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How PR pros can use Twitter

How PR pros can use Twitter
Table of Contents
2 3 4 5 7 9 12 14 16 18 20 22 23 25 26 When good CEOs issue bad Tweets Don’t be a Twitter twit Is Twitter right for your company? Ketchum sticks foot in its Tweet Making Twitter work for your company Twitter popularity doesn’t happen overnight Study: Twitter users skew older All a-Twitter over Joe the plumber Twitter proves invaluable in a crisis County official breaks budget news on Twitter Cable guy late? Tweet about it The Twitterati add job feeds for journalists Emergency communications in 140 characters or less How to David Murray found a new job via Twitter In 2009, Twitter and Google alter face of PR

When good CEOs issue bad Tweets
By Jessica Levco

Why and how to keep your Twitter newbie from being publicly dopey
Companies and CEOs can’t wait to jump in on the Twitter conversation. By sending out 140-character blasts, a Twitter-savvy CEO can keep people informed not only on the company’s daily operations but on whatever he or she might disclose. By subscribing to specific Twitter feeds, you can track what your favorite CEO is up to. Whether it’s Jonathan Schwartz of Sun Microsystems or Tony Hsieh of Zappos, you’ll read some company news, but you might also find out what they ate for dinner. Twitter is turning out to be a platform for companies to mix business and pleasure. If used incorrectly, Twitter could be damaging and embarrassing to your reputation and company—or, in some cases, even a potential threat to national security. Here’s how: Rep. Peter Hoekstra took some flak when he used Twitter during a top-secret trip to Iraq. (The Michigan Republican, by the way, is a ranking member of the Intelligence Committee.) Oh, and it turns out you can get BlackBerry service in Baghdad. Our advice: Don’t let your chief executive Tweet every thought that runs through his or her mind. Here’s what could happen, as depicted by our fictitious CEO: 9:00 A.M. Just got a Twitter account from corp comm. Hello, hello, can anyone hear me? 9:01 A.M. Guess not. I just want people to follow me. That’s all. 9:30 A.M. Ugh, I’m really hung over. Need an aspirin. 9:42 A.M. Not that you asked, Vera, but yes, that skirt makes your butt look fat. 9:43 A.M. Know what wouldn’t? Nah, me neither. 10:00 A.M. Donuts=love. Too bad I can’t afford to buy some for the whole office. 10:02 A.M. Don’t judge: budget cuts, people. 10:32 A.M. WHEN WILL THIS MEETING END? 10:37 A.M. The next time Kevin opens his mouth, I’m going to fire him. 11:03 A.M. On a conference call with investors. Nap time. 12:00 P.M. Treating some clients to lunch. God, how I love dining on the company dime. 1:30 P.M. Found out we’re facing a budget shortfall this year. OOOOOOPS. 1:32 P.M. Oh, Mr. Johnny Walker, I know you’re in this drawer somewhere. 1:37 P.M. Boy, I don’t know what I’d do without Kevin.
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2:10 P.M. This swivel chair is making me nautious. Um, nawcious. I mean, sick ... 3:23 P.M. Booking a trip for Hawaii next week on our corporate jet. Decadence, baby! Woo-hoo! 4:30 P.M. Just finished reading “10 Qualities for Effective Leadership.” 4:31 P.M. Not really. 4:45 P.M. Another day; another dollar. But we’re not making any money. Dammit. 4:57 P.M. Just got off the phone—gad, what an idiot my husband is. 4:58 P.M. I need another drink.

Don’t be a Twitter twit
PR experts said when a CEO starts a Twitter feed, it can be a good idea for the company. There are certain guidelines to follow and boundaries to keep in mind, however. We sent out an APB and collected our favorite tips on what a CEO shouldn’t be Twittering about. This guidance comes from Kent Lewis of Anvil Media: • o not disclose sensitive financial, legal, or strategic product/service information that may give competitors an D edge or expose liability. • Do not talk negatively about anyone, especially employees or competitors. • Minimize disclosure of location-based Tweets, as it may compromise personal/family safety and security. Marcie Casas of Guerra DeBerry Coody advises: • void Twittering any personal information or interests that you wouldn’t want your clients or co-workers to know A about—like your DWI. • Keep it clean. Don’t use cuss words or make inappropriate references to ethnicities or gender. From Julia Tanen of The Tanen Group: • on’t link to people that you don’t like or who don’t like you. You don’t want to get into a pissing match with someD one on Twitter over an issue. • tay relatively “un-political” and issue-free. Once in a while you may want to comment on something political, but S generally stay away from it. Mark Tosczak of RLF Communications suggests: • on’t Tweet anything that you wouldn’t say in public. That’s what a Twitter account is—a tool for having public D conversations. • Don’t say anything that violates your or your company’s brand image. • Don’t Tweet about religion. Unless you’re a Bible publisher. Amen.

How PR pros can use Twitter


Is Twitter right for your company?
By Jane Irene Kelly

Don’t start using this social media platform without a plan. Here are a few ideas

With the current economy putting the squeeze on marketing budgets, more companies are pondering the merits of social media as a high-impact and cost-effective tool for keeping their current customers engaged and satisfied, while also reeling in new prospects. Topping the social media exploration list for many organizations is microblogging phenomenon Twitter, which already has been embraced by the likes of well-known companies such as General Motors, JetBlue and Whole Foods Market. These and other companies are keeping close tabs on the 140-characters-or-fewer “tweets” which are rising up from among the millions of Twitter users. They are looking to connect with people who happen to mention their brands during the course of daily life, whether it’s “Had a bowl of XX cereal last night. Was soooo good.” or “New XX phone confusing. Tips for programming?” or “Picked up rental car from XX. Woman at desk was rude.” In response to this chirping, company reps swoop in to try to strengthen their relationship with consumers who have positive things to say. They move even faster to address the concerns of disgruntled individuals before their negative vibes can taint the opinions of others flitting about in the Twitter nest. Of course, they also provide news and other information to users who actually want to “follow” the company via Twitter. But in the quest to be on the cutting edge, organizations diving into social media like Twitter without a clear and thoughtful strategy actually can end up doing damage to customer relationships as well as their image. That’s because even if their communication is ultra-brief or seems just plain random, users who embrace applications like Twitter are actually trying to have a meaningful connection with others. And they have extremely low tolerance for what they view as spam disguised as “communication” invading their dialogue. In a recent posting on his Pop! PR Jots blog, Jeremy Pepper warns of the rise of “Twitteriocy” (Twitter + idiocy) in the corporate world. “Twitter is the new shiny tool, but that’s not how people should look at it,” says Pepper, who also manages PR and social media for Los Angeles-based Boingo Wireless. “With social media, companies think they need to do everything that’s out there. They think social media is going to be a game-changer. It’s really not.” Pepper says tools like Twitter, which are hot now until the next big thing comes along, are all about brand reputation management and that, of course, requires strategy. “Before getting involved, companies really should be asking things like, ‘What is this community?’ and ‘Would this really be a great fit for my brand?’ and ‘What is it exactly that we want to accomplish?’” he explains. And while social media may indeed be a “cheap” marketing tool for reaching the masses, Pepper emphasizes that users’ “time is not cheap,” and companies must recognize and respect that. “With your Twitter outreach, you really shouldn’t be spamming everyone,” he says. “If you do, you’re going to turn them off.” Below we’ve listed a few rules Pepper has developed for companies looking to use Twitter, to build rapport with customers who use it and to be accepted by “Twitterati” as a part of the community.


