TopRank Marketing Editor

3 Steps for Effectively Using Social Media For PR

TopRank Marketing Editor     Online Marketing, Online PR, Public Relations, Social Media

social-media-prPreviously, I explored the intersection of social media and PR and explained why it is so important communications professionals leverage digital channels. In that post I touched on the following key points:

  • Authenticity/personality – the world and web crave it
  • It scales – popular brands just get more popular
  • Long-term storytelling – build a permission asset
  • Leverage – digital PR is your social proofing
  • Intersection with SEO – links are by-product
  • PR has changed – pull is now more effective

Next I’d like to explore a brief outline of how you can effectively use social media to accomplish your PR objectives. I’ll run through 3 key steps as a primer, however I challenge you to consider a unique entry point for your own brand. The social web is as flexible as you want it to be, and there is no single “right answer”. The following are learnings for how you could potentially approach a social media PR strategy.

1. Go platform agnostic

Social media is more than just Twitter

Everyone is buzzing about Twitter and it is without question the network du jour among PR and marketing professionals. And while we’re fond of Twitter as well, (follow us @TopRank) social media is far more than just Twitter. If Twitter is the extent of your participation you’re missing out with a myopic approach. Besides, you don’t get analytics with Twitter, no (direct) SEO benefit, and ultimately, you don’t control the network. To truly be effective at using social media for PR, treat Twitter as a feeder to something larger – as one piece to a much larger and elegant puzzle.

Own a niche across web platforms

Instead of putting all your eggs in one basket or network, focus on owning your niche across web platforms. There is little value in being a brand or person who is popular in network X or Y. There is far more value in being thought of as a leader of a niche. In other words:  your positioning should make you known as the definitive source for an industry. Going platform agnostic and putting a focus on a larger strategy that has nothing to do with any single web platform in particular is how you can accomplish this.

Have a destination and draw users back

Without some sort of destination to draw users back to and funnel subscribers, you’ll never achieve successful web community building that is protected from the rise and fall of social networks. If the history of the web has taught us anything, it is that networks can and will fall in and out of favor.  Friendster or Orkut anyone?  The greatest value exists in building your own community external of networks whose future can be unpredictable. Use them, but realize spending all of your time there is at the opportunity cost of contributing to your own destination where you stand to benefit most. In other words, consider the cost of focusing entirely on social sites such as Twitter or Facebook vs participating in those networks and sending traffic to social content on your own site such as a blog, forum or community.

Connect with power users/influencers

As noted in a previous posts on how subscribers are a vital element of your growth strategy, the ~11% of web users who know to use RSS include the users savvy enough to be web publishers.  Reaching out to this educated, technology literate group increases your propensity to connect with power users and influencers, or “contributors” as referred to by Jakob Nielsen in participation inequality. This will enable your ability to build an organic community of sneezers – those who share content like crazy and are linking up the web in meaningful ways.

2. Be ready for a long term commitment

Tactics = fast, strategy = slow

If you’re able to execute on something that resonates, engaging in the social web with the goal of generating PR can see results fast. But don’t make the mistake of thinking a single tactical success is all it takes to see sustainable growth. You need to engage in continued tactics over a long period of time – and the truth is as many of them will fail as will succeed. But if your strategy is sound, in time, it will pay off and provide increasing returns.

Need to become referential

A social media PR strategy needs to be designed to position the company a referential brand. When the brand or company identity becomes referential, your work will start to get easier. As you contribute more, people will start to notice and your content will spawn organic reactions and discussions external of the original source. Additionally, the industry will start to recognize you as a go-to source, and you’ll start to get referenced by virtue of your presence. Find a way to become referential and your efforts will multiply themselves.

Push through “the dip”

To get to the point of seeing PR returns at scale for your social web participation, you’ll need to push through “the dip”. In other words, outlast others who aren’t as serious or committed as you are. I’m still relatively new to the TopRank team, but am honored to publish content at Online Marketing Blog, where the first post dates back to 2003. Well over 2,000 posts have been made here, consistently, and that commitment has paid off: This blog generates 10-20+ organic PR placements each month (equal to about a $10K/month PR budget).  Reaching the point where publicity is generated as a by-product of participation should be an end objective of social media for PR.

3. Don’t forget the SEO intersection

Find the nexus of PR, Social Media and SEO

Here at TopRank, we’re cognizant of SEO in everything we do. There are numerous applications for SEO and Public Relations as there are many ways in which social media and SEO can intersect to amplify outcomes.   There is a nexus between PR, social media and SEO, and savvy PR agencies activate connections between all three, making them play off each other for increased visibility on multiple fronts.

