As Twitter continues to grow in stature and credibility, it's important that public relations practitioners (as well as other professionals in marketing and corporate communication fields) develop a deeper understanding as to what all the fuss is about.
If you need reasons why you should be involved on Twitter, here they are - two bunches of fives, right between the eyes!
1. Twitter is an influential medium
Public relations is much to do with influencing people. If there is a medium out there that engages people en masse, then PR has to be in there, understanding it, getting involved. Twitter has quickly gained a reputation as a medium that influences other mediums e.g. traditional media. From a PR perspective, it's critical practitioners immerse themselves in the medium, if nothing else, to be able to discuss its influence with clients (if agency) or internal stakeholders (in-house).
2. Meet clever people
Public relations is a 'people business'. You can never meet enough clever people, and from my experience, a disproportionate number of smart/clever/intelligent people hang out on Twitter. Get involved, listen to, converse with and, importantly, learn from an incredibly diverse range of people; your brain will be all the better for it (and so too your PR smarts). Or do what Ross Hill suggests - pick your own editorial team.
3. Build your network
In the PR business, you can never have enough contacts. Networking is part of the game, and Twitter is 'networking on steroids' - it allows you to quickly grow your networks locally, Australia-wide and internationally. As Iggy Pintado is fond of saying: "Every connection is a potential business opportunity". Boost your contact book and in doing so, increase your sources of information plus potential new business leads, referrals, and job opportunities.
4. Keep up with trends
If a PR practitioner is not ahead of the curve, then they're behind - and that's the worst position anyone in this industry can find themselves in because that puts you on the path to irrelevancy. Twitter is inhabited by smart and curious people who are always seeking out new information, and when they find it, they're more than happy to share the love (as well as their views and opinions). Twitter acts as a great launching pad for further information from all number of sources on the web; there are always links to fresh and credible information on any topic you could imagine, especially politics, social issues, media, technology and pop culture.
5. Pitch journalists
More and more journalists are signing on and getting involved with Twitter. They might receive 100 emails daily - many of which they might not even get to - but are probably not bothered too much on Twitter at this point. The challenging thing to get your head around is you've got just 140 characters to pitch (or more, if you pitch via successive tweets) - not a lot, so you need to be pretty succinct. Oh, and if you're not friendly with the journo online or offline, ensure you ask permission before you pitch them privately (direct message) via Twitter - it's the courteous thing to do.
6. Pitch bloggers
Bloggers tend to be particularly active on Twitter. Logically, the two platforms go hand-in-hand as Twitter can be a great way to build traffic for your blog. Bloggers are increasingly becoming important influencers for PR people to tap into, and Twitter is the ideal avenue through which to (a) identify and familiarise yourself with influential bloggers, and (b) potentially build a relationship with them before pitching. Ditto podcasters.
7. Tactical execution
There may/will come a time when you are asked to leverage Twitter as one element of a broader communications campaign. Okay, so what do you do? If you have had exposure to the Twittersphere and are au fait with online etiquette, what works and what doesn't - then you have a better chance of making a success of it. Conversely, if you're not intimate with the inner workings of Twitter, you will struggle. As social media becomes more omnipresent (read: mainstream), companies, brands and organisations will want to leverage it as part of their communications. Don't you be the one who hasn't got a clue what to do, otherwise you'll lose your gig to someone who 'gets it'.
8.. Get info...fast!
Public relations is a fast-moving, dynamic business. You need multiple sources of information at the ready, and you need them NOW! There's a saying along the lines of "good PR people know a little about a lot of things, and if they don't know something, they know where to go to get the right information". Twitter can help! Also, Twitter is particularly good for quick 'straw poll' research - want a range of opinions in a hurry? Get tweeting! (Obviously, the more followers you've got, in all likelihood the more responses you're going to receive, so build up your Twitter community today!).
9. Build your personal brand (and sphere of influence)
It's important for people in public relations (and the marketing communications field in general) to stand out, have an opinion and to build a base of professional credibility. In short, that's how you get on in this business. It doesn't matter whether you work in agency land or you're an in-house practitioner, the future belongs to those who are ahead of the pack. I once heard a savvy marketer comment: "In the future, if you don't exist online, you don't exist." We're certainly heading in that direction.
10. Have a laugh.
Hey, the PR game is hard enough...why wouldn't you want to spend some down-time shooting the breeze with a diverse bunch of people many of whom have canny/sharp/weird/finely-honed senses of humour. Forget comedians. They're generally not that funny. I'll tell you who is funny - there are some clever cats on Twitter who machine-gun 140-character missives and razor-sharp observations that (hopefully) will put a smile on your dial.