In only 10 years, Twitter has redefined how people consume content, and it’s no surprise that it has had a major impact on public relations as well. Today, on the tenth anniversary of Twitter’s first tweet, we took a look at the many ways Twitter has changed the art of communicating and picked out a few of our favorite implications.
1 – Accountability. While we love to bash Justine Sacco for her infamous “Going to Africa…” tweet, it’s true that Twitter has added a layer of accountability to all communication. Messages that are sent out are public-facing, and as such need to be appropriate (especially if coming from a brand).
2 – Engagement. Traditionally, stories (in print or online) were one-way operations; reporters wrote a story and audiences read them. Twitter, and other social media channels, created opportunities for brands to engage directly with their followers beyond allowing them to simply consume the story. The best Twitter profiles are the ones that ask questions and listen to their followers.
3 – Crisis communications. Twitter has dramatically evolved the way news breaks. Instead of waiting for the morning papers to run and consuming stories when a copy arrives on your doorstep, articles are now shared in real-time and news, such as the new Apple iPhone, often breaks on Twitter before it appears anywhere else. For companies dealing with crisis situations, its critical to have a plan in place for how to react to negative news on social media as quickly as possible. With the real-time nature of Twitter, brands can no longer afford to wait days, or even hours, before responding to a crisis.
4 – Information gathering. For brands or individuals looking to check the pulse of their audience, Twitter is a great tool to source information. The new Twitter Polls feature makes it even easier to conduct surveys. Brands can then use that information to tailor products and services to meet the specific needs of their audience.
5 – Customer service. In addition to gathering information, brands can now connect directly with people that need assistance – and if they don’t, they’re in trouble. Whether it’s tweeting about long lines at the airport or a cable bill that seems too high, Twitter has turned the formerly private world of customer service—usually consisting of phone calls or in-person meetings—into the public eye.
6 – Media relations. While email pitches are still the norm, some journalists, like the Boston Business Journal’s Sara Castellanos, actually enjoy being pitched by PR pros directly on Twitter. It creates a direct (and public) dialogue between a PR representative and a reporter and can be very effective in getting responses.
7 – Supplement to traditional news. Twitter is a place that many go to discover their news, though it hasn’t taken over as the news outlet. Instead, Twitter perfectly complements news outlets like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch and more and increases distribution of news to more people than ever before.
8 – Reach. Through Twitter, brands can reach a larger audience than ever before. By using hashtags, like today’s #LoveTwitter that was used more than 1.3 million times, brands can connect with millions of people they wouldn’t have had the chance to connect with in the past.
9 – Measurement. Measurement has always been an important element of PR, but Twitter extends the capabilities of measurement for communications campaigns. For example, at Version 2.0, we track tweets that include a link to press releases when we’re evaluating the success of an announcement, and also track mentions and follower growth as metrics in our monthly and quarterly reporting.
10 – Communicating is communicating. While Twitter (and technology in general) has dramatically impacted the way in which we communicate, it hasn’t changed the fact that communicating is still communicating – and it’s more important than ever. For brands to truly engage with their audience, they need to put themselves out there and deliver the most impactful message.
For good measure, here are a couple of PR-focused Twitter handles we recommend following: Joan Stewart (@PublicityHound), Karen Taylor-Bass (@PREXPERT), Mark Ragan (@MarkRaganCEO), Sarah Evans (@prsarahevans), Heather Whaling, (prtini), Valerie Simon (@ValerieSimon) and our fearless leaders Jean Serra (@jeanserraV2) and Maura FitzGerald (@MauraFitzv2). You can also always follow Version 2.0 (@v2comms) for up-to-date industry news and commentary.
After having such a major impact on the way we communicate, it’s sometimes hard to believe Twitter has only been around for 10 years. Here’s to 10, 20 or perhaps 100 more!