Short, sharp and frequent – these are the watchwords of PR in the social media world. You could put the message another way though: don’t be boring or you will be ignored. Remember the whole point about social media is to get your message passed on, talked about, blogged about, re-tweeted. And the only way you can achieve that is to be consistently interesting.

One of the joys of social media is that it is free and open. Anyone can join in. And, best of all, you might think, there are no editors, nobody to stop you saying what you like when and where you like.

But actually, this is the problem with social media. People see it as licence to communicate boring dross. The best way of ensuring you don’t fall into this trap is to imagine that there actually is a tough editor, blue pencil at the ready, casting her beady eye over your social media content as you publish it. That way, there’s a good chance you will always produce interesting, well-written copy with no wasted words.

You see, social media PR is no different from mainstream PR in terms of the basic rules you have to follow. It’s simply a live discussion, a conversation. Indeed we see it as part of the media, an extension of what we have always had. Its protocols and practices are different from mainstream media, but the principles of what makes a good tweet, blog, LinkedIn page or Facebook update are exactly the same as in the mainstream media.

A huge number of companies now profess to be ‘doing’ social media, but not all of them are doing it well. Their success – or otherwise – is often based on two fundamental misconceptions. The first is that social media is a totally different kettle of fish to traditional mainstream media. In reality, many news stories that originate in the social media space are picked up by mainstream journalists, while stories from the broadsheets frequently go the other way, and are tweeted and blogged all over cyberspace.

The second misconception is that social media is an easy win for businesses in terms of PR. This may stem from the fact that applications like Twitter and Facebook are so easy to access and update when we use them for social networking. The truth is that when these media are used for business purposes, time and thought are still required. If anything, the immediacy of these tools, which allow us to ‘self-publish’ to a huge audience, means that we need to think even more carefully about the impact and intention behind our messaging.

Successful social media strategies work best as part of a wider, integrated PR campaign, rather than a hit-and-miss approach where tweets, blogs and Facebook fan pages are released into cyberspace to see what sticks.

As part of a coordinated, long-term strategic approach to PR, social media can – and does – produce stellar results. Anyone can ‘do’ social media. But doing it well will be the key differentiator between the leading PR companies and the rest of the pack. Good PR should get people talking about you. Good social media is just the same.

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