Public Relations Stunts Work


If you had any doubt that public relations stunts work, just look at all the cool social media love that Microsoft UK received when they set up a giant Surface in London.

Public relations stunts work when they amaze and take people by surprise; they support brand goals; when they create a conversational buzz (which this certainly did) and when they demonstrate a brand or product’s features. I’d say that Microsoft scored pretty well on all these counts.

Note that the brand created a special hashtag to use in their promotion which kept Tweets organized. They also re-Tweeted the best images and content to keep the buzz stoked. (Scroll to the end of this post for more top Tweets from the PR campaign.)

There were lots of tweets and RT from the Microsoft UK Twitter stream and some very clever images by others–demonstrating the buzz created by the promotion (heck, we’re even writing about it so yes, it worked.)

Microsoft had people making Skype calls (which is an embedded function in the Surface)

And jumping on the keyboard demonstrating their math skills

And using provided Surface tablets to create their own art.

What types of public relations promotions has your business done and how have they worked for you?

More from the #GiantSurface PR stunt

Social Media Marketing Loves and Hates

Become a social media Jedi

As social media has matured, it has become a part of most every small business’s marketing plan. However, just when you think you’ve become a Jedi Knight you find that they’ve changed the moves. So, as a small business owner, what do you love or hate about social media for business and why?

We shared this question with small business owners and those who manage social media accounts for business. Some of our respondents are public relations and social media specialists and some are small business owners themselves.

Social Media Likes

Most like using social media and have multiple profiles on many platforms. Some like Mike Rembis, Executive Director of The Clearwater Film Festival hate it. Mike said, “I find social media to be useless and a time waster. So far, I don’t see how social media has done anything for us as a business.” Another business owner who is not convinced of the importance of social media is Steve Silberberg of Fitpacking who believes that if your Tweets aren’t cool, you are ignored, not only by individuals but by search engines. However, Mike and Steve are in the minority as evidenced by this comment from Kelly Albert at The Perfect Cardbox:

The big question of course is this….does all of this help drive traffic to my website and convert into sales?
Because in truth my goal at the end of the day is not to tweet, like, pin and post…it is to sell wedding card boxes to every bride in America.

With sales up by … I am going to go with the idea that social media is here to stay and helping a little bit anyway!

Kelly, I hear you! And you are a perfect example of a business owner who has her eyes fixed firmly on the goal of using social media to create content to boost your sales.

Social Media and the future

Some business owners like Ian Aronovich CEO of Government Auctions  are future oriented,

What we love about social media … is the ability to connect with potential customers long-term. With social media, we have expanded our marketing strategy and we are constantly improving our methods to gain new followers. The social media element allows us to view trends and interests of individuals to further our development.

Echoing the forward focus is Ben Norman of Koozai who relates his firm’s approach:

I definitely love the way Social Media is headed … with Twitter, YouTube and Facebook being the most valuable platforms. …no matter how small a company is, with social media they can compete with the big boys by creating and sharing valuable content, and they can also be seen as an expert in their niche. Facebook is good for engaging with existing clients and gathering a following, whereas Twitter is really good for identifying and engaging with new opportunities. YouTube is often missed out, but it is a great place to share valuable video tutorials. It can very quickly fast track your brand to a higher social standing, as video has a higher perceived value against written text.

Also, even though the tactics may change across social networks, the fundamentals remain the same, maintain a consistent brand and create good unique content.

Focusing on the percieved lower cost to use social media, Deborah Sweeney of My Corporation offers this:

As a small business owner I love that social media is a great way to connect and carry on a ‘conversation’ with customers, potential customers, and vendors alike. …social media is a low-cost opportunity to get the word out and communicate a business message.

It is difficult, however, to maintain ongoing attention to the social media outlets. When you run a business, you have to worry about hiring, firing, employee matters, marketing, partnerships, business development, sales, customer service – the list goes on! So, it’s often hard to stay attentive to social media, as social media requires consistent and frequent engagement…

Deborah’s comment really focuses on the reality that as valuable as social media is, it can take a lot of time to manage, do well, and track. As a small business owner, it’s easy to be inconsistent in social media. Being inconsistent then conveys the impression that social media might have been a fad for your business and not a genuine component of your brand. Not the impression you wish to leave.

