How to go the extra mile using Twitter for PR

Going beyond the basic uses of the platform can yield huge benefits.


When I started writing this post, I was going to call it “How I Use Twitter.”

Then I reconsidered, because (a) I’m not as frenetically active on Twitter these days as I used to be, and (b) who the heck cares how I use Twitter?

So instead, I thought I’d write about how I think you can use Twitter for PR.

Standard uses

It’s not that people are not already using Twitter for PR. They are; it’s one of the favorite tools in journalists’ toolboxes, therefore it’s one of the favorite tools of PR pros. Here is where the typical use of Twitter for PR begins and ends:

1. Publicizing news, blog posts, videos—basically, any kind of content. A lot of companies still share their own content only on Twitter.

2. Retweeting what other people have said about their own companies (or about them personally) ad nauseam. You know, the ones that go: “RT @{original tweeter}: You’re such a rockstar, @{person being talked about}.”

3. Participating in #followfriday, doing a reply-all that includes that hashtag (as well as possibly people you really don’t know), or retweeting a #FF tweet mentioning you.

4. Live-tweeting from events, using a hashtag that has been set up for the event, or creating one from scratch.

5. Pitching journalists on Twitter.

These activities are pretty standard; No. 4 in particular can be either useful or overwhelming.

I think there are better and worse ways of doing them all; for example,

• No. 1 should be much more about others’ content than yours;

• No. 2 makes me barf;

• ditto on the reply-alls and/or RTs for No. 3;

• also for No. 5, when I see a person’s timeline filled with @ messages to journalists/bloggers, that all contain the same query/pitch. (I have even seen people on the other side of the media fence do this when trying to get attention for a new product or service.)

Taking it further

There’s a lot more you can do to use Twitter for PR in a smart way. These include:

6. Using Twitter lists smartly.

You can make these lists public or private, but depending on the nature of your work, you might set up any number of lists to track what specific people/companies are saying. People like being added to lists, so you’re both giving them an ego boost and making it easier to find relevant content. Once you’ve done this, you can:

• Keep tabs on what specific groups of people—who are important to your business or organization for a variety of reasons—are saying, and @ reply them regularly, to start building that R word that is so critical for our profession (nowadays people are calling this “influencer engagement”);

• Monitor the needs of target journalists and bloggers, because often they will field queries on Twitter;

• Learn who could be potential evangelists, community leaders, and influencers for your field by keeping tabs on those who regularly and appropriately participate in focusing on key words and phrases.

Joan Stewart, who calls herself the “publicity hound,” has some more ideas.

7. Stop using Twitter’s Web interface, and balance scheduled and real-time tweets.

I’m still surprised at the number of people who don’t use a dashboard such as HootSuite (my dashboard of choice). You can monitor lists, schedule tweets, and participate in many social networks from that one place, so if you’re not, I truly believe you’re making too much work for yourself.

It doesn’t have to be HootSuite. I tend to use HootSuite for day-to-day activity, Buffer for curation, and TweetGrid for Twitter chats. Figure out what works for you. (Ian Cleary has some nice tips on scheduling tools for multiple tweets here.)

8. Actively participate in Twitter chats.

I created the hashtag #measurePR and founded and moderate that chat, which focuses on PR (and social media) measurement. Before that, however, I participated in other chats, notably #soloPR (exactly what it sounds like) and #journchat (the first Twitter chat ever, I believe).

This helped me get to know several peers, and vice versa. Add in #measurePR, and the requests for guest blog posts, “appearances” on other Twitter chats, as well as offline queries from prospective clients and speaking opportunities steadily grew. Those first two are nothing if not “PR,” and the latter are exactly what I hope for on the business front as I grow my social PR consulting business (as well as some more PR thrown in).

Integration and all that jazz

Obviously you can also use Twitter for PR by integrating photo-sharing via Instagram, tweeting out pins from Pinterest, etc. The point of this post is not to list all the ways there are to promote content via Twitter, because that’s where most people start—and stop (see No. 1).

The point is to go beyond that, so that you can really start to use a platform that has truly revolutionized how we communicate, and that is still pretty simple to use, to make better, and mutually beneficial, connections with people for better business results.

Because that’s what public relations is really about.

Shonali Burke runs a successful agency of one, is the founder of the popular #measurePR Twitter chat, and Adjunct Faculty at Johns Hopkins University’s M.A. in Communication program. A version of this story first appeared on her Waxing UnLyrical blog.

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