How (Not) To Get Free PR For Your Startup. (Don’t) Be On Social Media!

Public Relations

Every brand could do with being retweeted by Piers Morgan (5m Twitter followers) or Lord Sugar (5.2m), or best of all Katy Perry (77m), from time to time, and if that sounds like a sorry state of affairs for everyone, the reality is that the world of publicity, thanks to its “empowerment” by tech has but a few marketing/broadcasting channels to choose from these days if it’s straightforward attention for your brand, or for yourself, that you are after.

Snapchat, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, and err…that’s your lot. Or you can outsource your, we might as well go the whole hog and just call it marketing but let’s stick with “social media marketing” for now, to an agency, who will promote you on…Snapchat, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Such is the modern day marketing dilemma.

Oh but we’re forgetting email…much maligned, but still the most effective way of reaching people with your message, according to just about every survey about marketing ever commissioned. So the obvious thing is to find a subject that’s trending and start talking about that right? That way your posts will be topical and relevant, and Facebook is more likely to show them in people’s news feeds. But social media is a fickle mistress and if you back the wrong horse just for the sake of some free publicity you may end up with egg on your face. Imagine taking sides in the US Elections for example…or backing Brexit!

The best option is simply to be a part of the conversation. On social media, as in life, there are two types of users; Thermostats, those who alter the temperature of a room when they walk into it, and Thermometers, those who reflect the average room temperature whatever it may be. In the case of social media, let the journalists be the thermostats, the ringleaders. Listen to what they are talking about and think about what perspective you or your company may have that adds value to the debate being had.

But be careful – there’s a fine line between speaking your mind and plugging your company and crossing it could lose you a lot of followers, a lot of fans, and worst of all, destroy your potential reach. If you just can’t resist making some kind of statement, or taking a position in an argument ostensibly because you feel you must say something, but also with the promotion of your brand in mind, make it irreverent, and try to be funny. Try to hint at a point of view rather than rubbing it anyone’s face. Be self-deprecating. Think about leading up to introducing yourself with a series of messages before a big reveal, by which time you may well have built up a sympathetic or receptive audience.

You may get bored after a while and think…hey I’m done bigging-up other people’s campaigns, sponsoring this event or that, pledging my support for this or that person’s point of view, I wanna start my own campaign. Big decision, and one you might want to think twice about. It’s easy to over-promise when you want everyone’s attention and then, of course, under deliver.
“I’ll send a free drink to anybody who downloads my app today!!” sounds great but have you thought what might happen if your tweet “goes viral”. Well, it’s one way of acquiring a lot of users fast.

There may not be quite the variety of social media channels to choose from but their size and scope more than makes up for that – where you might once have thought radio, print press, events and maybe TV, now you have tweets, Snapchat and now Facebook stories, and Instagram influencers on the brain. It’s an amazing change in such a short space of time, but the evidence is increasingly overwhelming that that is the way it’s going. On demand and personalised for the individual who is always on the go.

And the secret is that you have to start by listening and get a feel for your (new?) surroundings before you set up camp and start feeling at home. If you really want to master social media the keys are patience, constant attention and responsiveness.

Isn’t it strange to think that the humble television set used to have 5 channels. We may be able to access any kind of content we want, whenever we want, but still, 1 less “channel” than the “old” days. And that’s before we even start to talk about MTV…

Keep on hustlin’

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