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• Don’t outsource. Pepper says Twitter outreach—and really all social media efforts—should be an inside job. Companies should not rely on outside resources, such as PR firms, if they want their social media interactions with users to be authentic. Those who are knowledgeable about and authorized to speak for the organization and its products or services should be the ones doing the talking. “How is a PR firm supposed to respond if they have to go back to the client and get the OK first?” asks Pepper. It is also important to have devoted inside resources prepared to interact with users in real time, which is obviously an important aspect of tools like Twitter. • Be personable and responsive. Pepper says, “There is nothing worse than sending someone a direct message on Twitter and then hearing nothing back.” In short, if you don’t want to engage directly with users who would like to engage with you, then why bother being on Twitter or other social media outlets designed for person-to-person interaction? You might as well let them try to communicate with your organization through more “traditional,” impersonal and unfulfilling means, like sending an e-mail to a generic corporate customer service address or dialing an 800 number and listening to muzak while waiting for a rep to pick up the line. • Be real. Pepper says one of his particular pet peeves about Twitter is coming across corporate accounts that do not feature names or bios for those who are doing the twittering for the organization. “You might as well be talking to no one,” he says. “This is supposed to be a conversation and you want me talking to a person with no name?” He points to companies like Comcast whose director of Digital Care, Frank Eliason, has been twittering with users since last April (and whose efforts have earned the company some positive press), and Dell and Southwest, which rely on teams for their twittering and blogging. Pepper says, “What you put out there doesn’t have to be grandiose. You just need to be transparent or people will want nothing to do with you.” While Pepper emphasizes that Twitter may not be the right social media platform for every organization, it does not mean there is no value in paying attention to what customers are saying and doing there or within other online communities. For companies that do want to monitor such activity, he suggests downloading online media management tools like Filtrbox or Tweetdeck, which can help to break through the communication clutter and hone in on messages they want and need to hear.

PR—Ketchum sticks foot in its Tweet
By Gerard Braud

The dangers of social media exposed when PR exec insults client on Twitter
A few weeks ago I suggested companies hold congruency conferences to determine if their PR words match their public actions. The latest to need a congruency conference are the senior leaders at Ketchum and a PR account executive/VP named James Andrews.
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It seems Andrews over-tweeted his Twitter on a recent trip to Memphis to teach a social media class to one of Ketchum’s biggest clients, FedEx. According to online author David Henderson, the tweet said, “True confession but I’m in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say, ‘I would die if I had to live here.’”

Oops. Big oops. Big Tweetin’ oops!
The social media-savvy members of the FedEx staff were following Andrews and his Tweets and blew the whistle on him. Apparently they were able to teach Andrews more about social media than he was able to teach them. Another irony, his Twitter monicker is @keyinfluencer. FedEx quickly snapped back in a statement: “Think before you speak; be careful of what you say and how you say it. Mr. Andrews made a mistake, and he has apologized. We are moving on.” Since the ancient days of chat rooms and message boards on Prodigy, experts on the Web have known that what you post to cyberspace can be seen by the world and passed around the world quickly. So what can you learn from this social media misstep? Here are some tips: • Think before you tweet. Sororities have conducted online spying via MySpace and FaceBook to determine which girls get in and which girls don’t. Human Resource managers have used MySpace and FaceBook to determine whether applicants have posted pictures of themselves heaving, with comments about how drunk they are. Twitter opens you up to the same vulnerabilities. A top executive with a not-to-be-named government agency that shoots rockets into space said his leaders always taught him that “in a moment of weakness you should never blurt out the truth.” The same logic follows on Twitter when you answer the question, “What are you doing?” • Weigh the pros and cons. Before you engage in social media consider whether you are creating a crisis. In Andrews’ case we see that social media actually can create a crisis. Before you Tweet, ask yourself, “Can this be taken out of context?” or “Does this statement have any legal ramifications?” Remember, caution is key. • Don’t get too comfortable. In their book “Naked Conversations,” Robert Scoble and Shel Israel warned online communicators not to get too comfortable or too honest at the keyboard. All those little brothers who used to discover their sister’s diaries under her bed are now big brothers watching the online you. Don’t forget that on Twitter and other social media, the audience is not your best friend, but your employer, clients and customers. • Be congruent. Make sure your actions match your words. If you are in PR, like Andrews, use good PR skills online. If you are teaching social media, like Andrews, realize you’ll be quickly humbled if your public and private words are not congruent. Understand the potential pitfalls of what you’re advocating as an “expert” or your credibility will be tarnished. Two days after his Twitter post—an eternity in social media—Andrews posted an apology/explanation on his blog, The Key Influencer. He pointed out “Everyone knows that at 140 characters Twitter does not allow for context and therefore my comments were misunderstood.” If there’s a chance that 140 characters will take your Tweet out of context, then guess what? Don’t use Twitter. Be old-fashioned and blog about it. Or, better yet, say nothing at all. If you want to know what I’m doing right now, my latest tweet is at gbraud.


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Making Twitter work for your company
By Jessica Levco

How to reach new and current customers—140 characters at a time
Twitter, definition No. 8: A state of tremulous excitement. The mini-blogging Web site Twitter has certainly created that in the social media community, and businesses are now considering the practical applications—and guidelines—of “tweeting.” Here’s what you need to know: In 2006, Twitter was established as a free site that lets viewers post and read updates about friends and family. Writing in 140 character blasts called tweets, people communicate with one another, sometimes as simply as: “I just ate an apple.” Why would Fortune 500 companies want to join the Twitter dialogue? By reaching out to thousands each day, companies can offer discounts, coupons, updates and customer service. Social media experts say tweeting can generate excitement and, ultimately, business traffic. It can also let them know what’s going on in the industry—who’s left one employer for another, or what firm might be planning layoffs, for example.

The who’s who of Twitter:
Amazon The feed name says it all. It’s all about nabbing the best deals. DellOutlet Looking for a refurbished computer or electronic device? Click here. ESPN Can’t get enough sports headlines? Click here. Whole Foods Market Dish about your favorite food and swap recipes. Learn about new store openings. Comcast At Comcast Cares, customers are kept up-to-date about power outages and ask questions about their service. Barack Obama He got out the vote, Twitter style with 150,000 followers. John McCain? About 5,000. CNN Click on a headline post and it will send you directly to the CNN Web site. Breaking news is updated regularly on the feed. AT&T Every press release you could possibly want to read about AT&T.

How PR pros can use Twitter


Southwest Airlines A smorgasbord of airline deals, weather advisories and sympathy for delayed fights. Starbucks Debate your favorite coffee with caffeine junkies. Apple Apple product updates—even one about Steve Job’s blood pressure. Ryan Seacrest His bio asks: My life is non-stop, can you keep up? Unfortunately, now we can When companies first hear about Twitter, though, they can be skeptical. Christine Major, an account supervisor at PerkettPR, said when she introduced clients to Twitter, they asked: “Why bother? That seems silly.” Major said Twitter is all about building relationships. “It’s a good way to get conversations going with potential customers,” Major said. “It’s a tool that can humanize the company; it gives people a real look as to who is working there.” Josh Rosenberg, Senior Vice President/Director of M Booth & Associates, said Twitter can help foment a meaningful relationship between a brand and a consumer, if “the brand is committed to fueling the conversation over time in a way that is transparent and genuine.” Companies can establish Twitter feeds for different reasons. H&R Block’s Twitter feed will be useful in April when people have questions (or gripes) about taxes. Spud Brothers, a restaurant in Colorado, advertises special discounts for Twitter users. Southwest Airlines updates customers with weather conditions and airline discounts. Twitter feeds can be monitored by one or more people. Experts agree that giving the feed a human face is critical. (Take a look Comcast’s Frank Eliason at Managing a Twitter feed doesn’t have to be a full-time job, and companies need not respond to every tweet. And Twitter requires a commitment from the company’s team, whether it’s from the IT staff or marketing team. Giving up control of the conversation is the biggest struggle companies deal with, said Doyle Albee, director of new media practices at Metzger Associates in Colorado. He said controlling a Twitter conversation—or any type of conversation—is an illusion. “There’s always a conversation going on, and sometimes it’s in a living room, within four walls,” Albee said, “but with Twitter, you can join the conversation, listen and enhance.” He said when a company first joins Twitter; they should behave as if showing up at a cocktail party: “Be a little quiet, absorb and talk to some people.” Etiquette is crucial—companies don’t want to be “that” guy. “If three people are having a conversation about food, you wouldn’t run up to them and start shouting about your new car,” Albee said. “Your Twitter feeds shouldn’t read: Here’s our new product! Click here!”