Use a keyword glossary across all marketing

Your keyword glossary should not be kept in an SEO silo. Rather, apply it across marketing channels – digital or analog – and inspire greater demand for the search terms you are optimizing for. By using your keyword glossary across mediums you’re increasing the potential returns of your inbound marketing efforts.  Not only will more awareness of terms increase search demand for terms you rank for, users in your niche will begin to associate your brand with the terms and may start linking to you using those keywords. Therefore, it’s important to work to popularize your search terms across channels for brand association.

Social participation + PR = links

By participating in the social web with the goal of PR, you’re going to inspire attention for your brand. And attention on the web almost always equals links.  Links earned from PR in tandem with other link building tactics can be a major boost in both rankings and referral traffic.  Plus, editorially earned links are some of the most powerful around.

This is a very short list and exists to serve as a primer to get you thinking of how you can use social media for PR. And for the sake of space I oversimplified many of these points. So I’ll throw it over to the comments: How are you activating social media for PR objectives?

PoorSo SoOKGoodAwesome (8 votes, average: 4.75 out of 5)


  1. There are ways to get SEO value from Twitter you just have to know where to post the RSS feed. With Bing and Google adding the Twitter stream then there is no link value but to be in those results you have to be in Twitter so there is direct SEO benefit there as well.

  2. There are ways to get SEO value from Twitter you just have to know where to post the RSS feed. With Bing and Google adding the Twitter stream then there is no link value but to be in those results you have to be in Twitter so there is direct SEO benefit there as well.

  3. I think the point here is that over-emphasis on one social tool with indirect link value is worth evaluating. You can squeeze a link out of Twitter participation eventually but is it worth spending all your time there vs attracting a quantity of quality follow links from media placements and blogs? That's the consideration for PR professionals who need to decide where to spend their time.

  4. BTW, nice to see you here Terry 🙂

  5. Avatar Gabe Chesman says

    Great post!

  6. Good post. I do have a question for you, or other readers, regarding engaging with power users/influencers. Have you used any of the new tracking tools to both track a given topic across media mediums (like Radian6) or the new tool from Traackr to identify top influencers across social sites? I have been looking into both of these and am interested to hear from people who have used them to make social PR more effective.

  7. Lee I agree the value of links from most social networks is worth evaluating the “real cost” in your time. This activity can be put in RSS format…. lots you can do with an RSS feed that is direct and beneficial. Twitter isn't the best social network feed to use, but, there are quite a few that are very useful. Leveraging social networking activity is important especially since the chances of getting quality links anywhere is low, including blogs and media placement. In the past a large budget could guarantee good links from media placement, IMO, Google's newer news algo and Vince's indexing changes have changed that. IME, you will not be getting quality links from media placements if it isn't backed up with social bookmarking and other secondary inbound linking to the placement. IMO, It all works together in that regards. Not a single paid Press release site has PR flowing down the link hierarchy (to date I've reveiwed over 50 sites and both Primary paid services). There is little or no link integrity below the “topic”… actual placements have no PR and to gain some must first compensate for all the outgoing links on the page. That's been my recent experience… YMMV.

  8. These tips really helpful,to increase PR of website.

  9. Scott, Radian6, Techrigy, Scout Labs, Visible Technologies and many others will allow you to identify influencers. I would take the lists of influential bloggers & journalists you can get from Vocus or Cision and reconcile that against the influentials you can find with a social media monitoring tool. Some will match and others will not, but it can be useful to make the most out of your time. Relationship building in social PR takes time, but that doesn't mean you can't take steps to be more efficient. 🙂

  10. Measuring PageRank is a snapshot in time, it's not persistent so I wouldn't discount a link from an authoritative publication just because it doesn't pass any juice at first. If it's good editorial content, others will link to it and whatever you do on your own via bookmarks and network are icing on the cake.

  11. Avatar Gabe Chesman says

    There's a site called Social Mention, which helps narrow a search, but I'm not sure if it can help find influencers in particular.

  12. “Long Term Commitment” I think this is the most important point…..

  13. great,i will try it

  14. Avatar tazsolution says

    Thank you for sharing your tips. 🙂

  15. Avatar tessacarroll says

    Thanks for the tips, Adam. You're 100% right, there is no “right answer” for approaching social media. What you've given us here though, is a great starting point for those PR professionals looking to further integrate digital channels into their communications strategy.

    Tessa Carroll

  16. Avatar AmberNaslund says

    Thanks for that, Lee. And of course Scott, we can talk further with you about how to make the most of influencer relations. In fact, I'd be happy to connect you with a few folks that have been using our platform just this way.

