This is Part of a series: The 13 Skills of the Public Relations Professional of the Future. It's also the subject of a panel we ran at PR Week's Next Conference a couple of weeks ago.
You Gotta Walk the Walk
It's one thing to know or talk about social media. You can gather the right graphics from Slideshare that articulate the world of social media in a clever way. But if you are not trying the platforms, the technology and the behaviors, you will not completely understand nor likely be able to translate the business communications value of different trends in social media.
We recently published the Business Guide to Twitter. This seminar looks at 8 key business uses of Twitter from Customer Service to Crisis Management. The only way we could do this with confidence and insight is by using Twitter ourselves over the past few years.
You cannot fully understand the possibilities of del.icio.us, FriendFeed, Yammer or, even, facebook until you have started to use these platforms. And the best place to start is in your own life.
There are three great steps to embracing technology:
Create a Social Foundation: take care of three essentials
Publish Yourself: Try your hand at one type of "blogging"
Embrace a Beta-life: Build a discipline of trying and finding new things
Create a Social Foundation
There are three platforms that you can embrace now that will only grow in value and will give you experience at the same time. Each will give you a daily experience that will help all of your work in communications.
First, breakdown and set up a tabbed-version of an RSS Reader. Not Bloglines or even Google Reader. Set up NetVibes or iGoogle. Each will allow you to easily collect RSS feeds from the 7 types of sources you should try:
Google Search results Google Blog Search results (forget Technorati - too much of a mess) YouTube Search results Tweetscan Search results Flckr Search results
Google Search results
Google Blog Search results (forget Technorati - too much of a mess)
YouTube Search results
Tweetscan Search results
Flckr Search results
Put yourself, your company and any key clients if you are an agency into separate search feeds. This will give you a simple monitoring solution (not comprehensive but a good start).
Second, breakdown and establish a del.icio.us account. You can start to replace whatever bookmarking you used to inside your browser with this web-based solution. To get the most out of this, get your colleagues to do the same. Connect each to your network via their screen name and now you can save and share bookmarks with them. You won't fully appreciate del.cio.us until you have used it for a few months. Just stick with it.
Third, make sure your Facebook and Linked-in profiles are up to date and make use of a handful of different features (e.g. collect a handful of different Facebook apps that are relevant to your interests and business. )
Not everyone needs to be a blogger. I remain a big fan of blogging and mine sits at the center of my social graph. You can either try blogging via Wordpress or Typepad or choose a simple platform. Tumblr is somewhere between blogging and microblogging. You may want to jump right over to Twitter, the most popular microblogging platform. It takes less of a commitment and, of course, it is all the rage. You could also publish via your Facebook status and acheive something similar. Or you could choose a multimedia platform like YouTube or Flickr. The point is to try your hand at publishing your pov on a routine basis.
Embrace a Beta-life
Who knows what will come next? Who knows what will be the next breakthrough platform or behavior? The bottom-line is that no one knows. The best you can do is commit to a discipline of reading and viewing and trying things. I try to do the following:
- Scan my RSS collections a few times a day: total time 40 minutes
- Add a handful of feeds every week (get rid of a few too): total time 20 minutes usually concurrent with daily reading
- Try a new software or service once a week: total time 40 minutes
- Actively attend a 3-4 conferences a year. Nothing beats being with other geeks or people who share some affinity with you. The best way to get the most from these expensive events is to really commit to being there and being "present" - make a point of meeting people, sharing conversation, connecting outside of session.
You cannot be great with social media through simple observation. Applying it to your life and committing the time to actually "do" it will help your business. It will help you understand first-hand and give you ideas. It will suck up time. But two things happen: it doesn't suck up as much as you fear and you end up with greater rewards than you imagined.