Opportunity knocks
What happens if somebody is complaining about your company? Doyle said that if you reach out, you can turn that complaint into a compliment.
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Doyle shares this example of how EMBARQ, a communications company, handles a complaint on Twitter: Customer: I am sick of Embarq playing with my DNS requests. Opting out weekly is not a successful opt-out solution. Is it even legal? EMBARQ response: Sorry to hear you are not happy with your Embarq service. Can I help? Send me a DM with details, and I’ll see what I can do. Seems simple, but a direct response can work wonders, Doyle said. It’s important for companies to address the problem and thank the customer for pointing it out. Companies can monitor what is being said about them by signing up for at,, TweetBeep e-mail alerts or manual searches at Even if companies don’t have a Tweeter feed, that might not stop individual employees from starting their own. Companies should remind employees not to dish out trade secrets and financial information, said Bryan Person, the social media director at LiveWorld in San Jose, Calif. Treat employees like adults, but let them know the consequences of tasteless tweets. A personal/work life on Twitter can co-exist, but tell employees to be careful if they start talking about their job, Person advised. “With a Twitter feed, almost anybody can be the de-facto spokesperson for the company,” Pearson said. “You never know when somebody could ask an employee about a company product. And you don’t want your employee to be blindsided by questions.”

Twitter popularity doesn’t happen overnight
By Jane Irene Kelly

Four tips for building a following on the burgeoning social media site

With more leading companies adding Twitter to their social media mix, you may be feeling pressure to help your organization make its foray into the Twittersphere. But where do you start, how—and how quickly—can you build a following on Twitter, and will the effort create value for the business? The admittedly vague answer to all of the above: It depends. One thing is certain, though. Don’t expect your company or brand to be an overnight sensation on Twitter. There is no exact formula for attracting regular followers on Twitter. Growth is organic. In fact, most companies approach the Twittersphere as individuals typically do: by taking it slow, getting their bearings and developing confidence. Below is some advice from corporate communicators for building a following on Twitter.

Tip #1: Reach out to a specific group.
In spring 2008, Jim Deitzel, senior e-marketing manager for Newell Rubbermaid, started building a presence on Twitter for the company in the process of reaching out to professional organizers—people who reduce clutter in homes and businesses. “Initially, we weren’t targeting Twitter,” he says. “We just sat down and said, ‘Where are professional organizers congregating in the social media space?’” After reading blogs by some of the organizers, he realized that many of the bloggers were on Twitter. “I started following them, and building relationships with them, and it just grew from there,” he says. (Newell Rubbermaid’s @Rubbermaid Twitter presence provides a link to the company’s “Adventures in Organization” blog, which Deitzel contributes to regularly.)
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In fact, the relationships Deitzel has been cultivating with the professional organizing community on Twitter have created some unexpected benefits. For instance, some now write for the company’s Web site. And Newell Rubbermaid has received a little free advertising. One example: A Twitter follower who was going to be interviewed by a local TV news station turned to Deitzel for help. “He asked, ‘What do you guys have that’s new?’” recalls Deitzel. “We suggested he showcase a line of new food storage products. He agreed, and we sent the products to him.” Deitzel even participated in a “Tweetup” recently, by arranging to have dinner in Orlando, Fla., with some of the professional organizers he met on Twitter. “Many of the relationships I’ve established on Twitter have just evolved professionally and personally,” says Deitzel.

Tip #2: Try to add value to the community.
One company thoroughly entrenched in the Twittersphere is Dell, which has been twittering since March 2007. Even though Dell’s Twitter lineup is impressive—it provides a wide range of news, blogs and community sites in different languages for thousands of users worldwide – the company started out slowly, according to Bob Pearson, vice president of communities and conversations. “We are always experimenting,” he explains. Dell has learned that companies participating in Twitter must be relevant and provide real value to the community, Pearson says. Most importantly, they must not market constantly (and obnoxiously) to followers even though they opt in. He adds, “Our followers all over the world are saying, ‘You know, Twitter is not a bad way to give people—who want to get it—targeted information.’ If you can provide relevant content, which might include deals [for products and services] but not exclusively, then people will respond to that and you will build an audience over time.” Pearson says the followers in Dell’s various Twitter communities range from “the Mr. and Mrs. Fix-Its who want to help people in their neighborhood solve technology problems” to “hard-core gamers looking for the latest changes to Alienware and XPS.” He adds, “We try to offer many ways for people to get the content they want and share it with each other. That provides value.” Pearson noted that one of the biggest trends the company is seeing is that customers want to help other customers. In fact, in 2008, customers provided more than 15,000 solutions to fellow customers. “They want to share their ideas,” he says. Dell has generated more than $1 million in revenue that it can trace back to sales alerts sent via Twitter to its nearly 90,000 @DellOutlet followers, according to Pearson. “It’s more symbolic than anything,” he says. “Our primary focus in the community is seeing how we can help our customers.”

Tip #3: Don’t just talk business.
In 2008, Dunkin’ Donuts—a brand that’s been around for more than 50 years—joined Twitter to “engage directly with our customers and get their opinions and feedback in real time and in very authentic ways,” says Michelle King, director of global public relations for Dunkin’ Brands, Inc. “We place a huge premium on listening to our customers.” Tweeting for the organization are corporate communications team members “Dunkin’ Dave” and “Java Josh” who discuss everything from how to make a good cup of coffee to their favorite donut flavors. They even share pictures from their travels. And Dunkin’ Donuts’ nearly 8,000 Twitter followers are eating it up: One popular activity among users is sharing photos of their local Dunkin’ Donuts establishments, particularly those featuring a retro look.


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King adds that Dunkin’ Donuts’ decision to engage with consumers via Twitter is driven largely by the company’s desire to acknowledge “its loyal fans and customers.” She says, “Twitter is not a broadcast channel. It’s a place for conversations.” Newell Rubbermaid’s Bert DuMars, vice president of e-business and interactive marketing, agrees with that observation. He says, “It’s important for our employees to take on the personality of the brand when they are on Twitter, but they also need to represent themselves as people.”

Tip #4: Encourage employee participation.
According to DuMars, Newell Rubbermaid’s employee participation in the Twittersphere is “rapidly expanding.” “Now that we know how to do things the right way, we are encouraging more people to get involved,” he says. “We are actually in the process of putting out a policy that lays out the ‘rules of the road’ for our employees engaging in social media, including Twitter.” Some of those rules? “Be absolutely transparent, be genuine and don’t bash the competition,” he says. Dell’s Pearson also recommends employee involvement in Twitter. “We provide full Web access to our employees, anywhere in the world. If you are a Dell employee, you can go on Twitter or Facebook during the day. We want our people to see the ‘outside world,’ and to know our customers and find out what they are saying about our company in real time.” Pearson’s advice for companies looking to grow a following on Twitter: “Don’t over think it. Don’t over analyze it. Just experiment with content that people find relevant. No one can predict what is going to happen on Twitter, but once you see it happening, it becomes very obvious.”

