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Social media tips for businesses from RBB public relations

As I mentioned in my previous post, I got more social media advice than I could fit into today's story. One such interview was with Christine Barney, CEO of RBB Public Relations. She said in the past year and a half, the agency has helped all their clients become engaged in social media in some form.

"If you're not on social networking sites, you're not on the Internet," Barney said.

And there's more to it than just creating a Facebook Fan page. Take for example what the AmericanAirlines Arena did with it's new MiamiMediaMesh -- a giant screen on the front of the arena -- which will showcase tweets people send to @MiamiMediaMesh. Now that's interactive.

Barney says the conversations she's having with clients have gone beyond using social media to broadcast messages. For one, there are tools to help you comb the Web and see what people are saying about your company, which is what its client BankAtlantic is now doing.

Twitter might not be a perfect fit for every company, but she said it is certainly something to seriously consider if you have a business that has a heavy customer service element -- such as an airline. And being on sites like Twitter can help you pop up higher in search engine results.

"The cost per leads is so attractive that its worth testing," she said.

After you create a plan of who you are trying to reach and what tools you will use, Barney cautions to avoid these social media don'ts:

"Don't just stream messages," she said. "If you're just taking all your information and putting it in press releases, you're not really engaging in dialog."

And it pays to have dialog, because with all the people that contact you with their opinions, it's like having a free focus group give advice, she said.

Another don't: Don't jump in if you don't know what you are doing. Hire someone, like a PR firm, marketing agency or consultant. It's not always effective to give the CEO a blog. "Maybe the one that touches customers should be the one with the public face," Barney said.

"It has to be a dedicated effort," she added. "You can't just throw it on the backs of the interns. I see that a lot. You have to take it seriously."

And of course measure and track to see what people are clicking on. There really is no real answer to what is the thing you have to be on. Test various social media outlets to see what works, she said.

"Every company should be looking at where their customers are engaged," Barney said.

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