Twitter is coming up on 9 years old — practically “vintage” in social media terms! — yet it’s still relevant for PR agency pros and communications people. Just consider the Super Bowl: with a record-breaking 24.8 million tweets during the broadcast, Twitter declared the game was the “most tweeted @Superbowl ever.” Fancy real-time graphics aside, Twitter still has an estimated 284 million active users, making it a mistake for professional communicators to ignore the Twittersphere. And with the announcement last week of group messaging and in-app video, Twitter is making a bid to increase engagement.
Updates aside, Twitter works differently from messaging apps like WhatsApp, and that’s okay. It can still be helpful for public relations pros and businesses alike.
Networking and relationship building. Twitter is still a quick and easy way to connect with other professionals and build a relationship online. Because of its ephemeral nature (a 140-character tweet only stays in the consciousness so long), it’s a pressure-free, light way to make contact. It takes little time to follow, “like” or RT, but it’s appreciated when you do.
Keeping up with the news stream. I’ve heard many a communications professional say a well-curated Twitter feed is their best source of relevant news. In the age of curated social content (think Pinterest), use Twitter to create collections of sources and to read content you’re truly interested in. The “list” function of Twitter — which allows you to segment streams by category, even for those you’re not following — makes curated viewing even more functional. What’s more, Twitter has become practically a necessity for journalists to join, so the options for following news beats is endless.
Research. Since tweets are public, the Twittersphere is a great place to do searches. Find out what’s trending, who said what, and when, to flesh out your research. And when news is breaking, fast, Twitter will often have the news first, outpacing Google’s ability to pick up breaking news quickly.
Not for pitching directly, but for understanding media before you pitch. Most PR pros avoid directly pitching journalists via Twitter (though there are some who would argue otherwise!). But there is much to gain from following reporters to see what they’re working on, what they’re interested in, and what particular vantage point they might take, to inform how you’ll pitch later on. For example, our colleague knew a certain journalist was a fan of craft beer. When it came time to promote a new product, she casually mentioned the launch of Ballantine’s IPA and quickly landed a spot on a popular radio show.
Painless learning. Twitter chats have been around for a long time, so they’ve had a chance to evolve. Take it from our own “power user,” @dorocren, the best chats are ones that are recurring, employ a strong moderator, and have active participants who are ready to jump in and make the chat constructive. There are some longstanding, useful chats where PR people can learn much about the business, including #PRprochat, which are all archived here.
Self-expression. Because tweets are so succinct, it’s a great way to express a quick opinion or observation without having to commit to too much. The sum total adds up to conveying your or your company’s personality, which is good for PR, because people like to know they’re dealing with real human beings.
For building a movement. In addition to showing how clever you are, a good hashtag can create a movement. Take the #LikeaGirl movement from Always, another Super Bowl winner, beating out Budweiser and McDonald’s in commercial views and engagement. The brand’s message — to redefine the phrase as complimentary, rather than insulting — has been adopted by dozens of other brands.