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Monday, March 29, 2010

Sometimes Smaller is Better

One of the wonderful things about social media is the vastness of it all.  The reach and scope of social media goes far beyond what we've been able to do in the past.  A simple blog post, or video can reach more people in less time than the lead story on a newtork news program today.

Now, one of the most frightening aspects of social media is, well, the vastness of it all.  I've seen a lot of small business owners and non-profit directors freeze up at the thought of entering the social media fray.  There are so many people out there watching, reading, viewing, reacting.  There are so many different tools to choose from.  It's all so overwhelming.


I get it.  And yes, it CAN be a little overwhelming.  But, as stated in previous posts, starting small can help you ease into social media.  Public relations is very similar.  Not quiet as overwhelming, since there are already well-established modes of delivery (i.e. magazines, newspapers, tv and radio broadcasts).  But even public relations is going through growing pains as social media changes the way the media operates.

Even without social media, the economics of news makes it an ever-chaning world.  Magazines start up and shut down every day.  Newspapers change their coverage focus, depending on what they can afford to pay staff.  Radio stations are constantly changing formats in their never-ending pursuit of new audiences.  Even TV stations are trying to do more with less, impacting the kinds of stories they can cover, which ultimately impacts your PR efforts.

One of the best ways to combat this feeling of being overwhelmed is to narrow things down, create more focused goals.  It's one thing to say, "I want to reach every person in my town who might ever want to eat a sandwhich."  That's a huge audience.  It's another thing to say, "I want to reach families who want tasty, fast and healthy sandwhiches."  Now you've narrowed your reach and can begin to use social media tools that speak directly to those potential customers.  Even in PR you can start targeting publications or outlets that are regularly watched by that audience.

This also helps you focus your trends search.  Let's face it, we all have different viewing, watching and reading habits.  Not all of us spend hours upon hours on Facebook, while others treat it like a World of Warcraft marathon and never log off.  Trying to spot trends when dealing with such large audiences is often like finding a needle in a haystack.  It begins to get too muddled and the variables start looking like baseball stats.  "50 year old women use Facebook mostly on Wednesdays, when the moon is full and against lefty's on artifical turf"

A case in point:

Most media outlets break down their audiences into groups and subgroups.  When radio stations, tv stations, newspapers and magazines look at their audience, they don't see one giant mass of humanity lumped into a single entity.  No, they see age ranges, gender even financials.

When I was producing Jay Marvin at KHOW, one of his primary adversaries was Mike Rosen, a conservative talk show host on KOA.  During one ratings period, Jay had a larger audience than Rosen, leading Jay to exclaim he had more listeners and was winning the talk show war of ideologies (I'm paraphrasing here).  To which Rosen responded, "It's the difference of quality over quantity.  Jay may have more listeners, but I have better quality listeners."

Disregard the personalities or individuals in this example.  What matters is this; Rosen was more concerned about the makeup of his listeners.  In other words, he really wanted to reach an audience that was, in general, more educated, more affluent, older and in positions of leadership, either in their communities or at their places of work.  And when you looked at who was listening to Rosen, that pretty much summed up his audience.  Certainly a smaller number than the public at large, but Rosen didn't care.  Because his listeners tended to be older and more affluent, his advertisers were generally companies that catered to this audience and, therefore, generally spent more money to advertise on his show than companies who advertised on Jay Marvin's show.

The right audience might end up being smaller, but financially, it can have a bigger impact for your bottom line.

Another Example:

Now let's look at how to use this trending information.  Earlier this month I posted a story dealing with "Mellennials" (29 and under crowd) and blogging.  One of the surprising aspects of the story dealt with texting and blogging and who's doing what in the Millennial crowd.  As it turns out, Millennials aren't blogging in a traditional sense.  They're doing what is called "micro-blogging" or, using their texts and facebook to keep a running commentary about what they're doing, what they find interesting or what they want to be doing.

It's less of a storytelling format and more of a stream-of-consciousness format.  Even when it came to texting, the story revealed that most of the texting is being done by females 25 and under.  So what does all this information mean?  Well, if you're promoting an organization or service or product that is geared towards an under 30 crowd, then you'll want to stop blogging and texting and find another outlet for them, right?

Not necessarily.  You see, the same story noted that, even though Millennials weren't actually blogging, trends showed that they were actively reading blogs as a primary source of both entertainment and information.

If you're already online and using social media, this information would mean that your Twitters should most likely focus on topics that will appeal to females, since they're the ones regularly texting.  It also means your Facebook posts should mirror the style and content you see in the posts of under 30 audience.  Speaking their language, talking about topics that interest them will draw them to your posts and then to your blog and ultimately, hopefully to your website.

The PR Fix:

Even in public relations, there are ways to narrow your scope and reach a targeted audience.  Too often small businesses and non-profits ignore their local community papers.  Community newspapers and focused, smaller magazine formats can help you reach individuals who will have an immediate impact on your bottom line.

There's another tool that is often overlooked, the MyHub section of most major daily papers.  As stated in a previous post, this is a great way to become your own journalist and tell your story to a specific audience.

Starting small gives you a chance to reach targeted audiences to be sure.  But it also helps you focus your research, which is important, because this trending information is going to help you really tailor your social media and public relations campaigns to effectively reach out to potential customers, donors and staffers.

Since most trends services cost money, most of your research will be done online, I'm assuming.  As you are probably well aware, doing searches online can be a frustrating experience.  However, if you go into your search knowing EXACTLY what kind of trending stats you need, knowing the audience or target demographic, you'll be able to cut your research time in half.

Once you have that information, you can then begin to search out the exact platforms that will help your social media campaign really take off.  Perhaps it's a Meetup, or Digg, or a blog, or a vlog...whatever it is, you'll at least know that your message is going out to the right audiences.

So, think big, but start small.  You don't have to reach everyone all at once.  You're better off starting with a smaller, targeted audience when you begin as it will keep you from getting overwhelmed by the endless social media possibilities, will help you focus your efforts, save you time in research and implementation and drive a higher quality customer to your site (by higher quality, we mean more likely to action once reaching your site rather than a multitude of looky-lou's)

Sometimes, smaller really is better.

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