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What is it with marketing and the letter P? I was just going through Maggie Fox's new post on digital crisis communications, and as I started to summarize it on Delicious, it all came out in P-words.

First, Maggie's points, summarized:

  1. You don’t have to have all the answers.
  2. You don’t need to respond to everyone.
  3. Social media doesn’t always matter.
  4. Mainstream media are dramatically inflating digital crises.
Read the full post and see if these preposterously plosive points summarize it for you:
  • Prepare
    Set up your online channels before you need them, so you're ready to respond when your crisis hits (then apply Maggie's point 1).

  • Prioritize
    Triage will get you through the day.

  • Perspective
    Keep it, despite the social media hype.
Yeah, I know, two verbs and a noun. Alert the style manual police.

Photo by Leo Reynolds.

So, you want to embarrass your company with your efforts in social media, and you don't have a lot of time. You could invent an original way to screw up and let everyone else learn from your mistakes, but that would require effort. Instead, you want something easy that you know will work. What you need are best practices identified by early adopters. Follow their examples, and you can have your very own blogstorm.

10 easy ways to embarrass your company in social media

  1. Create a fake blog. Nobody will notice, and even if they do, they won't remember.

  2. Dare bloggers to complain about you. Because, you know, nobody reads blogs.

  3. Broadcast your press releases to bloggers. They love that.

  4. Flame a blogger critic in email, because that way it will stay between you and the blogger.

  5. Impersonate someone else in blog comments. That transparency stuff is overrated.

  6. In any dispute, lead with the lawyers. They can take care of everything for you.

  7. If you want good reviews of your expensive product, send free samples to bloggers. You don't need to mention anything about disclosure.

  8. Oh, heck, just review your own products. You know them better than anyone else, anyway.

  9. Make improvements to your company's Wikipedia entry. After all, it's the encyclopedia that anyone can edit, right?

  10. Tout your company's stock on the message boards. If you want a job done right, you have to do it yourself.
Once you've mastered these techniques, you'll be ready to move on to advanced topics, such as bomb jokes and bad music. Really, there's no shortage of ways to screw up. Between the honest mistakes and the creative scams, we'll eventually discover all of them.

All we ask is that you let us be the first to blog about it when you invent a new one.

Blog highlights

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Welcome, new readers! If you recently discovered the Net-Savvy Executive, you may find some of these older posts helpful or interesting. Jump in anywhere with comments; your participation is definitely encouraged here.

    - Nathan

Recurring list posts

From the whiteboard

Social media analysis

Social media & marketing

Ethics and social media analysis

Other interesting posts

IABC on social media measurement

An article based on my post on sorting out social media measurement appears in the October 2007 CW Bulletin from IABC. Articles from Christopher Carfi ("Social Networking for Business: Measuring the results") and Caroline Kealey ("Web 2.0: The medium is the message, but what's the result?") round out the issue on social media measurement.

Is your brand l33t 5p34k?

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Does anyone besides me see the humor in this name/logo?

Email me if you need this explained. It's part of why working with online media is cultural, as well as technical.

Forbes on PR for startups

Lisa LaMotta has an article for Forbes on PR for startups (via Giovanni Rodriguez). Along with a look at how PR can benefit new companies (but "PR types often promise more than they can deliver, so manage your expectations"), she delivers a summary of PR measurement:

While PR remains a squishy science, there are ways to loosely measure progress. The most common is the number of media references to your company in a given month. But there are subtler metrics, too, such as how many of your "core messages" were expressed in each article.
Interesting to see that description after working on the social media measurement post last night.

The other interesting data point from the article is pricing information:

Average monthly fees for an established U.S. shop are about $10,000, according to a recent survey of 100 firms around the country with revenues over $3 million. Some firms charge by the hour, and still others offer a la carte services—say, for running a special event or triaging a corporate snafu. Rodriguez charges start-ups a monthly retainer from $8,000 to $15,000. That's not chump change, but it's far less than many print ad campaigns.
With an average budget of $10K/month, it must be interesting to try to fund social media monitoring and analysis. The money has to come from somewhere, and I suspect it's not from the existing PR budget. Maybe the budget issue explains the prominence of big clients at the social media analysis companies.

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Putting the RSS in PR

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I subscribe to a lot of RSS feeds. Too many, really, so there's a constant tension between the desire to read everything and the reality of finite time. Still, feeds offer a big efficiency gain over other methods of tracking events. So last week I spent some time looking for PR feeds on company web sites (not blogs), with mixed results. A lot of companies still need to work on putting the RSS in their PR.

To keep things in perspective, note that all of the companies I checked are in social media businesses. We're not talking about companies who haven't heard of RSS. This is what I found:

  • Working feed
    You're in the game. Thank you.

  • No feed at all
    Feeds make it so much easier to follow your news. You want people to see your releases, don't you? Oh, well, at least there's Page2RSS.

  • Feed with no content
    The RSS icon is a head fake. Nobody's home.

