Can Twitter be used as a PR Tool?

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By Melissa Hoistion, Senior Account Executive, R&J Public Relations

Twitter is a social media platform that has been around for approximately seven years.  Right now it is the fourth or fifth largest social media network, depending on who you ask, with over 500 million users.  What makes Twitter so unique?  You can only use 140 characters at a time, which makes people pretty creative and concise.

The media have truly adopted Twitter and have integrated it into their news as well as relying on it for breaking news stories and angles on news stories.  You can learn what it going on in the world almost literally as it happens.  More people now receive their news from Twitter than anywhere else.

What does this mean for PR people?  How should we use Twitter effectively?

Twitter allows the diligent PR person to know what the media are covering.  Now, you can literally see what that reporter you are targeting is working on just by reading through their Twitter feed.  It is also a great way to pitch reporters too.  Many reporters have become selective with giving out their email addresses or even answering emails.  Now if you do it right, you can pitch your clients and break through all that clutter.  How do I pitch Twitter effectively?  Below are some steps I follow.  Give them a try and let me know how they work for you too.

  1. I carefully select what media I follow.  Whenever we sign on a new client, I spend time searching on Twitter for relevant reporters, hash tags and the proper language.  Many times because spacing is an issue, reporters will use acronyms.  Be sure you are familiar with all of these so you can speak intelligently.
  2. Beef up your profile.  If you don’t have a profile picture or a description, your Twitter profile will look like spam.  Also be honest, admit you are a PR person.  You may also want to put a disclaimer about how your tweets are your own and do not reflect upon your company or its clients.  It’s always safe to make sure all your bases are covered.
  3. Don’t just use your Twitter to pitch.  You need to actually use your Twitter account, so they see you as an influencer.  You can’t just have one follower and all your tweets are pitches you or will be flagged as spam very quickly.
  4. Make it easy to contact you.  If you pitch a reporter on Twitter, make it easy for them to get back to you to get more information.  If at all possible, I usually give my email address in my pitch.
  5. Don’t Twitter pitch them more than once.  If you tweet at a reporter and they don’t respond, move on.  Don’t tweet at them again.

I estimate that I have about a 75% success rate when I Twitter pitch.  I think part of that success rate is the fact that I am a pretty heavy Twitter user.  I also tend to engage my Twitter community even when its not work related, and I have had retweets and replies from many reporters just because I was replying to them on a completely different topic.

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