By Stephanie McKinney

Social media has become an integral part of our lives. It affects how we communicate with each other, how we share our experiences and how we do business.

In honor of Throwback Thursday, join MP&F for a walk down memory lane through the history of social media. Here are just a few moments that we found to be meaningful.

The Evolution of Social Media

Of course this is just a brief glimpse. We can’t forget milestone developments such as Compuserve, Bulletin boards, Usenet, AOL, Tumblr, Blogger, Pinterest and Google+.

Today, social communities are created around subjects – Goodreads for books, Spotify for music. Others emerge with a single purpose like Snapchat for 10-second images and Instagram for artistic images of everyday life.

As the evolution of social media continues and new networks arrive on the scene, remembering the earliest social networks and how far we’ve come might make us all more eager to explore and share.

McNeely Pigott & Fox is celebrating 25 years in business during 2012, and one of the ways we’re celebrating is by answering the 25 questions we are most often asked about our business.

Question 14: How much commitment does a social media strategy require?

By Tara Knott, Intern

With 85 percent of marketers reporting that social media is increasing their companies’ business exposure, a well-defined social media strategy can be critical for your business’ success.

Between emails and meetings and the millions of tasks you have to cross off your to-do list every day, social media may seem like another commitment you just don’t have time for.

Thankfully, once you’ve done your homework, creating an effective social media strategy is easier than you think, and the commitment you put in will be well worth the results. Companies with great social media strategies have better relationships with their audiences and ultimately stronger online reputations, which is increasingly integral to overall business success.

1. Know the platforms and understand which one(s) work for you – If the prospect of managing Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/YouTube/Pinterest/Flickr/Foursquare accounts for multiple clients makes you sweat, don’t worry:

Not every company has to be everywhere all the time.

As Jason Kintzler, founder and CEO of PitchEngine, told Deirdre Breakenridge in her book “Social Media and Public Relations,” if the technology isn’t making your life better, “ditch it and move on.”

So if your business caters specifically to men, it might not make sense to be on Pinterest, since its users are mostly female. You should research companies like yours, see which social media platforms they’re using and then use those platforms better.

2. Set realistic goals – What are the goals of your company or client? How frequently can you realistically update social media? Once you have a better understanding of where you want to go, you can figure out how to get there.

3. Create a calendar – Once you’ve decided which platforms to use, you’ll need to create a content calendar. This can be as detailed or as flexible as you’d like, depending on the situation.

For one client’s Pinterest account, we’ve set up a very specific calendar with images, videos and captions for each day. All the text has been routed through our copy editors and is ready to post. While it took a few hours of work to set up on the front end, it takes no more than a minute to update each day.

For other clients, and for MP&F itself, we prefer a looser approach. We brainstorm what to post on our own social media accounts during weekly staff meetings, and the marketing committee spreads out those posts throughout the week. That way, if three of our clients have events on the same day, we know not to flood our followers’ timelines with content and can spread out our posts accordingly.

4. Build your audience – Even the best social media strategy won’t do you much good if nobody’s looking at your content. Start by creating shareable content: Keep it short, interesting and easy to read.

Check all social media outlets at least once a day so you can respond to anybody who is interacting with your page, and don’t be afraid to let them see the human side of your company. Sharing a funny picture of your staff at work or a behind-the-scenes video will help you connect with your audience on a more personal level.

5. Make sure all communications channels work together – Social media should not be just another way to push out your news releases. What works on your company website is different from what works on social media, so adapt your content for each platform

For instance, you might post a news release about an upcoming event on your website, upload an album of photos to Facebook, and pick the most compelling photo to share on Instagram or Twitter. Each platform should tell the same story in a different way.

If you have designed a social media strategy, we would welcome your feedback on what has or hasn’t worked.

Check out this social media marketing infographic from Go-Globe.com.

 

It took me a long time to write this blog post. No, it’s not what you think – no writer’s block here. Rather, I lost myself in the delicious depths of Pinterest. But this time, it wasn’t for inspiration on how to wear my new maxi skirt or for a new recipe for dinner tomorrow night. I looked at it through the eyes of a brand strategist, and quickly saw a handful of brands already effectively using this red-hot social media outlet. With its recent surge in popularity, a lot of PR professionals have been asking the same question: Why is Pinterest so addictive?

To me, one of the most compelling things about social media is its evolving nature. All social media platforms have changed since we started using them, whether it was a dramatic site re-vamp or a few tweaks here and there. Probably without realizing it, social media users began to subtly shift habits as they learned what content garnered more “likes” on Facebook and RTs and replies on Twitter.

With those changes, the needs and desires of the masses of users shifted too. I still remember a time when I thought “liking” a status on Facebook was stupid and unnecessary. Now, I find myself “liking” about four or five comments on my news feed per day. Social media platforms evolve over time, as do their users and sharing habits. (Here is a pretty cool infographic by Visual.ly showing the history of social media.)

Pinterest: A Refuge

Pinterest has been around since 2008, so why is it just now surging in popularity? In 2008, we were knee-deep in the current Facebook trends (Facebook Bumper Stickers, anyone?), and most of us didn’t even have a Twitter handle yet. Now, in 2012, we are inundated with statuses, comments, pictures, videos, articles and more. We can’t eat dinner without fighting the urge to tweet a picture of a dish, nor can we deprive our friends of knowing what we thought about the GRAMMY Awards last night.

Dr. Christopher Long, a professor at Ouachita Baptist University who teaches a consumer psychology course, explains how Pinterest acts as a welcome escape and refuge from Twitter and Facebook in this gem of an article by Fast Company (passed along to me by a good friend and fellow social-media nerd). Long explains that trivial day-to-day content sharing might be the very reason why we can’t seem to stop pinning.

“It’s not a place where I have to worry about being bombarded by other people’s over-sharing of uninteresting or annoying daily experiences or about accidentally revealing intimate details of my day-to-day life,” Long said.

A Reflection of Your Ideal Self

Pinterest acts as a collection for self-discovery, something that people clearly crave in response to the other social media platforms. Through pinning and re-pinning, we are able to share who we are and, most importantly, who we want to be. It’s a unique, yet incredibly simple concept that stemmed as a result of our evolving social media habits.

“Pinterest is a place where we can demonstrate: ‘If it weren’t for all those mundane things that I do that I post on Facebook, this is what I would be doing and consuming,” Long said. “Here is my real self.”

Long also believes that many users feel more inclined to share their real selves on Pinterest, since it is less focused on personal content, which in turn lowers privacy and security concerns. It offers brands an opportunity to engage consumers within their comfort zones, without barraging them for engagement.

The PR Pull of Pinterest

The bottom line: PR professionals are missing the boat (a very big one, at that) if they are not exploring ways of using this addictive site to help some of their clients with brand building. Like all social media platforms, however, Pinterest makes a lot of sense for some businesses and absolutely no sense for others. With the right fit, Pinterest can give audiences a glimpse into brand values, company culture and key messages. Here are just a few brands that are rockin’ everyone’s worlds with their Pinterest boards:

HGTV

Chobani

West Elm

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