PR Insider: Taming Twitter to Make it Work for You

Torsten Mueller
Torsten Mueller

Twitter is too noisy for PR consultants who need to get to the heart of a journalist’s conversation. They need more than just a large following and well-curated lists, and they need to do more than just retweet or answer journalists’ tweets. I want to give a few examples of how one can develop an effective and sustainable strategy for Twitter that reaches beyond the noise.

Getting the attention of journalists is difficult. It always has been. I’ve worked as a journalist, so I know that their time is a precious commodity. And their workload has only increased with the advent of social media. If a journalist follows you on Twitter, that doesn’t mean he automatically reads your tweets. Hardly anyone follows his or her entire timeline activity. For this reason, the platform is rather serendipitous-at any given moment, someone might log in and find something interesting. For our purpose, though, we need to make sense of all this information, and not rely on luck alone to hope tweets are discovered.

Talk of the town

A good way to harness Twitter is to identify the talk of the town: What is my target group currently discussing? Twitter trends don’t work for me (one might even say they don’t work at all) if I want to identify trends in special interest groups. Twitter lists are essential, but they demand a lot of work. A good way to start is to follow lists that other users have created. Many of those can be found at listatlas. With Tame, a product I helped develop to manage your Twitter feed, I always analyze the activity on my lists, or the ones I subscribe to, from the last few hours or up to seven days back. I can see at a glance what is trending among the people on my lists-links, topics, or users.

Jump on the beat

An easy way to look for people who are influential about specific topics is to monitor hashtags. First, you need to identify the right hashtag for your interest. It is important to know whether people are actually making use of a hashtag and in which context. You can find the answer by searching for keywords in Tame. Next, look at which users are influential for a specific hashtag by examining how many users have been retweeted or mentioned more than others. Then you can add these users to Twitter lists or your following. It’s a good way to see who is actually active and influential on Twitter, because a lot of people might have a large following, but they are not necessarily influential. Now you can engage them directly. However, engaging does not work with simply sending a tweet with your PR message. This is why you should always be looking for trending among target groups.

How to get attention

Once you know what is currently trending among your target groups, it’s time to engage. I’d recommend using a topic or an issue in which journalists are already engaged, preferably several journalists at once.

Here’s an example of how to do this:

Two weeks prior to the September 2013 German national election, Chancellor Angela Merkel and her challenger Peer Steinbrück engaged in a televised debate. With 180,000 total tweets during the debate, the duel actually set new records for Germany, which is not considered to be the most prominent Twitter nation. The spark in activity was a major news item the next day, driven in part by a journalist from a leading news magazine who critically questioned the numbers. His argument was that Twitter usage in Germany is basically a filter bubble confined to a small group.

Whether that was true or not, I immediately saw that a number of journalists were taking part in this discussion. It was a great opportunity for me to get into the conversation and get the word out about my product. I retweeted and then commented on his article, enhancing his numbers based on my company’s analysis. I also shared the information with other journalists taking part in the discussion. My statement not only got picked up by the journalist who wrote the original story, but it was also used as a source of ongoing coverage from other media outlets.

Cutting through the noise is probably on of the biggest challenges for professional social media users. I hope this piece gives good guidance.

Torsten Mueller is co-founder and CMO of Tame, where he manages marketing, communications and sales. Follow Torsten: @mundustorsten