What’s Twitterfeed?
Many companies like to use Twitter to drive traffic to their blogs (and Web sites) and send out their latest news updates via their RSS feed. If you would like your blog, RSS or Atom feed automatically sent to Twitter—thereby removing some of the updating workload from your hands—a service called Twitterfeed can do the trick. Twitterfeed, like many tools designed to enhance the Twitter experience, is a third-party application not associated with Twitter. It is “created, hosted and maintained” by Mario Menti (whose Twitter handle is @Mario). And it’s becoming a favorite among Twitterers. According to TwitStats, as of mid-February Twitterfeed was the third most popular service for updating Twitter accounts. The Twitterfeed site offers simple, step-by-step instructions for getting started, but here’s the gist: Choose the network you would like to post to and log on with an OpenID, which is a single digital identity you can use across the Internet. (Go here for more information on how to get one, although you may discover you already have one!) Then, provide the appropriate URL information to Twitterfeed and indicate how often you would like the service to post for you. Based on your instructions, Twitterfeed’s servers will seek out updates and post them at the appropriate time. Currently, the Twitterfeed service is free, although the creator politely suggests on the site, “If you like Twitterfeed and want to help keep it going, please consider contributing to server and bandwidth costs. Thanks!” A donation can be made via PayPal.

How PR pros can use Twitter


Study: Twitter users skew older
By Lindsey Miller

New Pew Research report details who uses Twitter and other social networking sites
With active users increasing by 900 percent in a year, it’s clear that Twitter isn’t going anywhere. Two venture capital firms, Institutional Venture Partners and Benchmark Capital, funneled $35 million into the popular micro-blogging site, citing Twitter’s explosive growth. Despite its popularity, are you still wondering whether Twitter is a waste of time or if it could be useful to you or your company? A new Pew Research Center report should help—it details who, exactly, uses Twitter or updates their status on other social networking sites. The study, “Twitterpated: Mobile Americans Increasingly Take to Tweeting,” found that 11 percent of online American adults used Twitter or another micro-blogging service in December 2008, compared to 9 percent in November. Although the largest age groups using Twitter or similar services are on the younger side—19 percent of online 18- to 24-year-olds, and 20 percent of 25- to 31-year-olds—the median age of a Twitter user is 31. That’s several years older than the median age for Facebook and MySpace users: 26 and 27, respectively. College students haven’t caught on Basic profile of a Twitter user: • 31 is the median age • 35 percent live in urban areas • 17 percent come from households earning less than $30,000 annually • 82 percent have a cell phone and use it to text message • 76 percent read newspapers online • 29 percent have created a blog • 57 percent have read a blog If college students are your target audience, Twitter may not be the place for you. That finding doesn’t surprise MyRagan members who work with college students. “I asked/suggested/forced my grad class to sign up on Twitter just so they might have a glimpse at what happens on-site,” says Robert Mark, adjunct professor of integrated marketing communications at Northwestern University and CEO of aviation marketing and PR company CommAvia in Evanston, Ill. “One complaint I hear—and I don’t know that it’s necessarily Twitter focused—is that they don’t have time to check out one more social networking tool, no matter how valuable someone else thinks it is.” Sue Johnston, founder of It’s Understood Communication, is looking into Twitter as a possible tool for a university client that wants to reach students who don’t often check their university e-mails. “I’m working with a client right now that’s a university, so I started to scratch away at our university people about using Twitter—I suggested that young people are out there, but I just wasn’t seeing them.” Johnston, however, is careful not to interfere too much in the lives of younger Twitter users, who she says are not always interested in the newest mobile marketing techniques.
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“We know university students don’t want us messing around in their turf,” she says. “We’re not even selling something, we’re just trying to reach them and some of them are still elusive.” Still, it’s not necessarily the case that 18- to 24-year-olds aren’t using Twitter because they don’t like it—it may be just that that they don’t know about it yet. One 26-year-old tweeter said, “Maybe that age group isn’t quite educated about it, yet. I have friends (18-27) who are unaware of what Twitter is, but once I tell them, I’ve already had some sign up.” Another 20-year-old Twitter fan and MyRaganite tells her friends about Twitter, but isn’t sure they’ve fully integrated it into their lives. “I am 20 and a huge Twitter fan and advocate. Unfortunately, my fellow classmates haven’t come around to it yet. I have gotten some to join, but even they aren’t using twitter to its fullest potential.”

Older users tweet for business
The Pew survey also found that users of online social networks are more likely to utilize Twitter or a similar service than nonusers. Twenty-three percent of social networkers reported that they use Twitter, compared to 4 percent of those who don’t use such networking sites. Similarly, 27 percent of bloggers also Twitter, compared with 10 percent of those who do not blog. Advertising agency consultant Michael Gass started using Twitter in August 2008 for self-promotional purposes. Since then, he’s amassed more than 2,500 followers on Twitter, which drives traffic to his blog, Fuel Lines. “Twitter has now become the leading traffic generator to my blog,” says Gass, a Twitter skeptic at the start. “My impression of Twitter at the beginning was very low. I thought it was a tremendous time waster. But now I use the 70-20-10 formula I read about in an article: 70 percent is being a resource, 20 is engagement with my target audience, and 10 is conversational.” Gass is one of a relatively small number of Twitter users in the 45-54 age range. According to the survey, only 5 percent of this age group tweets, while the figure for those 65 and older is just 2 percent. Johnston is also among the minority of her age group that tweets. She says that Twitter comes in handy precisely because of the variety of age groups that use it. “For me, the professional value of Twitter and Facebook is to see how other people are using the technology and, perhaps more importantly, to know what people are thinking—particularly people in generations or industries other than mine.” Still, Johnston isn’t convinced Twitter has any value for her or her business besides the occasional interesting article that someone she’s following posts. Readers, what do you think? Do you tweet?

How PR pros can use Twitter


All a-Twitter over Joe the plumber
By Michael Sebastian

Communicators on Twitter thought the real winner of Wednesday night’s presidential debate was Joe the plumber
Joe the plumber, Twitter loves you. Mere moments after John McCain mentioned Joe Wurzelbacher, the Toledo, Ohio, plumber who objected to Barack Obama’s tax policies, communicators on Twitter launched a flurry of comments. And Joe’s 15 minutes of fame began. If you still don’t know Twitter, it’s a micro-blogging platform. Basically, Twitter is community text messaging online. You create an account. Choose to follow whoever else is on Twitter; they may choose to follow you; and then in 160 character bursts you let the world know what’s on your mind. “At least Joe the Plumber will always have job,” communications strategist Lori Laurent Smith said on Twitter during the debate. “Can’t say the same about the rest of us.” During the final presidential debate, I dropped in on an evolving experiment of politics, social media and corporate communications. I watched dozens of professional communicators and social media strategists fire off Twitter messages, or tweets, as the candidates jousted. Countless communicators swear by this method of viewing. “Nothing better than watching the debate and following the Twitter back channel,” said Mitch Joel, president of Twist Imagine. “There’s hope for humanity yet.” By following this Twitter back channel I learned—in real time—not only communicators’ opinions of the event but also what the media would jaw about come Thursday morning. And judging by the tweets, it would be Joe the plumber. Sure enough, less than 12 hours after the debate more than 1,000 articles about Joe appeared on Google News.

Hey Joe
Around 8:05 p.m. CST, moments after McCain mentioned the outspoken tradesman, the tweets about Joe began. “It’s Joe the plumber. I’ve come to fix the economy,” said Howard Greenstein, a social media strategist. Joe Solomon, a self-described “social media superhero,” chimed in: “You know there’s gonna be a Facebook group tomorrow for plumbers named Joe.” In fact, there are now dozens. At 8:15, David Berkowitz, a director of emerging media, thought he found Joe online. “Check out the image here:—I wonder if this is the guy McCain’s talking about.” It wasn’t, but Twitter-ites were hot on his trail.

