning you log in and start looking. Demographics won’t give you needed insight into where people gather, what sort of messages they share and the overall “vibe” of the Facebook community interested in topics related to your organization’s objectives. Any social media strategist worth his or her salt will tell you that the first step in planning a strategy on social networks is to listen, and you’ll find the same advice here. Find active groups focused on relevant topics and join them. Spend most of your time listening and observing.

Decide what your desired outcomes are for using Facebook

Secondly, consider your desired outcomes. Are you  interested in finding and engaging the fans of your products and services within your marketplace, and building awareness among them? Do you have calls to action that you’ll measure, such as lead generation, building Web site traffic or generating conversation and buzz? Deliberate planning with your outcomes in mind is always a good idea.

There are many ways you can weave Facebook into your communications tactics.

Build relationships with online journalists and bloggers

In addition to building relationships and communicating with key journalists and bloggers, by paying attention to what they share and post, you can learn more about what interests them and what they’ve written lately. You may even find a story opportunity among those interactions.

Find and connecting with enthusiasts and influencers and your brand’s Fans

There’s something for everyone on the Web, and on Facebook, or so it seems. For most organizations, Facebook represents a great opportunity to find and connect  with “your people” – the people who are truly passionate about whatever it is that makes your brand uniquely your brand. Developing a presence that people will want to connect and interact with requires that you produce, curate and share interesting information about those topics. It also requires the willingness (and resources) to interact with each and every audience member, one on one. Yes, you want to encourage people to “like” your page. But building interactions with your content – getting people to “like,” share and comment on the things your organization posts – is where the Facebook magic happens. Those liking and sharing interactions can trigger viral distribution of your message. People won’t “like” or share boring content, however, so it is imperative that you create good content – the kind of stuff that Steve Jobs coined the phrase “insanely great” to describe.

Good old-fashioned promotion does not hurt once in a while

Facebook is a great place to generate publicity , that’s obvious. And once you’ve done your research, identified what your audience likes, developed the content plan to attract and keep your audience’s attention and have been rewarded with a growing following, then you can actually start to promote your company. Please note , promoting the company comes after you do all of the heavy lifting described above. Building context – and communicating within that context  is important on social channels. It would be jarring , irritating and uninviting to your audience if your friendly, funny brand presence suddenly switched to  hard sells all the time.

That said, people understand that brands need to promote themselves and their products and services. And, let’s face it , if you are in the market for a particular item, you are probably going to be interested in information related to that item. So it’s perfectly OK to promote your business, brand and products on Facebook. However, if you want to do so effectively, most of your communications should be focused on building relationships and credibility with your audience. If 80% of your  communications are consistently focused on educating and entertaining your audience, they’ll tolerate 20% of promotional content – as long as you maintain the context you have already built. So go ahead and promote your blog posts, white papers and other promotional content, invite your audience to special events and offer them special deals and discounts for being loyal fans.

Simply put, Facebook can be a terrific medium for public relations, as long as communicators respect the personal nature of interactions and take care to connect the right audience with the right, carefully crafted, message. Have fun.

For Social Media Training, contact Chipo on chipomaps@gmail.com

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About chipomaps

A brand reputation, marketing and new media trainer and consultant. Constantly curious, constantly learning.
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