PR News Q&A: Sabrina Horn Discusses Combining Microblog Metrics With a Macro Business Outlook

Sabrina Horn

While Twitter is shaping up to be a powerful PR tool for creating brand awareness, measurements such as “hits,” “followers” and “retweets” can only go so far, according to Sabrina Horn, founder, president and CEO of Horn Group, a digital communications agency. PR pros must go further with measurement, tying key metrics into larger business goals, says Horn, who will address strategies such as setting Twitter KPIs and integrating those metrics with traditional measures at the PR News Twitter Conference, set for Nov. 10 in Las Vegas. Horn will speak on the panel “Microblog Metrics That Matter to the C-Suite.”

PR News: What are some successful strategies that attract Twitter followers and keep them engaged?

Sabrina Horn: It's always about compelling content. You won't attract a lot of followers by only posting things about your own company. You can't be self-serving or too salesy, either—it'll turn people away. You attract followers when your content is provocative, industry-wide and issues-oriented—topics people can lend their opinion to. And remember, people are inherently curious. Concentrate on people, places and things. Play to their innate sense of wanting to know more and you'll see engagement rise.

PR News: Twitter is a 24/7 platform. How can organizations with small staffs or resources create engaging content to keep up with the 24-hour cycle?

Horn: In today's market, social media should be a small piece of everyone's job, rather than 100% of one person's job. There does need to be a leader, of course, someone who filters what should be tweeted and what is/is not as relevant. But ultimately, it needs to be woven into the infrastructure of the entire organization.

One practical way to manage the volume of content is to pick 3-4 topics of current interest each week—anything and everything that falls into those topics should then be tweeted. To be honest, this can be the responsibility of an intern; they're often more social media-savvy than many in most organizations. This person can then help select topics and oversee the day-to-day management of content.

PR News: What are the key metrics to consider when measuring the ROI of Twitter initiatives?

Horn: There's no set answer for this—it really depends on the business goals of each particular organization. If, for example, a company wants to drive more hits to its Web site, Twitter can definitely help do that. But that only tells a small part of the story. Instead, it's more telling to look at the underlying business goals beneath the surface-level metrics: How does Twitter (and social media in general) fit into the overall business picture? Is it a branding mechanism? In that case, how is Twitter increasing awareness and influence? Is it a lead generation tool? If so, what types of leads are coming in, and what is the quality of them?

In the end, metrics like "hits," "retweets" and "followers" only tell you so much. Twitter, like any other channel, needs to be aligned to larger marketing and business goals. That's where you'll find the true story of your ROI.

PR News: What are the first steps PR professionals can take in tying social media metrics to outcomes?

Horn: First, what are the goals of your company? Be very clear about what it is you're trying to achieve; second, make sure you have the right tools to measure those specific outcomes. Actively monitor and refine your social media approach—don't just "set it and forget it." And third, create an executive dashboard with relevant data to ensure executive buy-in. Make it as quick and easy as possible for stakeholders to access and understand key metrics. Don't overload them with data, just deliver the primary metrics needed to communicate the larger business picture.

PR News: What is the one key tip you’ll share with the attendees at the Twitter Conference on Nov. 10?

Horn: Social media is not the shiny new object anymore. There's nothing mystical or magical about it; it's just another way for your company to communicate to and reach its audiences. The sooner you understand that, the sooner you can pave the way for informed, targeted business decisions. With social media, you'll listen, you'll engage and hopefully you'll influence, but it all starts with understanding its role within your larger business goals/infrastructure, and that's where we'll start as well.

Attend the PR News’ Twitter Conference Nov. 10 in Las Vegas and learn from social media leaders like Sabrina Horn.

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