In the social media world, the process of turning an individual into a so-called thought leader begins with “content.” Initially, this involves creating and posting blogs and comments on others’ blogs, but also includes creating and posting other written content, such as white papers, case studies, and eBooks. However, because of the importance of YouTube in the online world, content should feature video blogs, video white board presentations and webinars.
To succeed, this on-topic content must be fresh, insightful and informative. It must add value to the ongoing online discussion of the topic at hand. Finally, this content must be constantly refreshed to keep interested readers coming back for more.
The second step involves “conversation”—primarily tweets, Facebook posts, LinkedIn comments and activity on other social networking platforms. The more platforms involved in the process, the more impact created. Yet with so many social networking platforms out there, the law of diminishing returns quickly kicks in. If resources are limited, focus conversation efforts on the big three social platforms mentioned above.
The conversation process humanizes the front individual, or the person who is credited with creating the content. This starts by brief and topical comments on Twitter and other sites, or mini-content. These are used to establish credibility and attract subject-matter followers.
Many of these posts can be pre-written, then—using one of the social media posting tools, such as Hootsuite —mini-content can be scheduled for posting at times and dates in the future.
However, to truly humanize the lead individual, this person’s posts must transcend the process of just adding content value. You can’t just talk to followers; you must talk with them as well.
BEHIND THE AVATAR
To make it personal, interactions must involve a timely and original response to all feedback comments received on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.
However, these posts shouldn’t be deeply personal. Instead, they should show a bit of insight into the man or woman behind the avatar.
The perception of accessibility is the goal here, as conversation turns a source of useful information into a living, breathing individual; one who can be trusted by followers and friends; who creates the perception of real relationships and online (business) friendships.
By providing meaningful and valuable content on a regular basis, you can own a topic area. And because the Internet is so diverse, virtually any topic area is up for grabs.
No matter what your client does and no matter the “space,” the social media world is ready to entertain the bid for leadership. To do this in an organized and professional fashion, create three PR teams, each with a specific assignment.
These teams cover content creation, conversation and the promotion of the content, both online and offline.
The “Content Team” writes the blogs, blog comments, case studies, white papers and eBooks. This team also creates video blogs, white board presentations, webinars, and promotional material in order to position new content on the various platforms for maximum impact.
This team must also work with the client to become well-versed in the subject matter to create new and meaningful content.
The “Conversation Team” handles the ongoing social networking interactions to promote the new content online.
This team will then create and post—in the individual’s name and voice—a regular stream of topical and off-topic comments that will provide a three-dimensional framework for those who ultimately follow or friend the program.
The conversation team will also seek out other bloggers on the same topic, and post brief comments to their blogs; longer comments are to be written by the “Content Team.”
Because of the nature of the Internet, this conversation is a 24-7 process; if possible, it helps to have members of the conversation team located in different time zones to spread out the responses.
Conversation is just as critical as credible content. Without effectively humanizing the front individual, the whole effort will ultimately fail.
Finally, create a “PR Team.” This team will create wire service press releases about each of the key content posts, describe why they are important, provide links to that content and then follow them up with individual pitches to the top media targets.
This is where most organized social media topic ownership efforts fall flat.
To promote new content, they rely solely on postings online via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and all the rest.
Those online posts are absolutely necessary, but they are not sufficient. Business Wire press releases and direct media pitches to key targets will bring new followers to the content, rapidly expanding the impact of the entire program.
However, in addition to press releases, the PR team will also seek out breaking news on the focus topic. Then they will reach out to the news media, including talk radio and cable news or cable business news.
To news media outlets, they will present the lead individual as an expert on the topic who can put the breaking news into perspective for the media’s various audiences.
They’ll cite recent blogs or other content that demonstrates the individual’s expertise in the field and about the breaking news topic.
This will generate media coverage and broadcast participation, which will attract new followers and add credibility online to the named source.
This is another area where most purely online social media efforts fail because they don’t take it outside the computer screen and into the larger media.
Bottom line: By coordinating these three efforts—content, conversation and offline PR promotion—you can position your client as a subject matter expert on a narrow topic and a visionary thought leader.
In due time, this will help make the person the Internet’s—and the media’s—“go-to-person” on the subject at hand; the one credible individual who is a touchstone for both online and offline discussions on the topic. PRN
How to Create (and Grow) Your ‘Conversation’ Team
Creating ghost written content is second nature to every PR professional. That goes for media relations as well, making the creation of those two teams largely self-explanatory. However, creating “Conversation” is far more personal and more than a bit tricky. Individuals on the Conversation Team are a special breed, men and women who need to be able to do the following:
1. They should be able to look at new content and know where and how to position it online via social media platform and various discussion groups that are patched into the topic.
2. They should be able to identify, create and post items that personalize or humanize the lead individual, based on that person’s daily calendar. Instead of posting (in the lead person’s voice), “I’m in Las Vegas today to give a talk on such-and-such,” say something like, “I never realized what heat really was until I came to Vegas today to give that talk at…”
3. However, the real trick is to win the confidence of the lead individual, then get inside that person’s head. It’s vital to understand their thoughts, their passions, their dreams, and the things that make them eager to get up in the morning to tackle a new day. This kind of information is essential to humanize this individual, but that only comes after trust is established. — N.B.
This article originally appeared in the November 11, 2013 issue of PR News.