“Joe the plumber is an American hero”
The attention of the candidates—and Twitter-ites—shifted for about 10 minutes when Obama and McCain hammered each other over negative ads. And then, shortly before 8:30, a marketing and social media consultant uncovered an interview with Joe the plumber. And not long after, tweets about good old Joe began pouring in again by the second. Todd Defren, of PR agency SHIFT Communications asked, “I am in the market for a new plumber. Anyone got Joe’s [number]?” Added PR pro David Parmet: “Joe the plumber is drunk right now.”
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Entrepreneur Nick O’Neill and blogger Tim Siedell each spotted the Joe trend. “Joe the plumber has become a rock star tonight,” O’Neill remarked. And Seidell said, “Joe the plumber is an American hero.” PR and new media pro Brian Solis capped off the flurry, “Joe the plumber will have his own TV series soon.”

Joe makes more than you
At that point, Twitter-ites grew reflective as several started admitting that McCain was winning the night. Aaron Brazell, lead editor of, said, “If you have an objective bone in your body, and you can look at the technicalities of debate—McCain is owning this one.” Nearly every Twitter-ite I followed agreed this was the finest—and liveliest—of the three debates. But it always came back to Joe. Jim Long, founder of Verge New Media, quipped: “I wonder if Joe the Plumber makes more money than I do. I’ll bet he does … sigh.” Linda Bustos, an e-commerce consultant, later shared Joe’s probable earnings. “The Average Joe the Master Plumber makes $175/hr—shazaaaam! Put that in your ‘pipes’ and smoke it!” Meanwhile, Berkowitz found a theme and ran with it. “Joe the plumber, McCain just appointed you chief of the FDA!” Moments later, Berkowitz said, “And Obama upped it—Joe the plumber’s now secretary of defense.” And, for good measure, he added, “McCain: Joe the plumber’s now treasurer. Who’s willing to up the ante and bump Palin or Biden for the plumber?” As PR pros, they also understood what was about to happen to Joe. “You just know that Joe’s life will be hell for the next three weeks,” said Jonathan Trenn, a digital media strategist. “The media will be on his ass day and night.” At the same time, social media evangelist Bryan Person declared: “I’m sick of the Joe the plumber.” Not the case for others. Social media strategist Shireen asked, “Where is Jane the plumber?” Sarah Wurrey, an account manager, said she choked on her wine after someone mentioned a Joe the plumber Halloween costume.

Say it ain’t so Joe
For what it’s worth, most of the left-leaning group I followed on Twitter thought McCain beat Obama during the debate’s first half, but declared Obama the victor at the end. But the night belonged to Joe, as will the follow-up. Although one communicator apparently wishes that weren’t case. “After lengthy introspection,” wrote online strategist Rob Cottingham, “I’ve decided Joe the Plumber is kind of a d***.”

How PR pros can use Twitter


Twitter proves invaluable in a crisis
By Sarah McAdams

The Red Cross learns that tagged ‘tweets’ are ideal for fast and frequent updates during a disaster
In true life-or-death crises—hurricanes, bombings, the upcoming presidential election (we kid, we kid)—Twitter can be an invaluable tool. “You are able to leverage mobile technology through text message. You can get a message out to thousands of people at once in the time it takes you to send a 140- character-or-less text message to your ‘followers,’” says new media strategist Tracy Viselli, senior manager of social media for QuinStreet Media. But another way Twitter can be used is by associating a group tag (called a “hashtag” in Twitterspeak) with a topic and then tagging your messages with it; those who wish to receive all messages on that topic can then “follow” that tag. This works best as a notification service, such as when a situation requires frequent, quick updates. “The beauty of Twitter is that during a crisis people can be mobile while using it as long as they can set up their mobile phone or PDA to send and receive SMS text messages [Short Message Service] through Twitter,” Viselli says. “No one is tied to a location with Twitter.” A company could set up a Twitter account and a message protocol for different situations that include emergencies. If all employees ‘follow’ this Twitter account, they will receive a text message on their devices alerting them to the emergency. For example, Viselli says, “if there is a building fire during the morning commute, thousands of employees could be messaged at once not to come to the office until further notice.” A Twitter account can be completely open or completely private depending on your needs; it also can be set up to update a company Facebook page or blog. “Plus, SMS is one of the most stable technologies out there. When cell phone networks get overwhelmed during a widespread crisis, text messages still get through,” Videlli adds. “I don’t know if anyone has been a part of an office or company phone tree, but if you have, I think it’s clear that using a Twitter account would be a lot more efficient for notification purposes.”

Twitter in the real world
Twitter became an invaluable communication tool during Hurricane Ike last month. “Experts, agencies and individuals used Twitter to spread news about conditions from different locations, wind measurements, flooding and how to get help,” says Viselli, who also runs her own media company called Reno Fabulous Media. Communicators tagged their Twitter posts with “#ike,” allowing followers to get up-to-the-minute updates from people on the ground and the Red Cross. (See a record of the real-time conversation about Hurricane Ike on Twitter.) “We’ve been using it since before last year’s California wildfires to distribute important public information regarding preparedness, emergency information and Red Cross resources available for specific disaster situations,” says Wendy Harman, senior interactive media specialist for the Red Cross.
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The Red Cross also used Twitter to push information out to their employees and volunteers about evacuations, shelter locations, food and water distributions sites, and other necessary contact information. These messages continued to go through the network even when the cell network was down. With each disaster the Twitter feed becomes more popular, Harman says: “We moved from about 400 followers before the hurricanes of 2008 to our current follower count of more than 1,800.” Several Red Cross chapters saw the success of Twitter on the national level and are now building their own hyper-localized Twitter presences, “so that’s a huge vote of confidence,” Harman says.

Twitter becoming ‘go-to’ tool in crisis
As Red Cross volunteer and NPR reporter John Solomon says, the organization has turned its Twitter presence— combined with its online newsroom—into the No. 1 resource for information during disasters. “The newsroom—along with Red Cross’ array of social media tools like its Twitter feed—provides reporters, bloggers, relief workers, government officials and anyone looking for disaster news updated, robust text, photo, video and audio information,” he says. “I have continued to be impressed by their ability to serve the range of audiences that utilize their work—from expert to layperson, emergency worker to reporter.” From an internal communication standpoint, tweets (text messages in Twitterspeak) sent through Twitter can also be sent to e-mail accounts, giving an organization a fallback communication vehicle in case not all employees subscribe to Twitter (assuming, of course, that your employees all have work or personal e-mail accounts). But as the number of uses for Twitter increases—daily diet tips, Spanish lessons, “there’s even a Twitter account you can follow to help you quit smoking,” Viselli says—more and more people are signing on. During the elections, for instance, people are using “#debate08” and other tags to categorize the messages they are sending, making it easy for others to follow. “Web sites can set up a real-time feed of any term used on Twitter and broadcast that out to as many visitors as it gets. CNN, C-SPAN and NewsHour are all using Twitter in this manner,” Viselli says. “They are also collecting questions from citizens. It’s pretty amazing stuff.” Contact Tracy Viselli at 775.321.3602 or Contact Wendy Harman at

When not to use Twitter
The financial crisis is global—but social media shouldn’t always be If your organization has operations spanning different countries, social media tools make it easy to communicate to far-flung employees—but that doesn’t mean they’re always the right choice. “Cross-cultural communications are nearly always tricky, even in the best of times. At times like this—in a global financial crisis—it would be easy to use social media in the wrong way to deliver what could end up being devastating news,” says Jason M. Hancock, president of Sowilo Consulting in Arlington, Va. Hancock, a former U.S. diplomat who’s spent the past 16 years helping companies like Conoco-Phillips, Boeing and Lockheed Martin boost profits through foreign trade, says “it has become too easy to hide behind e-mails, text messages, intranets and the like when delivering bad news.”

