It's important to keep a close eye on trends in social media, especially as adoption rates grow and communities begin to form on a range of topics. That thought process is what prompted me to reach out to a friendly group of health IT influencers on Twitter to learn more about how and if they use Facebook to stay on top of relevant companies and industry topics for their jobs as journalists.
Less than an hour after sending my tweet, I received responses from five different journalists who verified that they do utilize social media for work, but that they each used social media a bit differently. The Healthcare practice at Schwartz MSL was interested in learning more so we developed a survey to connect with an even larger group of influencers. We asked the group to tell us if they use social media for professional use and which channels they use for this purpose. We decided to focus on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn, as our clients have seen the most success with these sites.
Social media skeptics might be surprised to learn that a healthy 82.6 percent of our survey respondents are not only using social media for personal use, but they're using it to gain knowledge about companies and topics that they may later report on. This means that they're following status updates, reading consumer responses and participating in the health IT conversations on their own accounts.
Which social media tools were the most popular for professional use among our health IT influencers? Find out here:
Twitter is clearly the king when it comes to social media participation for reporters, with 94.7 percent of our social media users stating that they use the popular social media site for professional use.
Coming up behind Twitter was LinkedIn, not surprisingly, as the social networking site is a great way to stay apprised of news and events related to companies of all sizes. And 68.4 percent of our social media-touting influencers say they log onto the site to do just that.
Google+ proved to be popular with 42.1 percent of our survey's social media users, a number that may be surprising to some until taking a step back to understand the level of interaction encouraged on the site. Reporters, The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, vendors and more have been known to gather on the still young social media channel for interactive health IT-related Google+ Hangouts.
Facebook is a site that many still reserve for personal use only. Our survey results reveal that only 31.6 percent of influencers use the site for professional purposes.
Our survey is truly a testament to the power of social media for both B2B and B2C companies. Many B2B companies tend to shy away from prioritizing social media accounts, however, the fact that 82.6 percent of the boldest and brightest health IT influencers use social media in some capacity for their jobs should encourage social media skeptics to log on and share pertinent company information with targeted communities. After all, you don’t want a reporter to see a customer complaint on social media before you do!
If you would like to learn more about how to integrate social media into your healthcare business, feel free to contact our Healthcare Social Media Practice Group at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the journalists and industry analysts covering this emerging space, reporting on the highs and lows has made them even savvier, more critical and more demanding on the businesses they research and the executives they interview.
At Schwartz MSL we work with these professionals every day, suggesting the story ideas, offering the data and providing the access to thought leaders that feed their reports. To even better understand how their perspectives are changing and how they want PR folks to work with them, we conducted a survey.
We uncovered some pretty interesting facts that any organization wanting to publicize a sustainability or green story will want to know. Here are a few:
Survey Says Don’t Believe the Hype: 48% of survey respondents felt the biggest perception challenges facing the industry are high-profile flameouts (e.g. Solyndra) and too much hype around early stage, unproven companies.
No coincidence: 65% felt overhyping technology or milestones or a lack of transparency are the biggest communication mistakes a company can make.
Schwartz MSL Says: PR programs must be built on a foundation of credibility and transparency. Most media and analysts have been burned by hyperbolic claims or unsubstantiated data, and would rather cover a bold, interesting company with substance that under promises and over delivers.
Survey Says Follow the (Thought) Leader: 55% of respondents cite interviews with industry experts among the sources they most frequently rely on for article ideas and other content.
Schwartz MSL Says: Thought leadership programs are the cornerstone to our media and industry analyst relations efforts. Arranging interviews on emerging trends, breaking news or policy needs (and not the new solution offering) deliver many of the most valuable results for our clients.
Survey Says Social is the New Normal: 34% of respondents cited Twitter or LinkedIn as the best ways to get their attention, and 27% cited social media as a major source for story ideas.
Schwartz MSL Says: Even we were surprised that Twitter tied with desk phones as the second most popular way to contact reporters. And with a quarter of media and analysts getting ideas from social means every company should be budgeting for social media PR in 2013.
Here at Schwartz MSL, we work with journalists and analysts in the cleantech industry on a regular basis, but to keep up with changing interests, headlines and perspectives, we want to know more. We conducted a survey, and uncovered some interesting facts. Schwartz MSL VP Erin Del Llano talks about our findings, and what you’ll want to know when publicizing any sustainability or green story, in this week’s Wait A Minute video and blog post.
