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Once Upon a Social Media Boot Camp

As a PR practitioner, I am sensitive to how Social Media is affecting my business. It represents arguably the most significant derivative of the internet revolution (or is it disruption?), and its impact on communication has been profound. With the increasing fragmentation of media channels, changing information consumption patterns and the pervasive appeal and ubiquity of ‘mobile’, Social Media is increasingly becoming an indispensable part (or adjunct, depending on your perspective) of the PR landscape.

‘Social’ is defined by the usability factor which the recipient exercises in the way he/she processes information delivered through the internet – the ability and freedom to ‘comment’, ‘like’, ‘unlike’ and to ‘share’ (the last being the most important factor of all). It has become almost impossible today to prosecute an effective PR campaign that does not have a Social Media component.

As result, a new paradigm has evolved in this business – ‘Hybrid PR’. It is a campaign strategy driven by the synergetic deployment of traditional and Digital media channels and tools. My initial reaction to the Social Media ‘encroachment’ was at best tentative. Was it a generational thing (‘digital natives’ and ‘digital immigrants’ on my mind)? A passing fad? Or just another technology breakthrough, soon to be overtaken by yet another? That was until I started taking a closer look at the statistics: Over 60 million Nigerians with access to the internet (placing us in the league of the Top Ten countries in the world, in internet penetration); 10 million Nigerians on Facebook (and counting), 112 million active mobile lines (with 45% of them having internet access); over a million on Twitter, and so on. And then the clients started asking: What is your Social Media strategy? Where is the plan? Who are the influencers and connectors you are working with? How do we manage adverse comments, reports and crises online? Who’s handling Social Media for you? How do we measure ROI for our campaigns? At that point you realize that this goes beyond just opening a Facebook, Twitter or Youtube account. You have to get expert help. Either in-house or outsourced. But then is soon dawns on you too, as the Big Boss, that perhaps the most important expert required for the job is indeed you.

You have to yourself understand how Social Media works. For, how can you control and manage what you don’t understand? How can you be ignorant about what has turned out to be a very important and integral part of the work that you do, and yet expect to be successful? How can you lead a team whose work you do not have enough knowledge about? So, I head off to a Social Media Boot Camp in Cape Town, South Africa. It is a one-day training programme that deals with the essentials of Social Media marketing – the fundamentals, the platforms and the tools. And did I learn anything? Plenty. For starters, a Social Media campaign begins with carefully building your network, and optimizing it. Because you can’t do it all at the same time. It thrives on ‘conversations’, the most important of which is what people are saying about your brand. So you have to ‘listen’ and to ‘engage’. Because, as they say now in SM, ‘the brand is the buzz’. After you’ve built your network, you need to develop a content strategy. I learnt about the ‘1-9-90 rule’, and how influencers are important. About some of the most important SM tools, and how to use them, to target different audiences. A bit about SM integration, management and metrics. I learnt enough to kindle the hunger in me to learn more. But the most important lesson of all was the imperative to get involved.

Personally. No more leaving everything to the ‘boys’. From now on, I’ll be actively blogging, tweeting, engaging on Facebook and Google+, generating content for Youtube, Instagam, Pinterest, you name it! I may not end up a Social Media guru, but I’ll sure do my best to become your quintessential, new-school, Hybrid PR professional. So help me God.

John Ehiguese
CEO Mediacraft Group


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