Why Communicators must be Competent in Social Media

If you are like most communicators, you have been bombarded with articles, professional association events and even younger colleagues telling you the importance of being competent in social media. You might be saying to yourself, I already have a lot of work to do or I don’t have time to learn about social media. One of the reasons why communicators need to become competent in social media is because the newspaper industry is shrinking.  Look around your area and you will notice that most of your local daily and weekly newspapers have gone out of business. I think that, as newspaper companies shut down, the number of blogs will increase. To prepare for this change communicators need to start building relationships with bloggers now, as we have with journalists in the past.

The down economy has really hit communication departments hard. This means companies are looking for communicators who not only understand how to write a press release, but also how to write a blog.  They are looking for communicators who can build relationships with people on social networking sites.  If you want to keep the job that you have or move up in your career you must become proficient in social media.

There are many social media tools out there that we as communicators should be proficient in or at least familiar with.  Here are some ways that your company can use LinkedIn, Twitter and Blogs to make it more profitable and successful.

The book Get Connected: The Social Networking Toolkit for Business, by Starr Hall and Chadd Rosenberg, explains that LinkedIn is a networking site for business professionals.  The purpose of this social media tool is to share knowledge and create relationships with various people.

One way that your company can use LinkedIn is by responding to the “Questions and Answers” section of LinkedIn.  By answering relevant questions your company can really show that they are leaders in their industry.  Your company can also connect with movers and shakers in their industry.

Twitter is another social media tool that can be beneficial to your company.  Hall and Rosenberg states that Twitter, a microblogging service, allows a person to post information that is 140 characters or less.  The true value in this tool is the connection that it provides.

One way that twitter can be used in a professional setting is fixing small problems before they grow into large problems. Natalie Canavor and Claire Meirowitz explained in their IABC CW Bulletin article, Does Twitter Belong in Your Company’s Marketing Mix, that the airline company, Jet Blue has used twitter to resolve issues with angry customers. They talk with these customers via twitter and find ways to handle their complaints.  By dealing with these small problems immediately there is a less likely chance of several complaints growing into one large problem.

Blogs are another social media tool that many companies are using to stay competitive.  Hall and Rosenberg explain that blogs are entries that include tips, commentary, articles, photos, information about events and/or links to other blogs.  This tool is interactive because people who read your blog can comment on what you wrote.

A successful way that companies have been using blogs is to get their CEO to blog.  Having your CEO blog shows that your company and your CEO are leaders in your respective field.  Deidre Breakenridge, author of PR 2.0: New Media, New Tools, New Audiences, notes that CEOs who do not blog are missing the opportunity to talk directly to their customers and potential customers.

Here are some tips on how to use social media effectively:

1) If you are trying to figure out which social media sites to join, many social media experts believe that the top three sites are Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Do some background research on the positives and negatives of joining these sites. Then join the sites that make the most sense for your company. Make sure that the goals you want to achieve from social media are in line with the social media tools your company will be using.

2) The point of social media is not to sell a product or a company: it is to connect with people.

3) Once you become comfortable with social media, it can be very addictive.  Dedicate a certain amount of time to social media each week.

With some time and practice you can help make your company become a dominant force in the social media arena.

Taryn Robinson is a communications coordinator for Keystone Mercy Health Plan. She is also the Student Programs & Outreach Liaison for IABC Philadelphia. She has a passion for health care communications and has worked in government, non-profit and agency settings.  She can be reached at tarynre@yahoo.com.

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