29 Things: Understand the nature of conversations and their appropriateness for your client

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There are times when I sit down to right a post and think ‘Ged, what on earth are you doing this fool’s errand of a post for?‘. Part of what I will put in here will be technique and is likely to run past its sell-by date as soon as I hit the publish button. In terms of the remainder, some is common sense and a significant part of it is gut instinct. Something that comes along with working in the PR game and which reading blog posts like this won’t teach you.

I was sitting here unproductively for a while mulling this over when I thought sod it, write something, anything that people can react to and comment upon. Don’t give them all the pieces, give them enough to spark their own thoughts and maybe start a conversation online. It sounded like a bit of a cop out, but it was better than my previous inaction so here goes.

The nature of conversations is hard to define, by its nature it can be dynamic and specific depending on the subject area. For instance if you are looking after a UK-orientated financial services brand then forums such as Zopa and Money Saving Expert could be as important as Twitter or a post by a prominent blogger. For business-to-business services LinkedIn Answers can be important. These conversations can easily jump networks through cross-posting of links on other sites, blogs or even by email.

This the reason why single-media services that monitor Twitter for example are the social media equivalent of trying to view the world through a drinking straw. You need to be able to have a holistic view to try and understand what is happening around you. Generally if you expect to get 100 mentions or below a month then Google Alerts is a good bet, I would also recommend looking at something like  Social Mention.

If you can afford it, it is worthwhile considering professional holistic monitoring tools. There are a number of these out there, notably Brandwatch and Radian6. When we have clients that can afford it we use Radian6 for measurement and monitoring as they have a proven track record behind them and tend to develop ways of plugging into new social media services like Twitter faster than their competition. Nothing is perfect so I would still back these up with a Google Alert if possible.

Questions you should be thinking about:

  • You’ve discovered social media commentary that refers to your organisation, is it positive, negative or neutral?
  • What kind of ‘neighbourhood’ is the post in? Is is on a platform that tends to flame, belittle and generally go negative?
  • Is the neighbourhood ‘well trafficked’? Does it have any authority, would responding give it more credit than it deserves?
  • Have other parties already stepped in and balanced the discussion out?
  • Is the commentary meant to be a joke or satirical in nature?
  • Are their factual errors in the commentary? Do they need to be corrected?
  • Do you think that you need to get legal advice?
  • Is the commentary due to a poor quality interaction with one of the organisation’s stakeholders? Can it be fixed?
  • Is the commentary something that you would like to share with other people as an example of the right kind of third party commentary on your organisation?

Generally forums tend to be self-regulating so you have to moderate with a lighter touch than you would generally expect.


Trust yourself

You know more than you think you do.

That is how Dr. Benjamin Spock opened up his famous book Baby and Childcare, and the advice is equally as valid in this situation. What many people tend to get lost in is that social media is about people, everything else is stuff that gets in the way conceptually, its packaging, stuff nothing more. Your intuition, built up from decades of social interaction will serve you in good stead, pay attention to it. The vast majority of the time, when I am doing consultancy, I am reaffirming what people knew already – I am essentially a provider of reassurance.

Like any other part of PR, document what you do and keep the records and correspondence involved, you never know when you may need them; we live in litigious times.

Posts in this series

29 things: the basics of how to record audio

29 things: how Wikipedia works and how to get involved in the process of having a post changed

29 things: how to tweet

29 Things: Understand the nature of conversations and their appropriateness for your client

29 things: how to use Google for fun and profit

29 things: how to use an RSS reader

29 things: how to organise a PR account

29 things: how to embed pictures and video

29 things: how to create a link

29 things: how to touch-type

29 things: how to manage your communications platform

29 things for PR people

This was the post that started it all: 29 not-very-technical things that every PR person should know