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Wednesday, 24 February 2010

How to be Interesting On-line

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People Power Online

Seth Liss,'s news community manager has some good tips for those of us who have noticed less feedback from social media activity recently. More people have piled into social media with varying levels of communications skills, muddying the waters for us all.

Time was, being on social media was novel and we all reacted to each other. Now everyone's at it, the boring get blanked out. So Seth's advice starts with the obvious: drop the minutiae of everyday living. We've all un-followed Tweeters who are obsessed by their everyday existence.

But I do agree that when you do post a newsworthy event, it's the details you bring out that make it more interesting. Every PR person and reporter knows this - and we are all occasional reporters now. As he says, 'I want to read more than: "My child took his first steps today." I want to know how it came about, where did it happen, how many steps, and how it made you feel.' Hard to do in 140 characters, I know, but whoever said good communications skills are easy?

He also reminds us to clear off to a private space if we are start engaging in a 1-2-1 conversation. I think it's a bit like talking loudly during a film in the cinema.

Seth's really nailed it when he suggests putting posts with links into context. There's no point in recommending something without giving us a clue so we can judge for ourselves whether we might agree with you. As he points out: "That approach makes it easier to agree or disagree and open the conversation up to others in your network."

Seth recruits good PR research to make a point. If you're thinking of going for the promotional jugular in your posts, you may want to consider that Edelman's Trust Barometer survey showed that "the number of people who view their friends and peers as credible sources of information about a company has dropped from 45 percent to 25 percent since 2008." (Edelman is the world's largest PR company and their annual Trust Barometer survey is based on nearly 5,000 25-minute interviews with informed people aged 24-60 in 20 countries)

So, if being promotional and your day-to-day wanderings are a no-no: what does work? As ever in PR, sharing good information is the key to being worth reading or listened to. He counsels us to develop expertise and share learnings if we want to be valued sources of interesting material.

His next observation is harder to do, but it makes a lot of sense: timing is key. Most people dip into their social media accounts so: "Know when to post." I'm going to start noting when people I admire are posting so we're more likely to deepen the connection. That's the whole point of social media.

Finally he repeats advice given by everyone I respect in the on-line PR game: listen first, then comment. "If people know you are interested in what they have to say, they will most likely be curious about what you have to say as well."

That's why following people you're interested in often produces a reciprocal response.

I'd say it pays to listen well before you speak, then you stand to engage with the best in your field. And that further builds your on line reputation. And boosting reputation is what PR is all about on and offline.

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posted by Penny Haywood Calder at


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