Driving in to work this morning, I heard the news that GE Capital has announced that it has stopped financing gun retailers. It was reported that the company, based in Fairfield, Conn., made the move in a sign of solidarity with its neighbors in nearby Newtown, where Adam Lanza senselessly killed 27 people, including 20 children, just before Christmas last year.
"Wow," I thought. "Way to take a stand!" Until the story went a little deeper... It turns out GE Capital's new policy affects only retailers that exclusively sell firemarms and doesn't affect retailers—such as Wal-Mart—that sell guns in addition to a variety of other products.
In fact, the decision affects less than 75 retailers, which USA Today quotes GE spokesperson Russell Wilkerson as saying was "an immaterial part of our sales volume."
Oh. So what's the point of the big announcement then? Well, the point is mostly symbolic. GE Capital is essentially sending a not-so-subtle message to its employees, its customers, investors and the community at large that things need to change. We need to figure out how to get a handle on gun violence in this country and put an end to tragic events such as what happened in Newtown.
Are they sticking their necks out for this? Not really. But they are drawing an (albeit faint) line in the sand. What's more, they're keeping the conversation going, with media outlets reporting on it from coast to coast this morning (and even a mention in this humble blog). At the end of the day, we're all going to remember that GE Capital acted on principle. We're less likely to remember it was a mitigated risk in the first place. And, that's what they hoped to achieve.
It got me thinking about my clients and even the company I work for. What can each of our businesses do to put a stake in the ground -- to make good business decisions that are also based on principle and the kind of companies we want to be? How can we use these decisions to position ourselves as thought leaders and inspire others to follow suit?
Sometimes conducting media outreach can be a difficult activity for PR practitioners during a normal working environment, but in the aftermath of a national tragedy, such as the Boston Marathon bombings and subsequent manhunt for the suspects, the playbook becomes more complex. Should there be a grace period when reaching out to reporters? If so, how long should it last? Is there an opportunity to become a valuable resource for the media without looking like you’re leveraging a calamity?
There’s no easy answer, but in this case, in many industries such as entertainment, high-tech and cleantech normal communications activities resume quickly. However, in others such as sports and healthcare, reporters were quickly consumed in Marathon-related stories. This means that PR pros had to be more sensitive to the scope of the news. PR pros and their clients in those fields were best served by erring on the side of caution.
The Marathon tragedy also presented an opportunity for some public relations representatives to offer assets to reporters. This is no time to push for a product or company feature, but there are people with expertise who can help reporters bring perspective and new insights to the public. For instance, trauma physicians or experts in limb amputation can offer important insight. The same can be said for terrorism and security experts. However, the line between helpful and insensitive is narrow. Pitching a product or service to reporters with the positioning that “XYZ could have helped save lives” would be in extremely poor taste. The sensible approach is to proceed with caution, and the paramount concern should be helping the public, selflessly.
The events of last week created an interesting dilemma for one of Schwartz MSL’s account teams. Our client markets a treatment for blocked arteries caused by peripheral artery disease (PAD) and recently launched a campaign that centered on the prevention of limb loss (if left untreated, PAD often leads to amputation). It is a noble and important effort, given that PAD is strongly linked to diabetes, a condition whose prevalence is rising rapidly among U.S. residents.
However, more than a dozen of the injured spectators at the Marathon lost one or both of their legs. In the immediate aftermath of these events, could we justify pitching a story on a treatment to prevent limb loss?
At the time of the tragedy, our media outreach efforts were focused on national consumer freelancers and local health reporters in New Haven, Conn. and Lexington, Ky. We could have resumed our normal activities in short order without tying in the events in Boston, and perhaps we could have generated some interest in a story on PAD. But it didn’t feel like the right thing to do. It was too soon.
We decided to cease all media relations activities for the week. This week, we are treading carefully and contacting reporters only when we are certain they are no longer covering Marathon-related health stories. We are proceeding with caution. Ethically and professionally, it’s the right thing to do.
Marketers and communication professionals alike agree that social media is here to stay. Facebook and Twitter have proven to be an effective tool to reach a targeted audience and to engage in a conversation that’s relative and important to business, often resulting in an impactful ROI.
However, there’s one social media channel that all too often is overlooked. I don’t know if it’s because we associate it with our own personal brand, but with more than 200 million users, LinkedIn is an often underutilized resource for B2B marketing.
