Choosing the Right Tools to Build Your Social-Media Presence

Alex Cecala

Is navigating the social-media landscape akin to a traipsing through a hall of mirrors? Not exactly. But with an ever-growing number of social tools available it may be difficult for PR pros to get a grip on which social-tools are the most effective for their brands, according to Alex Cecala, social media measurement specialist at Ketchum. Cecala will discuss how communicators can choose the right social tools for their company at PR News' Big 3 Digital PR Conference, set for April 18 in New York City. He’ll be a panelist for the session titled, “Must-Have Social Tools for Your PR Toolbox.” PR News spoke with Cecala about how PR pros can select social-media tools more effectively.

PR News: What do you consider are must-have social tools for the PR toolbox?

Alex Cecala: Tools in your PR toolbox should be tailored to your PR goals, so this will vary to some degree across professionals. It’s important to remember that tools are part of a system that includes the PR professional, so no tool will do all the work for you.

Familiarity with Facebook Insights, the new Pinterest analytics platform and some sort of thirds-party Twitter tool (such as HootSuite or TweetDeck) are definitely necessary tools in anyone’s toolbox.

PR News:  Are some tools created more equal than others when it comes to effective PR communications? If so, which ones?

Cecala: Absolutely, but once again that effectiveness is dependent on the goals of your PR efforts. Free tools general allow analysis for one channel, often only owned channels, while paid tools allow you to listen to conversations across channels and brands. Typically, paid services offer greater functionality and versatility in one place, and allow you to track more specific conversations. Specialty tools such as FollowerWonk should not be overlooked; they are at times the only answer to questions you may have about your PR efforts.

PR News: How can PR pros harness some of their social tools to traditional PR channels?

Cecala: By simply pointing those tools at traditional channels. Analyze the followers of a potential media contact using FollowerWonk, track their tweets using HootSuite, or upgrade to paid services and monitor when key media ever mention anything close to a subject that concerns you—so you can leverage the opportunity. Other tricks, like setting up filters for your own boilerplate or press release headline, are effective ways to understand the social reach of your traditional PR channels.

PR News: What are some of the macro issues regarding social media that you'll discuss at the 'Big 3' conference

Cecala: The number of social media tools out there right now is both a blessing and a curse. With hundreds of tools out there, there are a lot of unique and innovative ideas going on in terms of social media engagement and measurement.

However, this makes finding the right tools even more difficult, as few of us have the luxury to review all of them; couple that with the fact that the social-media landscape is constantly changing, it can get easy to get lost.

Getting to insights is another macro issue. Users are frustrated because the tool can only take you so far on the path toward insights. It takes a good human analyst plus tools to discover insights.

Hear Cecala and other social media experts from brands such as the Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy and WellPoint PR News’ Big 3 Digital Conference, set for April 18 in New York City.

Follow Matthew Schwartz: @mpsjourno1