The folks at South Florida American Marketing Association invited to me to their meeting today with speaker Peter Shankman, founder of Help A Reporter Out, a web site dedicated to linking people to journalists looking for sources. His other life is as a marketing and social consultant.
Personally, I'm indebted to Peter (also known as @skydiver on Twitter) for telling a roomful of PR folks that that the best way to reach reporters is to be brief and be good. In that spirit, here's a recap of his talk today, which was a great introduction for people who may not know much about social media, as well as some insight for folks who are already pretty familiar with this world.
His basic point was social media is just a tool like any other -- just because you have it doesn't mean you'll be good at using it unless you learn how to use it. Learning social media isn't just about pushing out information -- it's about using it to listen to others. Here are a few of his principles, which are really applicable not just to business people but everyone using social media:
TRANSPARENCY: The world we live in now basically requires this. Shankman made a point of saying companies, people, whoever is in charge of a Facebook page, Twitter account, or whatever social media you are using, needs to be honest about who's in charge. In other words, if you have the summer intern in charge of sending out tweets for the company, you should say so.
If you try to hide something, especially online, he points out there's always some 15-year-old kid out there who is dying to prove you wrong.
RELEVANCE: Given the information overflow out there, be as relevant as possible. Make sure you make an effort to find out what people want and how they want it. Our standards for customer service and relationships are so low these days, it's not hard to exceed people's expectations.
BREVITY: Shankman said the attention span these days of teenagers is about 140-characters, or 2.7 seconds. We're all inundated with information, so don't just be good -- be brief about it.
TOP OF THE MIND: Given all of this, it's important to remember to do things that keep yourself engaged with other people. He estimates that people really stay connected with just about 3 percent of their entire social network. If you make a point to listen, be relevant, smart and brief, you can stay connected to folks.
For me, his talk all came down to this: People today who are the best at using and sharing information will rule the world. And so many more people have a shot at that these days using social media to do it.
p.s. Thanks to @fsutoby, otherwise known as Tilson Communication's Toby Srebnik, for the picture of Peter.