How PR pros can use Twitter


That doesn’t mean that all technology is bad in such situations. “If companies want to rely on technology for communicating across national boundaries during a crisis, and if the leaders genuinely care about the staff they’re addressing, it would be best to stick with video conferencing and teleconferencing,” he says. “Otherwise, what may be viewed in Country A as a clear and sincere message could be entirely misconstrued at a subsidiary or affiliate in Country B. And that could have irreparable damage on morale, respect and perceived integrity.” Contact Jason M. Hancock at 571.431.6388 or

County official breaks budget news on Twitter
By Christine Kent

Instead of calling a press conference, this executive announces budget shortfalls via tweets
When Ron Sims, the elected executive of King County, Wash., started using the “microblogging” service Twitter last summer, the feedback from residents and the media was pretty enthusiastic. “My county exec is on Twitter. [Ron Sims] gets it,” said one fellow Twitter user. “I think it’s great Sims is using Twitter,” posted “Mark” in response to a Seattle Post-Intelligencer blog story about Sims. “It’s one more (effective) way to connect.” In September 2008, when it came time to get the word out about a larger-than-expected shortfall in the county budget, Sims could have called a press conference—but instead, he got on Twitter. “Just revised King County’s budget shortfall from 86 to 90 million dollars. Inflation and a sluggish economy are reducing revenue growth,” Sims tweeted. This novel approach to communications won plenty of notice from the mainstream media as well as local bloggers. The reactions to Sims’ foray into social media (he’s also got a blog and a Facebook page) highlight the challenges faced by communicators who assist and manage elected officials and other high-profile people who stray beyond press conferences and press releases. “One of the King County attorneys told us we were in uncharted territory,” explains Carolyn Duncan, Sims’ communications director. “We were going along gingerly.” Duncan and her colleagues had put their heads together in mid-2008 to come up with a social-media strategy. “The goal is to reach more residents—especially those that tend to be younger, or less likely to get their news and information from mainstream media or government Web sites,” explains Natasha Jones, deputy communications director for Sims. They were fortunate to work for a county executive who was enthusiastic about nontraditional ways of talking to constituents. One of Sims’ children had used Facebook to successfully advertise an event, and Sims saw Facebook’s potential value for raising his profile in King County, of which Seattle is the primary city.
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The communications team had also started uploading photos to Flickr, the photo-sharing Web site, as an alternative to merely posting photos on the executive office’s Web site. The team figured Twitter would be a good stepping-stone, and Sims began tweeting from his BlackBerry—sending short updates about taking rides on his bike, bad calls at Washington Huskies games and, most prominently, the budget shortfall. Reuters picked up the story that Sims had used this vehicle to announce the news, rather than sending out the usual press release. Other local media outlets followed up on the news, and the Post-Intelligencer ran a piece solely about Sims’ adventures on Twitter. Sims’ tweeting may have goaded some journalists into jumping on the social-media bandwagon themselves, explains Duncan. “I got one ominous message from a reporter saying that he needed to talk to me,” she recalls, assuming that the reporter was about to break some damaging story. “Instead he asked if I could help set him up on Twitter.” In the past several months, Duncan and her team have broadened their Twitter reach by setting up an account just for county news, including changes in bus services, updates on recent flooding problems and county election alerts. As more county employees dabble in social media, the team has also seen the need for dos and don’ts for the staff. “Our guidelines are still being drafted, and they’ll be reviewed by our County Prosecuting Attorney’s office,” Jones explains. “In the meantime, we’ve asked that common courtesy and standard workplace rules apply. So far, people have lived up to our best hopes in nearly every instance.” Since Sims’ Twittering has boosted the transparency of his office, residents and the media have responded in kind, engaging in the kind of dialogue that social media can foster. Earlier this year, the Seattle Times reported that Sims pulled down a Twitter post pointing to an editorial in the PostIntelligencer about county elections. (Local election officials thought it looked like Sims was making a subtle endorsement of a candidate; Duncan told the Times that Sims merely wanted to alert voters to the election deadline.) In an uncertain media environment (there’s talk of the Post-Intelligencer closing this year), Jones says Twitter and other social media tools can help local governments stay in touch with journalists who move on, often to blog on their own, or with other media outlets. “It’s been helping us build up relationships outside of the newspapers,” says Jones of the connections to journalists on Twitter and Facebook. What’s in the social media future for Ron Sims? He’s been nominated by President Obama as deputy secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and is awaiting Senate confirmation for the post, so he may be leaving behind his established Twitter and Facebook communities. “They know I Twitter and they know I Facebook,” Sims told KUOW radio. “So it’s gonna be really interesting to see what the rules are. They may say to me ‘no Twitter’ and then I wouldn’t ... It’ll be up to the White House and it’ll be up to Secretary [Shaun] Donovan about their comfort zones with my Twittering and my Facebook.”

How PR pros can use Twitter


Cable guy late? Tweet about it
By Andrew Analore

Instead of watching helplessly while bloggers beat up on it, Comcast tweets its way to better customer relations
Got a problem with your digital cable or Internet? Operators are standing by to help—on Twitter.

At least, that‘s the case with Comcast, one of the nation’s largest cable companies, which has made Twitter a major part of its social media strategy. Comcast is taking advantage of Twitter’s immediacy to improve customer service and gain credibility in the blogosphere. Case in point: Last April blogger Michael Arrington related his experience with Comcast on his TechCrunch blog. Frustrated with his inability to get anyone at Comcast to fix a problem that had kept him offline for 36 hours, Arrington blasted the company on Twitter. The response from Comcast was nearly instantaneous, according to Arrington. “Within 20 minutes of my first Twitter message I got a call from a Comcast executive in Philadelphia who wanted to know how he could help. He said he monitors Twitter and blogs to get an understanding of what people are saying about Comcast, and so he saw the discussion break out around my messages.” Comcast then sent a team out to fix his problem. Arrington praised Comcast’s approach. “Well before most people, they have identified blogs, and particularly Twitter, as an excellent early warning system to flag possible brand implosions,” Arrington wrote. “It’s trivially easy to do a brand search on TweetScan and create a feed for any new postings. Whether you join in the conversation directly or reach out to aggrieved customers is up to you … With the information just sitting there, it’s surprising that more brands aren’t watching the tweetosphere.”

Blogger outreach
Comcast’s foray into the Twitter realm is an outgrowth of its effort to reach out to bloggers.

What is Twitter?
Its San Francisco-based developer describes it as a “short messaging service” that can be used on a variety of platforms, including e-mail, instant messaging and mobile phones. Messages sent on Twitter—known as tweets—must be fewer than 140 characters in length, and users are asked to answer one simple question: “What are you doing?” Frank Eliason, a Comcast customer service manager in charge of online conversations, says that when he arrived at Comcast in late 2007, the company’s blogger outreach was largely reactive. It would sporadically call bloggers who had written about Comcast’s products or services. “It wasn’t done too often,” Eliason recalls. But Comcast realized that the approach overlooked a fundamental fact about blogging: Bloggers want to be heard, and they want interaction—as do customers. Eliason’s 10-person online customer service group monitors Twitter to better manage outages and problems before they hit the critical point—often before phone-based teams have reports of the problems.


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Twitter also makes follow-up much easier. One example is a recent Twitter conversation between service rep “ComcastBill” and Twitter user “Jotulloch.” Jotulloch tweeted Comcast for help with a cablecard installation after a technician failed to show up at his home. ComcastBill was in touch almost immediately, asking for a description of the problem and following up on e-mails and phone calls. The result? A final tweet from Jotulloch: “Tech came. All taken care of. Thanks for your help.”

