Twitter Interview with Jason Baer

As a lead-up to the PRSA Counselors Academy Conference, an annual meeting of independent PR agency owners (and an event I try to never miss), I interviewed social media superstar Jay Baer (@jaybaer) of Convince and Convert, who is presenting at this year’s confab. He is among a small group of forward-thinking social media strategists and luminaries who are helping the rest of us harness the  power of the social Web.

This is a recap of our conversation, matching the style of Jason’s well known Twitter interviews, on how PR agencies need to think about the practice of social and digital media.  Even if you aren’t with a PR agency, this has noteworthy information nonetheless.  It originally appeared on the PRSA blog, “Comprehension.”

@RAReed: We’re transitioning from thinking and talking about social media to doing and measuring its effect. What are agencies getting right?

  • @jaybaer: Social media is so all encompassing that it’s lost meaning to say that you’re good at social media. There are so many facets to it now.
  • The best break social media into pieces and focus on possibilities and outcomes, influence or outreach, brand community or social CRM.

@RAReed: On the flip-side, what are the biggest missteps agencies are making with social media?

  • @jaybaer: Agencies tend to silo their social expertise where they only have a couple people who are the social media experts.
  • There is too much focus on social outposts like Twitter accounts, a Facebook page or YouTube channel versus opportunities to be social.

@RAReed Larger agencies seemingly have the horse power to get a leg up on social media practices.  Where can smaller agencies catch up?

  • @jaybaer: I think smaller- and medium-sized agencies make the transition from traditional to social-enabled PR much easier than larger agencies.
  • Smaller agencies are closer to customers.  They adopt new services more easily  and can change what they do for the client with less internal friction.
  • Large agencies can dedicate staff to social media but that’s not necessarily good.  But they have clients that can experiment more.

@RAReed: What skill sets related to social media do the majority of agencies still need to develop? SEO immediately comes to mind.

  • Content optimization and analytics in all forms and fashion. It’s being better at Excel instead of Word.
  • Marketing is not a campaign any more.  Think of it more as a river and that changes everything.  Monitor and respond in real time.

@RAReed: What are you out to convey in the pre-con session that won’t be covered in the regular CA sessions?

  • @jaybaer: We’ll talk through the social media planning process to build a sustainable strategic framework around all social activities.
  • I want people to learn how to be social and not just how to do social.  Forget thinking Facebook, Twitter or Youtube.  Be tool agnostic.

@RAReed: What are the three or four most important things agencies can do to differentiate and market their social media offerings?

  • @Jaybaer: Understand the science and math of social media.  There is a lot there that people don’t gravitate toward as much as they should.
  • Know the data and numbers.  There’s a right time to tweet, a best way to update Facebook and the right way to search optimize a blog.
  • Help clients with social media CRM and customer retention more than campaigns or the customer acquisition component.
  • In the end we’ll wonder why we thought social media was good for customer acquisition when it’s clearly a loyalty and retention tool.

@RAReed:  What are the first, most important steps an agency should engage in to build its social media presence?

  • @Jaybaer: Understand what you’re good at, be specific about it and then create and atomize content that supports that supposition.
  • Whether it be blogs, podcasts, webinars, speeches, know where you have to participate in the inbound marketing domain.
  • Embrace giving away info snacks in order to eat a meal down the road.
  • Drive content awareness via search optimization. People will eventually find and recognize you as actually good at that particular thing.

@RAReed:  I need a one word answer to this last question: In 2010, when it comes to social media, PR agencies must _________.

  • I’ll have to give it to you in two words: embrace math.

Got Klout?

Kout logoI just registered myself on Klout, the analytical tool that measures the influence of Twitter users across the social web.  Klout allows users to track the impact of their opinions, links and recommendations.  Once Klout puts your Twitter stats through its algorithm, it plots you on a quadrant chart and delivers a number of statistics.

I plugged in my Twitter ID, RAReed, and before I saw the results, I already knew where I’d likely end up: border line Casual/Climber (the lower portion) and not Connector/Persona (upper portion).  Bottom line?  I need to be a much more active.

So, it got me thinking. How much does a person need to tweet and what should they tweet about?  Not a new thought, but with so many people signed on to the service, what is a healthy, valuable point of engagement?   The study conducted by Pear Analytics suggests that over 40 percent of Tweets came under the “Pointless Babble” category.  That may be true, but pointless babble scored “shitmydadsays” a CBS sitcom deal.

For the Twitterarti, you know what’s working for you.  For the rest of us making the climb or just getting started, here are some suggestions to either reign in or ramp up your visibility on Twitter.

1. Organize your daily tweets.  Do it in the morning or the previous evening.  I usually take 15 minutes at the end of the day (before I head to bed) to jot down the items that need my attention, so for me, this is a good time to assess what I want to Tweet about.  I typically look at some of the 70 some-odd feeds I subscribe to for inspiration.

2. Pick your tweet times.  To get actual work done, I look at Twitter when I look at my e-mail — morning, noon, quitting time and evening is a sane approach to sharing what’s catching my eye with my followers.

3. What to tweet. I use Twitter for business.  I tend to be more content driven, so retweeting interesting blog posts; posting relevant PR and social news stories; of the day and posting available updates to this blog are the underpinnings of my Twitter engagement.  Depending on the business you’re in, post announcements and events that could be pertinent.  You can also ask questions, but until you get enough followers, don’t expect all that many answers.

4. Mix It Up. Drilling your followers with business-related data with links to longer articles can get a bit ponderous. Recommendations from other PR and social marketing pros are to mix up your Tweets between business and personal.  I’ve learned I need to throw in some balance, such as interesting stories. Honestly, the stuff that turns me off is the near breathless updates of what someone is doing.  One of the people I follow went on about the pending acquisition of a new BMW.  Save it, please.

5. So what’s the count? By looking at the Twitter over users and underachievers through my follow list, it looks like a good daily target is between four and eight tweets per day, depending on your day.  One way around that is to deploy one the available Twitter schedulers that can send your tweet when you’re unavailable.

Like anything else, a good plan should produce good results.  I’ll let you know when I achieve some Twitter clout.