Social media pet peeves from just bad to horrid

However, much everyone loves social media, many have peeves with it. One of the chief pet peeves is the rate of change and flux that exists in social media. Several cited the Facebook’s changes. Others dislike the difficulty of tracking or quantifying ROI. Typical of these responses is Ed McMasters of the Flottman Company who states:

…we despise the lack of ability to track results, to quantify the value of Facebook Fans and to determine a direct correlation between sales success and social media success. We have not been able to attribute any of our sales to our Social Media efforts. We are on Facebook and Twitter and this year it will be part of the Marketing plan, because it has too be to keep up with our competition.

Rounding out the list of difficulties of marketing via Facebook these days is Shaun Walker, Creative Director of Hero Farm a social media marketing firm who assesses the current state of Facebook:

The toughest part about Facebook is the dwindling newsfeed presence. As FB continues to grow and change, it becomes increasingly difficult to become a mainstay on a users’ newsfeed, thus negating sending out outdates and posts via status message. Facebook has changed each person’s newsfeed to show a very limited number of contacts at any one time, usually concentrating on the people they interact with most, and majority of people do not realize this and miss updates [from] many, many friends. This has increasingly been pushing businesses to the wayside.

Shelia Scarborough of Tourism Currents is spot-on in our opinion in her assessment of what is the most missed opportunity of social media well as the greatest vulnerability businesses have in using social media:

What I hate about social media: most of the platforms are owned by somebody else. The empire you’re building on Facebook? That belongs to Mark Zuckerberg. All of those Twitter followers? Could be gone – poof -tomorrow. The current giant sucking sound on the posterior of Google+? Nope, that’s someone else’s pocket you’re lining. I hate that not enough businesses effectively use the most powerful social media tool available: their own blog, that they host, on a domain name that they own.

And Bill Fennell of The Little Guy Marketing notes “I hate that most business do not know how to interact with fans rather than just post their special of the day. Small business owners need to leverage social media to brand themselves as experts in their field and create a trust and likeness factor with their fans. Most business owners just post the special of the day or say come see us today, not very enticing.” So while Social Media has come of age and become accepted, it is a pet peeve that many small businesses have jumped in and not taken time to learn the skills of social media marketing or best practices.

Jonathan Rick offers as his dislike, “The thing I hate about social media is the expectations people have about its power. By itself, your tweets aren’t going to generate sales, but, used properly, they can generate a lead.”

Colette Mason really hates syndication across platforms. She is explicit in her dislike:

The thing I hate about social media is when people syndicate a status update across all their social media platforms – using their favourite as the starting point.  They grow the followings on the other platforms and then update those people with regurgitated, syndicated messages, never checking back to follow up on their responses and interact with those people. I find that totally infuriating – it’s worse than not having a profile at all. I think it comes across as incredibly rude and presumptuous. There is nothing social about this sort of churn. What makes my blood boil even more is when this is done by social media marketing experts for small businesses. Why you would want to follow any sort of overly-automated system if you want to boost the level of trust and respect your business receives remains a mystery to me.

I think there should be a limit to this sort of behaviour – its not a million miles away from spamming in my book – yet somehow it’s not been killed off.

Syndicating for time saving is one thing, syndicating to flatter the ego is quite another.

Social media take-aways

While social media has become a marketing mainstay many do not do it well. With the move towards pay to play on most social media channels, it is now more important to not only post, but to advertise on social media channels. Facebook is the new Google for many people.

Most business owners recognize social media is an easy-to-access method to connect to customers, but is hard to master. And with more channels, like Facebook, requiring you to pay up to gain reach, fewer businesses will continue to master social media. What social media agencies note most frequently is the lack of a strategic approach by small business users. What small business owners agree on is social media done well can contribute to increased leads, sales and enhanced search engine rankings.

What do you think? Share your likes, peeves and hopes for social media marketing for small businesses.