Learning the ropes
So what are the key lessons that Comcast has learned from its experience with Twitter? Don’t just set up a tent and stand on the sidelines. “It’s not a good fit if you are just going to throw a feed out there. But it’s a good fit if you are going to interact,” Eliason says. It’s also important to do your homework. One of the reasons that Comcast has been so successful with Twitter is that its customers were already active in that space. In short, it didn’t have to build an audience from scratch. Comcast found an effective way to join the discussion and to communicate with customers in the way they want to communicate. Other keys to success? Eliason highlighted a few: • Keep it real. One of the key lessons is that Twitter users—like most social media consumers—want to know that they are dealing with real people, not automated robots or feeds. Comcast has taken that approach to the next level, assigning individual screen names to its online team. Eliason, for instance, tweets under the “comcastcares” moniker. Another example of this strategy, Eliason notes, is JetBlue, which tells Twitter users who is on duty at the airline. The idea is to build relationships, something Comcast has been doing successfully. In fact, some of the connections that have developed on Twitter have led to business deals. • Keep it simple. Comcast’s approach is aggressively low key. In most cases, it enters a conversation with the simple question, “Can I help?” “We are never intrusive,” Eliason says. “We don’t try to force or sell anything.” • Be ready to act. Engaging in dialogue isn’t enough. “Twitter is a great place to listen, but you have to be able to act on that info,” Eliason says. That requires coordination and infrastructure. For instance, Comcast’s use of Twitter has gotten a boost from a tool called “Grand Slam,” which allows techs to perform a quick diagnostic of all of the devices in a customer’s home and in the region where she lives. “While communicating with a customer we can be quick to identify trouble that is in the area, allowing faster resolution,” Eliason says.

PR firm tweets … about PR
Some PR firms using Twitter as a tool to notify media outlets—particularly bloggers—of events and press releases and to pitch story ideas and guests. An example is the Florida-based PR firm The Publicity Agency, which counts among its clients Drew Peterson, a Chicago resident who is a suspect in the death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, and the disappearance of his fourth.

How PR pros can use Twitter


“This concept really seems to break the mold of the old PR firm model,” says Justin Herndon, director of publicity and news at The Publicity Agency, in a statement. “Sure, we still make phone calls, send e-mails and follow up with reporters, but the Twitter application acknowledges that when it comes to big news stories, time is of the essence.” So how does the process work? Breaking news alerts are sent with a tweet, followed by a full release or statement. “That could mean those who signed on to The Publicity Agency Twitter page may get the scoop on a big story involving one of our high-profile clients,” Herndon explains. An example of that process in action came late last week, with the impeachment trial of Publicity Agency client, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. After refusing to participate in the trial, Blagojevich did an about face, asking for the opportunity to make a closing statement to the Illinois Senate. The senate ultimately voted unanimously to convict him. The Publicity Agency Twitter page was the first to break the news with the simple tweet, “Governor says he will go to Springfield tomorrow and appear before senators to make his case.” That was followed up later by a tweet that included a link to a full press release.

The Twitterati add job feeds for journalists
By Jessica Levco

The Media is Dying Twitter feed spurs symbiotic sites synching scribes and situations
Recently, we reported on a Twitter feed that caught our eye: The Media is Dying. With short 140-character blasts, this proved to be a way for PR reps and journalists to see who was coming into or going (or gone altogether) from the industry. Information detailed corporate layoffs, buyouts, and updates about specific journalists who suddenly found themselves in career limbo. After the initial novelty, we found that monitoring the feed was starting to get depressing. Imagine our delight when we found out from another anonymous creator about two new feeds: The Media is Hiring and The Media is Hunting. The first feed gives employers a chance to list media jobs; the second is a platform for journalists to tout 140-character resumes. With these two feeds, does this mean that the media isn’t dying? Not quite, said one of the feed’s creators in an e-mail to The founder doesn’t expect either feed to be as big as The Media is Dying, which has more than 11,000 followers. “It’s about giving back,” the founder wrote. “The media is dying, but it is by no means dead. For many, it’s about change or dying.” The Hiring feed actually started a few weeks ago, but because of an overload of people posting resumes and hiring, The Hunting feed was created to establish a distinct repository for each. One college graduate recently found an internship through The Hiring feed, the founder wrote. The founder’s advice for job-seekers is simple: “Send the resume to us in 140 characters or less and include an e-mail or Twitter handle,” the founder wrote. “So many people forget to do this.”
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Could The Hiring and The Hunting compete with other journalism career Web sites? “In a way, yes, but ultimately, no,” the founder wrote. “Ultimately, we’re linking back or helping them. We’re not out to cut anyone’s legs off, but just make information flow to people who want it or need it.” These feeds may test the adage that “every pot has a lid”—or whether people will just stop using pots and lids altogether.

Emergency communications in 140 characters or less
By Zak Stambor

The Public Service of New Hampshire used Twitter to keep customers informed during a treacherous winter storm
In the midst of a Dec. 11 ice storm unprecedented in its destruction, Martin Murray, senior corporate news representative for the Public Service of New Hampshire, reached beyond the typical telephone customer service lines, Web updates and press conferences. In doing so, he found the most effective way to provide news to customers was to bypass the media and give it to them directly—140 characters at a time. The ice storm left more than 400,000 homes and businesses without power, about 322,000 of which were customers of Public Service of New Hampshire, the state’s largest electric utility company. To inform customers what the utility was doing to address the outages, Murray turned to Twitter. There he posted details—both from the office and the field—such as where outages occurred, what the utility was doing to address the situation and which outages would be addressed first. Since Murray’s corporate news office runs 24/7 during a crisis, Murray or his colleague Matt Chagnon provided a constant stream of tweets. In nine days the utility’s Twitter following grew from about 100 to nearly 1,900, with followers ranging from NHPR, New Hampshire’s public radio station to Web-savvy 20-somethings to a middle-aged couple in a rural part of the state. “We were shocked that our followers were responding to us from their phones, from coffee shops, from their friends’ houses where they went to recharge their batteries,” says Murray. “They were eager for news.”

Twitter in emergency
Twitter was only one aspect of the communications team’s social media strategy. To document its restoration efforts, PSNH set up Flickr and YouTube accounts, which it linked to the Twitter account. The utility also responded to the media through traditional means such as phone interviews, e-mail blasts and teleconferences. Using social media enabled PSNH to proactively and directly provide information to customers, as well as emergency responders and the media. “It’s at the point where we almost don’t need to use press releases,” says Murray.
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The value of that steady stream of information, as well as the dialogue that it sparks, cannot be measured, says Murray. “It keeps us engaged with our customers in a way that previously wasn’t possible,” he says. But there are some tangible results. After the storm, Murray switched from using Twitter’s standard tinyurl link format to, which allows users to track the number of clicks they receive. Since doing so, Murray has been shocked at the traffic PSNH’s links are generating. For instance, when PSNH posted a link to its investigation of its response to the ice storm, more than 10,000 people followed the link. “People are engaged with us in a whole new way,” he says.

A basic strategy
Murray set up PSNH’s Twitter account last spring. At first he wasn’t sure what to use it for, so it mainly served as a power outage alert. But after following British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Twitter feed, which features links to a Flickr account to show photos of his activities, Murray saw new possibilities for PSNH’s Twitter account. “Those tweets got the wheels turning and we began using the feed to provide information about PSNH-related issues like the energy efficiency services we provide or rate changes and we began providing links to provide additional information.” Brown’s feed also helped Murray decide on a few of basic guidelines that drove PSNH’s crisis and non-crisis tweets: Limit tweets to what would be considered by most people to be “important” or “useful.” Avoid posting multiple times in a day unless in the midst of an emergency situation or the information is essential. Use links to show readers what you’re talking about. “We want to be careful about how we use it,” he says. “We don’t want people to tune us out.”

