In 1971, the American scholar Herbert Simon wrote that “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” Not surprisingly in the age of information overload, we have become dependent on circles of friends, family and colleagues to help us decide what’s worth reading and watching. The Facebook status updates, tweets and blog posts of people whose opinions we trust to determine which content warrants our precious time, and this “social news filtering,” has huge implications for communications professionals. As these content-filtering clans strengthen and grow more intimate, landing a mention for your client on a popular news site or blog may no longer serve as the definition of success for public relations professionals on the Web. Increasingly, savvy clients and bosses are asking that you prove not just that people saw the mention, but that they recommended it to others.
How are you going to do that? From a measurement standpoint, content sharing on the Web is entirely quantifiable: How many sites and blogs linked to the mention? How many people commented about it, posted a status update or tweeted it? How many posted it to a social news site like Digg? Identifying influencers who lead these clans, and developing relationships with them, is becoming one way that public relations pros help their messages spread. This shift also broadens our target community beyond the ranks of professional journalists.
In his book, “Tribes,” Seth Godin discusses how the Web enables people to become leaders of tribes of people with shared passions. But from the perspective of a communications professional, these influencers needn’t have the clout to drive people to bold action, so much as the influence to simply convince their acquaintances to click, reblog, retweet or comment about something.
A Nielsen study published this spring indicated that social networks are now more popular than e-mail. Many journalists find it more palatable to find mentions of you organically through links from friends and search engines, rather than through an e-mailed pitch or news release. How are you going to ensure they stumble upon your digital presence? They’ll find you because you’re participating in the communities that influencers lead on blogs and social sites, including not just Twitter and Facebook, but Web 1.0 forums and groups, where a lot of great conversations still happen.
If you’re not sure where to start, ask a friend. They just might point you in the right direction.
Jay Krall, manager of Internet media research, Cision, is responsible for the development and maintenance of the online media segment of Cision’s media database and writes for the CisionBlog. He coordinated the creation of a new Internet media research team for Cision, and has been instrumental in the organization’s social media efforts. Jay previously worked in the financial services industry and was a newspaper reporter. Connect with Jay on LinkedIn and Twitter @jaykrall.
Join Jay along with Heidi Sullivan for their FREE webinar, “Finding the Perfect Social Media and Communication Blend: How to Break Down Walls and Strike a Balance Between All of Your Online Lives” on Tuesday, January 19!