PR is always important, but in this down economy it’s essential. The problem is, it has to be the right KIND of PR. It’s not just about press releases, positive stories, and branding anymore. We’ve moved into a “conversation economy” and in the end, having meaningful two-way relationships with consumers is what will win the day. Social media technologies like Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook are great tools that can be used to facilitate conversation and build relationships, augmenting interactive campaigns that inform and entertain.

If used correctly, they have the potential to create an online buzz that can crossover into traditional media and take on a life of their own. A prime example is Dell Computer’s use of Twitter to inform their followers of Twitter specific discounts. The discounts were re-tweeted, rippling out and generating over $2 million in sales. Traditional media picked up the buzz and from there things snowballed. Dell knew their audience and used the right tools to get their attention. The trick to using social media for PR is knowing that different groups want to be talked with -and not talked at- in different ways, then holding the conversation on their terms.

The biggest mistake I see people make in using social media is simply broadcasting their sales message or “talking at” their audience. Building relationships and gaining trust are the golden tickets in the conversation economy. Use social media to get to know your consumers and let them get to know you and its win-win. After all, wouldn’t you’d rather buy from a friend than stranger?

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