Expansion plans
The utility has about 100 customer service operators in Manchester, N.H., along with another 150 or so at the ready in a Connecticut-based overflow facility. Those representatives, Murray says, offer the opportunity for a one-on-one conversation in which customers can address their questions and concerns, and receive the best answers available. “We found that with Twitter, our customers had the same experience—only in a shared community,” he says. Right now, only Murray and Chagnon tweet. And the corporate news office normally runs Twitter only during regular business hours, while the customer service office operates 24 hours a day. Murray hopes that changes soon. “This is a tool that can be used whenever anyone needs customer service,” he says. “So if there’s a power outage at 3 a.m., they should be able to turn to Twitter to get information. We should have as much interaction with our customers as possible.”
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How David Murray found a new job via Twitter
By David Meerman Scott

The new rules of finding a job online
The David Murray featured in this article is not Ragan’s longtime writer who shares the same name—ed. I recently blogged about how those looking for a new opportunity need to think not just like the seller of a product (that’s what a resume does) but also think like a publisher of interesting information that companies that may want to hire you will find and be eager to consume. It seems like every article I’ve read about job search focuses on traditional ways to find a job: write a great resume and network like crazy. While I’m not suggesting that those looking for work should abandon these efforts, there are many really interesting ways to use social media to conduct a job search. I was particularly excited that David Murray commented on my post, saying that he found his new job via Twitter. Murray agreed to share his story here. Murray says that after being laid off, he immediately did the traditional thing, completing his resume and calling people. But he realized that he would have to change gears and pay attention to blogs, social networks, and online communities. He already had a Twitter account (@DaveMurr), so he reached out to his followers and publicly announced that he was looking for work. “I guess you could say I used a new tool for old-school networking,” Murray says. “The response was overwhelming and I received several leads and opportunities that were far more fruitful than my previous attempts.” Murray then hit on a creative way to use Twitter Search in his job search. “I came across Chris Brogan’s comment how he used Twitter Search to keep track of his 10,000 followers using RSS feeds,” Murray says. “So I simply began entering keywords in Twitter Search like: Hiring Social Media, Social Media Jobs, Online Community Manager, Blogging Jobs, etc. I then pulled the RSS feeds of these keyword conversations into Google Reader and made it a habit to check these first thing in the morning everyday.”

Murray came across conversations related to his keywords and if something sounded like a good fit for him, he took the liberty of introducing himself via Twitter. “Many times when inquiring about the open positions, the jobs had not been officially posted,” Murray says. How cool that on Twitter you can express interest in a job opportunity that hasn’t even been announced yet. It’s like inside information.

It didn’t take long for Murray to land the perfect job. He’s now happily employed as Assistant Webmaster, Client Services for The Bivings Group. As Heather Huhman, who writes the Entry Level Careers pages for says: “The Internet is changing just about everything—the internship/entry-level job search included. Gone are the days of printing out your cover letter
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and resume on ‘special’ paper, sticking both in an envelope and mailing the application package off. We are officially in the Job Search 2.0 era.” Some people might argue that this technique only works to find jobs related to social media and online marketing (like Murray did). While it’s true that people who are savvy about social media like Murray are first to use these techniques, I’m convinced that they’d work for many other kinds of roles too. And here’s an added benefit. If you’re an accountant, or salesperson, or production manager looking for work, then you’re really going to stand out from the crowd of 1,000 resumes if you use social media to find a job. David Meerman Scott is the author of World Wide Rave and blogs at WebInkNow.

In 2009, Twitter and Google alter face of PR
Social media to be followed and feared; journalists set up their own shops; these predictions and more for PR and media relations
If you were hoping you could ignore social media for another year, forget it. In 2009, you have no excuse for remaining a Luddite. As traditional media accelerate their death spiral, social media might be the only media left to pitch. Here’s what some prognosticators say about media relations in the coming year: Google reigns: Your prominence on Google—or lack thereof—could make or break your 2009 PR program, says Andy Murphy, principal of Davies Murphy Group in Burlington, Mass. “Agencies that don’t understand this, or fail to educate clients in how media relations plays into organic search engine optimization, will have a difficult 2009,” Murphy predicts. “In a tough economy, traditional media relations usually wind up on the nice-to-have list when companies consider budget cuts. Search engine optimization, now experiencing its first recession as a standard marketing function, will be near the top of the must-have list.” Don’t go hog-wild over social media: “I really hate it when people write about ‘PR is going away and being replaced by social media,’” says Julia Tanen, president of Tanen PR in Franklin, Mass. “Social media is PR!” Tanen suggests that flacks balance their social media strategies with a healthy dose of traditional PR. Traditional media drive results: Tanen adds that in 2009, tried-and-true mainstream media will still pull better results than social media. “Social media are still struggling for measurement,” Tanen contends. “When I place a product in Family Circle, my clients always sell product. Same thing with Traditional Home, Better Homes & Gardens, O Magazine. Like it or not, there are many magazines and print [publications] that are not going away.” And there’s still plenty of TV and radio to pitch, Tanen says. Fire your PR firm: OK, that sounds a bit drastic, but Mike Volpe, VP of inbound marketing at Hubspot in Cambridge, Mass., forecasts more “insourcing” of PR. “The trend toward more inbound marketing makes things like search engine optimization and blogging much more important, and companies tend to find they themselves—not their PR firm—are best at producing the content and integrating it,” he says. “Most media today seem to prefer a direct relationship with the company, rather than an agency.”
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YouTubes multiply: “People just can’t get enough of well-produced, creative and humorous videos to get their message out, whether internal or external,” says Chris Scioli, partner at Zan Media in San Francisco. “I predict clever folks will take one step forward and launch Saturday Night Live-type Web programs and smooth over the bleak economic news with entertaining content to effectively communicate.” Everyone’s a content owner: Today’s consumers exercise tremendous control over online content, says Dan Cohen, principal of Full Court Press Communications in Oakland, Calif. “Yahoo, Facebook, cable news, blogs—people will continue to seek out information from sources that agree with them,” Cohen says. “That poses challenges in PR and public affairs work if part of that job is to change a position held by a majority of the target audience.” The new world of instant feedback: Don’t like it when your audiences talk back? Too bad, says PR Newswire president Dave Armon. “PR in the Internet age is omni-directional, so you get a real-time focus group by jumping into the fray, rather than relying on gatekeepers,” he says. “The old structure of walling off an organization’s thought leaders will lead to isolation and obsolescence.” Twitter will fly higher: “Reporters left on Media Street will love to hear the bluebird go tweet, tweet, tweet,” deftly parodies Karren Jeske, director of PR at Primum Marketing Communications in Milwaukee. “Twitter is going to soar higher and higher as a media-relations tool.” … And we’ll learn to tweet like pros: Twitter demands new skills from PR people—notably, crafting a pitch in 140 characters or fewer, says Dan Cohen. This “new shorthand,” he adds, “will place greater emphasis on PR folks to define, message and control the shorthand, and get creative on how we influence the Zeitgeist.” For example, Cohen says, “I can see Russia from my house!” became shorthand for Sarah Palin’s failings. (By the way, those weren’t her own words but comedian Tina Fey’s parody that stuck to Alaska’s governor.) … But don’t give up on writing: Even though we’ll need to know how to communicate Twitter-style, says Leslie Holland, director of PR at Power Creative in Louisville, “Good writing will be more important than ever. If information is not easily understood, it will be very easily tossed into the virtual trash.” Journalists embrace their brands: More and more laid-off reporters and editors will start blogs and social networks, predicts Brenda Christensen, PR manager for Servoy USA in Thousand Oaks, Calif. One who has done so successfully is Harry McCracken, most recently the editor in chief of PC World magazine. “He’s even built his own social network on Ning around his new brand,, and he’s got a lot of fans who have already followed him over there,” Servoy says.

How PR pros can use Twitter