Not to long ago I was asked to write a post about why I am glad I had to study social media. My former professor and blogging mentor currently teaches public relations and social media at the University of Georgia and I can honestly say that without her class I might not be where I am today.
I work in public affairs for state governement. When I was hired I was told that one of the most attractive things about my resume was my involvement with and knowledge of social media tools such as blogs, social networks and video and photo sharing applications. The world of PR and journalism is changing rapidly and it is all many organizations can do just to keep up. My employer wanted to “upgrade” their media relations tactics and felt that I would be a good person to spearhead the initiative.
I have now been employed here for a year and a half and the changes are dramatic. We have gone from just emailed news releases to being on Youtube, Twitter and having an agency blog. I think that the best thing about all of these changes was that I basically got to create my own position, write my job description and then continue to modify it as needed. I have made contacts that would never have been possible without the use of social media and have been able to indulge my passion by creating an initiative that will help conserve wildlife in the state of Georgia in a totally new way.
Yes I am glad I had to learn about social media. My blog has become a job in itself, with a loyal readership and is syndicated on three different web sites. I receive invitations to speak on social media at conventions and have even been interviewed about my contributions to conservation using social media. I have grown as a PR professional, a writer and as a person and all because I decided that Dr. Russell wasn’t crazy after all for being so excited about this thing we call social media.
Hopefully you will have an equally valuable experience whether you are in her class or just a fan of her blog. Here are just a few lessons from her class to show how learning about social media and its various tools helped me to get to where I am today.
Blog to be a Better Writer
Starting a blog was a class assignment. While I was hesitant at first, I quickly realized that writing for such a public medium made me more aware of my writing style and really helped me to develop my writing skills as far as being able to market effectively to a select audience. Writing in a conversational style forces you to consider your content in new and different ways. You have to ask yourself, “would I want to read this online?”
Blog to be a Better PR Professional
PR is all about building relationships, building trust. Blogging has helped me to learn about how to do that in an entirely new way. Getting your content in front of more eyeballs is one of the biggest challenges for those in PR. Using the blog-o-sphere requires that you understand how to distribute the content in a way that won’t immediately go into the trash/spam folder. Blogging taught me about writing more concisely, creating quality over quantity, getting to the point and how to reach out to new and unconventional audiences.
Understanding the Power of Social Networks
Like many college students I created a Facebook page and a Twitter profile while in school. What I didn’t realize at first was the power and leverage that these social media tools can provide. Although I do use my Facebook page for personal use, to connect with friends, share photos, etc. I also use it in a professional sense in that I have developed personal relationships with many of my media contacts and I use my Facebook platform to share things I think they might find newsworthy. For example, when I come across an interesting news article that talks about wildlife conservation or DNR, I share it on my Facebook page. I also post the occasional news release or photo from the field. There have been many times I have gotten a message on FB about these posts from my media contacts. The same goes for Twitter. I tweet about just about anything that I find interesting or relevant to my line of work. As I gain followers I pay attention to where they are coming from, which gives me an idea of where my content is being read.