If you haven’t already engaged in a LinkedIn influence campaign—think about this:
Access to a Targeted, Engaged Audience
Who are you trying to reach? As PR practitioners we hear it all the time: “We want to reach human resource professionals, dentists, surgeons, building property managers, we need a Facebook page!” Wrong. Facebook is a great resource to reach consumers, but not the most effective at influencing strategic business level decisions.
LinkedIn is the biggest professional social network in the world; the Group space within the network creates a forum for colleagues to exchange best practices with industry experts and is a prime platform to exchange ideas and information for marketers. For example, a quick group search on LinkedIn for “human resources” shows more than 3,800 groups with thousands of members and active discussions. It’s an easy opportunity to directly engage with a target audience.
Bolster Your Image
Before you engage first make sure your own LinkedIn page is up to snuff. Are you following relevant third party groups, or industry organizations? Are your employees following you? Your own page is a perfect platform to develop expertise and thought leadership. Create a weekly/biweekly editorial strategy, identify relevant topics and trends and have several different employees post a discussion to engage followers. Remember, it’s not a one-way street, be sure to monitor what’s being said with other groups and chime in.
How do I know it’s working? When communicating with different audiences, include a bit.ly or Google URL tracker to allow for trackable/measureable results. This will permit you to see how many people clicked on the information and if your message is resonating. For example, if your business has an annual award and you’d like to drive nominations, tracking your group discussion posts makes for an easy way to see which group is engaged and interested in the award and furthermore, which of your messages is resonating with them. Be sure to mix it up, post at different times with different messages, rather than using the same message.
Don’t Be a Quitter
Like all social media programs, it takes time and consistent engagement to see results. With a strong strategy in place, active engagement, a clear direction, goals, objectives and a touch of patience, you’ll be a LinkedIn groupie before you know it. And you’ll even have measurable results to support your latest addiction.
Social media is an important part of any PR strategy, but while many are focused on Facebook and Twitter, there's another channel that often goes overlooked—LinkedIn. In this week's Wait A Minute post, Schwartz MSL's Stacy Nartker discusses why LinkedIn should not be forgotten about, and how to use the platform most effectively to achieve your marketing and communications goals. Watch the video below and read the full blog post here.
Two SEO experts and a nice crew of PR practitioners gathered at Schwartz MSL last night to discuss the best ways for PR peeps to help clients achieve better results with Google search. The topic is not new, but conventional wisdom has changed dramatically in recent years and months. Here's what we learned last night:
1) Paid search (PPC) is very hard for B2B companies. The two experts, Lora Kratchounova from Scratch Marketing & Media and Ian Klein from inSegment, agreed that paying for placement in Google search results is difficult for B2B companies. It seems as though it's hard to sort out key words that are specific to a B2B audience against the backdrop of those terms appearing in Google searches for other reasons.
2) A company *should* bid for PPC placement on its own name. Apparently, Google offers discounted rates for companies to place PPC bids on their own company names (awfully nice of Google to do that). And even though a given company should have excellent organic SEO for its own name, it's a best practice to secure top paid placement for that company name as well.
3) BIG: For PR people, the little SEO press release tricks no longer matter. My co-worker Mark McClennan publishes an annual report on how PR pros fail to optimize their press releases for SEO. The numbers are stark. Three-quarters of press release headlines are too long, given that Google seems to prioritize terms that appear in about the first 65 characters. Well, as it turns out, the SEO tips and tricks I learned several years back are no longer applicable. Google is smart enough to understand context and to make very good guesses about the quality of writing. In general, PR pros don't need to worry about keyword density, links, etc.
4) What does matter is good writing. As Ian Klein mentioned, if a PR pro writes a solid press release that is clear and includes appropriate links to supporting content, then that pro will be rewarded from an SEO perspective. It's that simple.
I have experienced this fourth rule a few times. Sometimes, when I read an especially good press release or blog post written by one of my teams, I run a keyword density check on that writing. And I find a near perfect density for the keywords the client cares about. In these cases, the writer is merely trying to write something good; they are not paying attention to the SEO "rules."
It would appear that Google has improved its algorithms so that it can serve its users best--the best content is given the best authority. I guess that's the way it really should be.
Lora Kratchounova agreed that good content is key. However, she expanded the concept of content to include other deliverables besides writing. It could be visuals or games, even.
5) Media placements that link to client websites or pages significantly impact SEO. For good old fashioned media relations experts, Ian Klein nailed it. A high-profile placement with a link back to a client's site might take a lot of time and a lot of effort. The SEO benefit from that placement (and link) is equal to the effort that went into the process.
