How I'm using Twitter for PR: A Case Study

John Lusk —  March 16, 2009 — 8 Comments

Ok, so here’s the deal. I’m new to Twitter. For that matter, I’m new to most Social Media channels beyond LinkedIn and Facebook. The only reason I started toying around with Twitter (during my spare time of course) was to prove to my Search Engine Marketing Manager that I could hang with the best of ‘em. At first, I just didn’t get it and wrote Twitter off as another social media fad…kind of like what I did with Kozmo.com in 2000. Engaging in conversations on Twitter was too hard for me, took too much time and ended up being an additional weekend distraction that I didn’t need.

But then it all changed. Within a 45 minute period on a random Thursday afternoon a few weeks back, my entire view of and approach to Twitter changed instantly. For those Twitter die-hards out there (Tweeps to those in the know), you’ll most likely laugh at my experience below and chalk it up as another social media tech laggard ruining the Twitter parade. But for those of you new to Social Media, and Twitter, take my story as a glimpse into what most out there believe to be the future of consumer and media engagement.

My mini Twitter step-by-step case study is highlighted below:

Step 1: Identify your audience. For me it was simple. I wanted to track all conversations that involved my company, WhitePages. I went to Twitter, set up an RSS feed on the term ‘WhitePages’ and tracked in both Firefox and Internet Explorer. A very broad audience and very easy to set-up.

Step 2: Monitor conversations. I start checking all of the ‘WhitePages’ conversations each morning through my RSS feed. Not a ton of convos happening so this process takes all of 1-2 minutes. That is, until I notice the following Tweet from Jeremiah Owyang, a Senior Analyst at Forrester:

Step 3: Follow the conversation. Stoked to see our company mentioned in the same breath as Intel and AMEX, I click on the link and proceed to read Jeremiah’s blog post on the growing trend of ‘sponsoring’ bloggers. Sure enough, towards the end of the post, he mentions WhitePages sponsoring of David Berkowitz, a prominent tech blogger and media pundit, and links to Berkowitz’s blog post on his WhitePages experience.

Step 4: Determine scale of conversation. Curious to know who Jeremiah is, I check out his Twitter profile. Whoa! 35K followers on Twitter and almost 14K Twitter updates. People must be listening to this dude. Excited to see such a popular analyst covering WhitePages, I set out to find out how many people actually receive his update. My SEM guy, we’ll call him Darren, points me to Retweetist and I notice that Jeremiah’s post is one of the most retweeted posts of the day (translation: a bunch of his followers continued to forward his update to their own followers…kind of like a high school rumor). Sweet! Massive WhitePages brand exposure.

Step 5: Participate in the conversation. After reading the Berkowitz post, I notice that a number of his readers have commented on his original post about how we flew him to Seattle to participate in the WhitePages Lunch 2.0 and Blogger Day event. Knowing that others might take the same conversational path, I think it best to respond to some of the readers questions/comments. After my first post, Berkowitz and I continue to engage on his blog about the event. Kind of fun actually. (Full disclosure: We should have commented on the posts when they actually occurred in August, 2008….over 7 months ago. But hey, we’re still learning!). I also retweet Jeremiah’s post to all 10 of my followers and start following both David and Jeremiah on Twitter. How quaint!

Step 6: Answer the phone. About 45 minutes after I run across Jeremiah’s tweet, I receive a phone call from Frank Washkuch, a reporter for PRWeek. Frank, intrigued by Jeremiah’s Twitter and blog post decides to do a story on the ‘sponsoring’ blogger trend. He interviews me and we have a nice 20 minute convo about digital media, blogger relationships and WhitePages. I hang up the phone jazzed that I’ve just developed a relationship with a journalist from PRWeek.

Step 7: Annoy your Team. I spend the next 15 minutes retelling my Twitter story to the marketing organization at WhitePages. I’m shocked, amazed, blown away that all of this engagement could happen in a 45 minute timeframe. I’ve engaged with a prominent blogger, found two new influentials to follow on Twitter and established a relationship with a writer for PRWeek. Darren can’t believe my stroke of luck. My day starts off well.

A couple of days later, the PRWeek article on sponsoring bloggers runs with another mention of WhitePages. Of course, I send an article link to all of my Twitter followers in a valiant act of self-promotion. And the cycle continues….

There are now over 100 people following me on Twitter. Game on!

John

PS Follow me on Twitter! And feel free to pass along your recent experiences with Twitter.




8 responses to How I'm using Twitter for PR: A Case Study

  1. dberkowitz@gmail.com'

    This is great, John. Thanks for sharing this with me (via the Twitter direct message), and it’s great to get back in touch to discuss the broader issues here. I also really appreciate your transparency both around what WhitePages was doing with its Blogger Day and around your own learnings in the process. Many will share what they learned, but not everyone shares what they’re still actively working on doing better, and it makes this a much more meaningful experience than just another “how to listen to Twitter” story.

  2. yegg@alum.mit.edu'

    Hey, given the nature of your post, I thought you might be interested in our widget that lets you display your twitter follower count (and other online karma, e.g. LinkedIn connection count) on your blog: http://duckduckgo.com/karma.html

    Take care,

    Gabriel Weinberg
    Founder & CEO, Duck Duck Go

  3. kelly.r.feller@intel.com'

    Hi John,
    Great to see another devotee of Twitter. I recently commented on a colleague’s post that I think Twitter is the most disruptive app to the business world since the web iteslf (see here: http://www.conversationsmatter.org/2009/03/16/the-dark-side-of-twitter/). I wanted to also thank you for your positive mention of Intel. We’re working dilligently to integrate social tools into our daily business and joining the conversation (or sponsoring..in the case you mention) is part of how it all works.

    Incidentally, how did your marketing department react to your story? I’ve been fascinated with the gamut of reactions I’ve seen from folks when you mention it–everything from mutual excitement to disgusted naysaying (as in “I’m not gonna jump on THAT bandwagon.” I should mention that they usually come around).

  4. jlusk@whitepages.com'

    David, thanks for the comment. We’re still learning a ton and listening is more challenging than ever give the speed in which conversations are happening. It’s like the wild west and very interesting seeing how different individuals and companies are utilizing all of the different tools. Good stuff!

  5. jlusk@whitepages.com'

    Kelly,

    Appreciate the link to the post. I’ll check out later today. Just let me know if you ever want to mention WhitePages along with Intel in the future…happy to work with you on that one. :)

    We were pretty jazzed about the story running. I was actually surprised that Jeremiah mentioned WhitePages given the nature of our blogger day event. Must have been the awesome post that David Berkowitz on his experiences that day…and the overall approach we took wrt blogger relations. For us, getting a mention like that is rare, so again, pretty jazzed.

    Y’all are doing some great stuff at Intel around social media…look forward to hearing more about your initiatives.

  6. stinly@gmail.com'

    nice to see it all coming together john. we early twitter-ers have been alone long enough!

  7. salesking2007@juno.com'

    I don’t know anything about Twitter.

    Do you recommend a specific book or guide to help as super newbies learn the basics?

    Malcom

  8. jlusk@whitepages.com'

    Malcolm,

    There’s tons out there on how to use Twitter. You can start off by doing a simple Google search on ‘How to use Twitter’. That might help a bit.

    Also, check out http://tinyurl.com/2ccw5l. Pretty good YouTube video on the basics of using Twitter.

    John

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