First, let’s get this out of the way: I know some very smart people in the PR field. Yes, some of my best friends are PR people. But good grief. I’m ready to conclude that many PR agencies don’t really get it when it comes to social media. Either that, or they’re just choosing to frame the discussion in such a way as to greatly limit the potential of their clients’ social media initiatives.
Recently I was made privy to a social media plan authored by a client’s PR agency. The stated objectives of said plan were:
* increase awareness amongst bloggers, influencers and prospects
* enhance company’s image by delivering insight to key online communities
* promote company’s approach to [company’s technology & product category]
Reasonable enough, right?
Except awareness and thought leadership represent only a fraction of the potential return from social media, and in fact (I would argue) place well behind the windfall that social media makes possible in the areas of lead generation and lead nurturing. If I were to have written the plan, the primary objectives would have read:
* drive search-generated traffic and net new sales leads
* use targeted, insightful content to attract and engage with qualified prospects
* expand company’s leads database and community of followers
* educate, cultivate, and nurture existing customers and prospects
So why does it matter? Isn’t this just a question of two different approaches? Aren’t PR agencies paid to generate awareness and propagate their clients’ points of view? All true. In practice, however, adopting a narrow focus on social media solely for PR purposes (just when did social media become the province of PR anyway?) is doing clients a disservice. By viewing social media exclusively through the PR prism, and designing blogs (for example) as platforms for propagating the company’s news and views and little else, clients and their agencies are leaving opportunities on the table.
I would argue that social media can accomplish all that PR firms seek to achieve and yet still be a primary driver of new leads, Web traffic, and the conversion of raw inquiries into educated, qualified, sales-ready prospects. Yes, you can have your social media cake and eat it too.
Moreover, by adopting a more aggressive, response-oriented, lead generation view of social media, companies can expand their community of followers, increase their database of subscribers, generate more search traffic, and in the process, create more awareness, thought leadership, and all the things that make PR directors happy.
In a recent post I outlined some of the tactics we recommend to clients who are looking to generate more leads from their blog and social media in general. For those companies just dipping their toes in the social media waters, my advice is to look at blogs, Twitter, Facebook et al not just as PR tools, but as a key part of their overall demand generation and lead management strategy.