“Let’s hire an intern or recent college grad to do our social media!”
For small and medium-sized businesses, this seems like a smart and cost-effective idea, mainly because many believe that social media is a necessary evil that the younger crowd “gets.” Often, this plan produces lackluster results, since social media is rapidly becoming the number one PR tool for businesses. As such, social media requires a smart and effective PR strategy that focuses on the uniqueness, users and usefulness of the company.
The Case of “Love Simple”
Let’s take a look at the story of a small film whose own use of the three “u’s” translates successfully to a small/mid-sized business. “Love Simple”, a small, low budget film, appeared at several festivals, received a nice review in an industry trade publication, and was about to run out of gas after distributors passed on picking up the film – until a social media campaign stepped in.
Every business has a unique aspect. Many businesses claim to be the “best software solution” or the “best service in town”, but these tired marketing slogans don’t highlight uniqueness. Look for a niche element that sets your business apart – like a trend-setting element (a tax office management software that includes a client portal), or an element of the service (the only bank in town that is open on Saturdays). In other words, don’t try to “sell” the whole package, but focus on that unique quality!
For “Love Simple”, the PR/social media team focused on the lead actress’ portrayal of a lupus patient in the film. This presented an opportunity to virally reach an audience that the film would most resonate with – lupus survivors and their family and friends. Once the uniqueness aspect had been identified, it was time to translate that to Facebook postings, and blogger/media outreach.
After you’ve determined your uniqueness factor, the next step is to research relevant blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts of those who would be interested in your unique niche. Take “Love Simple.” Rather than go the traditional route of having real-world movie reporters and critics write about the film, the marketing strategy was tweaked to offer blogs and websites about lupus the opportunity to review the film. This strategy would enable the film’s core audience (lupus survivors, their families and friends) the ability to hear about “the product” directly from someone they relate to. Carefully calibrated and customized personal pitches were tailored to each blogger, online writer and influencer. It’s a time-consuming strategy, but personalization pays off!
When the bloggers reviewed the film, links to the bloggers’ sites were placed on the film’s Facebook page, which helped highlight the review and promote the blogger (a mutually beneficial trade-off since bloggers need PR too). Further, when the link to the review was tweeted, the hash-tag #lupus was included to gain additional exposure.
The final component is making your product or service useful to a worthy and related cause or non-profit program.
Many businesses support charitable organizations, and while they’re noble gestures, the message the partnership sends might not parallel the unique niche or mission of the company.
For “Love Simple”, the useful cause program was, well, simple. The film donates a portion of the proceeds from its iTunes and DVD sales to the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation and the Lupus Research Institute. Again, the cause supports the unique message of the film, and helps raise awareness and funds for the organizations. The organizations in turn help promote the film on their Twitter feeds and Facebook pages. Thus, the cause program is useful both to the film and the organizations. Further, lupus bloggers and online influencers are more receptive to products or services that are helping a cause they write and care about.
“U’s” Get It!
The “Love Simple” social media campaign was a winner. The campaign garnered nearly 700 quality Facebook fans, and almost as many Twitter followers. The film continues to be reviewed in scores of blogs worldwide, and as a result of the attention, “Love Simple” was prominently featured in a variety of publications including The Lupus Magazine, Ability Magazine, and on blogs and websites around the globe. Subsequently, the film was able to sign that once-elusive international distribution deal with a Hollywood agency.
Developing an impactful social media strategy involves supporting it with a thoughtful PR approach, something that interns or recent college grads might not be able to comprehend and implement. Other small and mid-sized businesses (and your competitors) increasingly recognize the strength and cost effectiveness of assigning their social media campaigns to a strategic thinker. Moreover, they “get it”, realizing that social media, when handled properly and smartly, will put your business on the right road to PR success.
John Casey, a former public and media relations executive for Toys “R” Us, Sears and Kmart, is currently director of freshfluff: spread good stuff!, a PR/social media agency in New York (www.freshfluff.com). Read about freshfluff’s successful PR/social media campaign for a Michigan tax business in the latest issue of Taxpro Journal: http://bit.ly/nIE61Z