  • Live feed that doesn't match web page
    Click, subscribe, and—wait, something's wrong here. If your feed is obsolete, subscribers won't find out unless they go back to your site, which defeats the purpose of subscribing to the feed. New subscribers may not notice the disconnect as they subscribe.
I also thought about blogs that keep giving me all of their content again. When a feed keeps showing up as "unread," I have to decide whether I really want to keep seeing the old items. A variation is the feed that keeps showing me the same one or two items, which has the effect of making the site seem fixated on that one topic.

Easy steps for RSS hygiene

  1. If you have a web page with company news or press releases, give it an RSS feed. If you want to get fancy, set up separate feeds for press releases, press coverage and white papers. Yes, this requires some technical work behind the scenes—it's worth it.

  2. Use FeedBurner for its insights into feed subscribers. Remember to configure the autodiscovery code to point to the FeedBurner version of your feed.

  3. Subscribe to your own feed. Check to confirm that the content of the feed matches the page. Notice if items in your feed keep showing up as unread, so you can fix things.

  4. If your feed moves, try to make the old address continue to work (easy with FeedBurner). Otherwise, post an address change message for subscribers to the old feed. The address change should always be the newest item on an obsolete feed.
Nothing to it. RSS: the easy way to get more people to read your PR. And that's the point, isn't it?

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It's ready. After 5 months and I really don't want to know how many hours, the Guide to Social Media Analysis is complete. This is my guide to the companies who monitor, measure and analyze social media for business worldwide. It's the most complete reference available, and it's available for download today. Finally!

The Guide to Social Media Analysis is geared toward answering three questions:

  1. Who offers social media analysis services?
  2. What do they really offer?
  3. What makes one vendor different from the others?
The result is an independent look at the options for clients and agencies who are looking for social media monitoring, measurement and research. Vendors are included based on meeting the selection criteria: they offer social media analysis services or software using their own technology. They did not pay to be included. The Guide covers vendors with applications for marketing, PR, customer service, security, investors and more.

What's in it:

  • Profiles of 31 vendors based in 9 countries. Each profile includes a description of the vendor's services, investor information, company stats and full contact details.

  • An overview of industry services and trends.

  • A table summarizing which services each vendor offers.

  • A matrix of vendors' language capabilities across 37 languages.

  • Over 30 sample graphics and screenshots.
The 75-page Guide to Social Media Analysis is a PDF download, available for $500 at http://www.socialtarget.com/research/. You heard it here first.

Update: I posted more details on what's in the profiles. A sample profile is available on the product page.

18 August 2008: The Guide to Social Media Analysis, Second Edition is now available. The new edition includes 63 vendor profiles, observations on trends since last year, and a new table summarizing vendor coverage of different types of social media.

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Part of the fun of social media is the way it touches so many disciplines—or, for you corporate types, so many functional silos. Word-of-mouth and all the forms of online media challenge the traditional divisions, so we get to see how different specialties approach them. An article in PRWeek discusses the view from public relations (via Sally Falkow):

While appraising and evaluating social media is often complex, it has impacted the profession in three specific ways (in order of increasing importance): it has added a new medium and hundreds of thousands of new outlets PR pros must ponder when pitching; it has provided companies and their agencies an inexpensive way to push their unfiltered message out into the increasingly cluttered media space online; and it has opened up a heretofore unimagined conduit of conversation between corporation and customer.
The article is full of good quotes and observations, which I won't try to summarize. Most interesting, though, is the observation that clients haven't settled on who they will go to for social media programs:
Given the likelihood that clients are becoming increasingly interested in the space, agencies from multiple disciplines are competing for digital and social media accounts. PR agency executives say that since they are increasingly included in pitches that also feature pure interactive and advertising shops, the industry, as a whole, needs to evangelize about why PR is the best discipline to handle the social media space.
The analysis side of social media is similarly open to companies from different backgrounds. In the last three days, I've talked with a clipping service, an interactive agency and a social media analysis specialist firm, all of which would be happy to monitor and analyze social media for you. How the analysis fits with their other services is one of the more interesting questions, and it's leading to a series of questions every company should be able to answer before picking a vendor.

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I'm preparing some questions for next week's panel discussion on listening to social media, when up pops a Kent State/BurrellesLuce survey that finds 72% of PR professionals have no formal system for monitoring blogs (via Ed Lee). Even after the mainstream media coverage of blogs and online influence? Looks like we need to get more people on the learning curve.

Students of PR are learning about social media in class, but the old dogs seem to be taking a wait-and-see attitude. Maybe they assume that it's safe to ignore bloggers, but what's really happening is that the 72% who aren't monitoring blogs aren't aware of what's being said about them and their clients. In effect, they're betting that nothing important will happen there.

The marketing/blogging crowd knows the stories and has even grown tired of the usual examples, but too many practitioners haven't learned them. You can't influence what you don't know about, but it can grow into something you can't ignore. Interesting stories in social media have a way of generating traditional media crises, and PR in the 21st century has to learn the modern ways.

Kent State professors Bill Sledzik and Jeanette Drake will present their study on how PR agencies track and use blogs at the International Public Relations Conference next month. I'm looking forward to the answers to their follow-up questions.

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About Nathan Gilliatt

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  • Voracious learner and explorer. Analyst tracking technologies and markets in intelligence, analytics and social media. Studying complexity and futures.
  • Principal, Social Target

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