So the big takeaways for PR people affecting SEO? It's about good writing and media placements that refer to my clients.
The Schwartz MSL digital team put me on camera to walk through the highlights of an eBook MSLGROUP recently published providing tips and tricks for Infosecurity PR. Infosecurity is the largest IT security show in Europe.
If you’re an SEC geek like me, the developments over the past few days concerning social media and simultaneous disclosure have been fascinating. This new SEC guidance, triggered by something Netflix CEO Reed Hastings did last July 3, has resulted in a short SEC document that is actually reasonably easy to understand (not always the case). This is a topic that often comes up with publicly traded companies so I’ll summarize it here, and include a few related links on the topic as well: the NYT Dealbook story and the CFO magazine story, as well as the SEC document (above).
(Caveat: I’m not an SEC or Reg FD specialist, but I’ve followed this for years and I play one on TV. NOTE: we are not an IR firm and we cannot give binding advice about regulated financial matters.)
So here’s a summary. In 2000 the SEC updated its ancient (1934) rules regarding disclosure of information that could impact trading of public company equities. This was a 584-page document usually referred to as Reg FD, or “the aircraft carrier.” With the rise of blogs and social media the SEC updated some of this in 2008 to address the trend of companies using online communications to convey material information. This was referred to as the Commission’s 2008 Guidance. This helped, but social media has evolved at a furious pace since 2008.
Then, in July 2012, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings used his personal Facebook page to brag that Netflix had provided one billion hours of streaming content in the month of June. This represented an enormous increase in Netflix streaming, and because previously Hastings had said that hours of streaming was a good metric for the company’s performance, the SEC viewed the Facebook posting as a potentially non-simultaneous disclosure of a key material fact. Hastings has 200,000 Facebook followers but the information took a few hours to spread and the stock rose 13% during that time. Netflix did not make an SEC filing of this information. So the issue was: did this violate SEC rules by being non-simultaneous, or is social media now so widespread that you could view this Facebook posting as simultaneous disclosure of material information?
On April 2, 2013 the Commission’s Division of Enforcement issued an eight-page report that reviewed all of this. To boil it way down: social media channels like Twitter, Facebook and company blogs are now acceptable ways for a company to disclose this type of information, but there’s a big “If.” Which is: a company must announce its social media disclosure strategy, specifying the channels it may use, so investors will know how to follow the company’s announcements. Also, a company must be consistent in using these channels, and if it changes its approach it must announce that change. Basically, if a company says something like: “we might use our Facebook page, Twitter or blog to announce material information” then interested investors can follow all those channels and the disclosures will be simultaneous.
Interestingly, the wire services that distribute press releases are all making the case this week that disclosure through social media is still is still too spotty and inconsistent, and there’s nothing like the good old-fashioned press release. They’re probably right, but now the SEC has cleared the way for companies to make social media channels a key element of their financial disclosure strategy.
Here are two useful sections from the Commission’s April 2 finding:
Specifically, in light of the direct and immediate communication from issuers to investors that is now possible through social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter, we expect issuers to examine rigorously the factors indicating whether a particular channel is a “recognized channel of distribution” for communicating with their investors. We emphasize for issuers that the steps taken to alert the market about which forms of communication a company intends to use for the dissemination of material, non-public information, including the social media channels that may be used and the types of information that may be disclosed through these channels, are critical to the fair and efficient disclosure of information. Without such notice, the investing public would be forced to keep pace with a changing and expanding universe of potential disclosure channels, a virtually impossible task…
There has been a rapid proliferation of social media channels for corporate communication since the issuance of the Commission’s 2008 Guidance. An increasing number of public companies are using social media to communicate with their shareholders and the investing public. We appreciate the value and prevalence of social media channels in contemporary market communications, and the Commission supports companies seeking new ways to communicate and engage with shareholders and the market. This Report is not aimed at inhibiting corporate communication through evolving social media channels. To the contrary, we seek to remind issuers that disclosures to persons enumerated in Regulation FD, even if made through evolving social media channels, must still be analyzed for compliance with Regulation FD. Moreover, we emphasize that the Commission’s 2008 Guidance, though largely focused on the use of web sites, is equally applicable to current and evolving social media channels of corporate communication. The 2008 Guidance explained that issuers must take steps sufficient to alert investors and the market to the channels it will use for the dissemination of material, nonpublic information. We believe that adherence to this guidance will help, with minimal burden, to assure compliance with Regulation FD and the fair and efficient operation of the market.