    In any case, I can't underestimate the importance of looking at influence in relative terms; influencers aren't just the big guns, and context is everything. Lee understands this so well, so I'm glad you're tackling this topic, sir!

    Amber Naslund
    Director of Community, Radian6

  17. Fab article. Am loving “push through the dip”, its going straight on my whiteboard to keep me motivated!

  18. Avatar Hans Kristian Anderson says

    You have given me a lot to think about. 2,000 post is very impressive, it shows the find of commitment that is necessary to be successful. Thanks.

  19. Great Tips. Social Media and PR definitely go hand in hand. I think a lot of the older marketers avoid social media as its such a new concept, but you lay out a great way it can be approachable.


  20. You Had Me at “Social media is more than just Twitter”.


    *Millions of People Use Twitter — and Billions Don't
    *Millions of Tweeters are More Open to Facebook Links/Likely to Convert
    *Millions of Customers use a Plethora of Fragmented Social Sites/Networks

    Keep discovering where your fans, friends, and customers roam, then syndicate and deliver action-oriented content to them.

    …and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

  21. Agreed the “echo” is an important part of managing SEO w/Social activity on many networks. If you are engaing your audience in each social network than the footprint should be small but too much “noise” will muddy the signal and leave a distinguishable footprint.

  22. I agree that social media is and should be more than just Twitter. Just ask all those guys that hung their hats on MySpace and Friendster! Point is, any attempt you make should lead people back to your site/blog/business. That is the natural evolution of social media. Leaving the message to any other platform is asking for trouble. Just wait until Google buys Twitter then scuttles it!

  23. One of the biggest problems most people have is that either they are not in the position for a long time commitment, or they are simply not interested.

  24. Great tips !! In my view, SEO is a continuous process of building your reputation with the passage of time. After building your reputation as an industry leader you also need to maintain it. No matter in which niche area you work primarily, your writings should reflect your crystal clear understandings …

  25. Scott, you can also use BuzzStream (my company) to monitor news and then convert any post, article, or Tweet into an influencer contact automatically.

    For blogger outreach, you can use BuzzStream to automatically extract the contact info from a blog (email, phone, Twitter ID, Linkedin page, etc. along with web metrics like PageRank, unique visitors, and Twitter followers) and automatically save a contact to our influencer relations CRM. From there, you can monitor that person, so anytime they talk about your competitors or your industry, they show up in your monitoring (which gives you on-topic engagement opportunities). And finally, we automatically track every email and tweet you have with the influencer.

    Here's a review of the product by Jason Falls in case you're interested.

    You can also sign up for a free trial to play around with it (pricing starts at $49/mo, month-to-month).

  26. I think commitment is the hardest for any social media strategy. I can imagine most companies thinking that I'm just trying to lock them in and get as much money from them for as long as possible.

    While very often, they don't expect results to be immediate, they also don't want to dive headfirst into something that is unproven (and SEO still isn't 100% effective) and sign up for 36 months +.

  27. i absolutely agree with you with the point you mentioned in tactics fast and strategy slow. As search engines are also slow and steady to develop trust with website along the path, so meanwhile you can make your tactics work fast but in slow strategical fashion.

  28. This is one of the best articles I've seen on the “whys” of using social media for PR. I'm sending it to all my clients who are probably tired of hearing me talk about keywords and consistency.
    Thanks for this!

  29. Love “The nexus of PR, Social Media and SEO”… You hit the nail on the head! Too many agencies focus on one component, like PR, or SEO, or Social Media, and fail to put together an Internet Strategy.
    It never ceases to amaze me when I see a fairly large organization with a Twitter account, and they don't seem to understand why they have this. No strategy.
    Also, love the fact that you point out that Social Media is more than Twitter. I enjoy Twitter, yet agree that there are other flavors that our clients must consider to be effective.
    Thank you!

  30. Avatar patrickmurphy says

    Well done on the first paragraph, that does some it up. If only people saw it as that!

  31. Yes I agree with you mentioned in tactics fast and strategy slow that's really need a long term comitment, also participation in the social web help you to make link building.

  32. Thanks for this. It really does make a difference with a long term strategy.

    So many people go flat out then burn out and leave! And yes, that has also been me a couple of times. Thankfully I have hung in there online, revised strategies and keep reading blog posts such as this one which offer real information that we can use.

    Thanks and best wishes in 2010.

  33. Thanks for this. It really does make a difference with a long term strategy.

    So many people go flat out then burn out and leave! And yes, that has also been me a couple of times. Thankfully I have hung in there online, revised strategies and keep reading blog posts such as this one which offer real information that we can use.

    Thanks and best wishes in 2010.