socialnetworkingIt is hard to ignore the buzz around social media campaigns and how they can help you reach your public affairs goals.  However, if you start by launching a campaign that utilizes new Facebook and Twitter accounts, a professional blog, and other social media tools, you will quickly find that you aren’t communicating with your target audience—or almost anyone outside of your staff and organization.  That is because social media requires that you develop a social media strategy and build a following long before you launch a specific campaign.

So, how do you get started in social media without investing a lot of time and resources?

Here are five steps to a complete social media strategy that you can engage in now that will allow you to harness the power of social media for your next campaign:

1.  Listen.  What makes social media so unique is that it is a conversation between individuals, not a broadcasting platform like traditional media.  This means you should enter the space by listening to the ongoing conversation instead of “interrupting” with your own message.  Research the opinion leaders affecting your issues in social media and dedicate a small amount of time each day to reading the blogs, Twitter accounts, LinkedIn groups, and Facebook pages that cover your topics and influence your target audience—just like you would scan newspapers and trade journals.

The goal of this approach is to first understand the common concerns, misperceptions, gaps in knowledge, and strengths/saturation of the information already available.  This allows you to add to the conversation moving forward.

2.  Amplify.  It is not necessary to start participating in social media by creating and maintaining a lot of content.  Instead, open social media accounts to share existing content and promote the messages that are supportive of your efforts.  You can do this by passing on interesting content through status updates and applications on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and your existing Web site.  You can also use news aggregators such as,, to highlight content of interest.  This action takes a minimal amount of time, but starts to make you an interesting source of information.  As you pass on
information, you will find those that you source and others interested in such content begin to follow and comment back to you.

3. Comment.  Add to the conversation by providing comments on existing articles, videos and blog postings.  Effective comments introduce new information, establish your credibility, and help lead the discussion.  In other words, they say more than “good post” or “I disagree.”  Instead, they raise questions, add missing information and link to related information from third parties or your existing Web site.

At this point, you have entered the social media conversation and are expected to respond to follow-up questions and comments.  It is important that you do not comment widely without reserving time to react to the resulting discussion.

4. Create.  Posting original content through blogs, videos, or slideshow presentations allows you to start new conversations and further direct the discussions affecting issues of interest.  Topics should come from your reaction to the ongoing conversation.  For example, you can react to a blog post with a new point of view, answer commonly asked questions, highlight an issue that has been overlooked, etc.  It is important to remember that your content is not about self-promotion, but instead focuses on helping others understand the effects of an issue on their lives and enabling them to take action.

5. Promote.  In order to expand your community, make sure you cross-reference your online activity.  Link a comment on Twitter to your blog.  Blog about a question seen in LinkedIn.  Mention a LinkedIn answer to your Facebook fans.  Use a single platform of your choice as a home base that allows new and existing followers to easily see your activity and learn more about the issues.

Once you have a social media strategy in place, it is easy to utilize social media in
measurable campaigns designed to enhance your public affairs efforts.

Deborah Long
Public Relations Consultant
Cohesive Communications