How is a social media strategy similar to a PR campaign? I’ve come to realize that their outcomes don’t come from what one posts on their own page, or how many submissions are made to media outlets, or how many times one tweets, but somewhere else entirely.

PR is based on the premise that unsolicited word of mouth is the best form of marketing, and the second best is what a journalist or other third-party says about you – assuming, of course, that it’s positive. Media outlets like television news and local newspapers are flooded with stories every day, so they pick the compelling ones to feature.

What about social media? A good social media strategy isn’t about Facebook or Twitter at all. It’s not about the “where” of the message, but the what: What can you do, say or sell that is fresh and valuable enough for others to pass along? Note: If we offer a reward or incentive for clicking the “Like” button on Facebook, we’re engaged in a direct response strategy, not network marketing. A social media strategy involves network marketing, so your message is passed from one network member to another – usually in their own words. Notice that in each case our success or failure depends largely on one item: a compelling story.

If the story is so important here, what can you do to create a great one? It begins with a customer experience worthy of sharing, and what words to use:

  • Start listening carefully to your own friends and associates when they tell you about a product or service that they liked and make notes. Ask yourself, What makes each story compelling?
  • Remember, you have little control over reactions to your stories, so if people start a negative snowball rolling, it can bury you like an avalanche. Your best defense here is Truth. If it’s not true, don’t say it or imply it in your stories.
  • Social media & PR strategies do not exist in a vacuum. The compelling stories being told about your offering must fall within the marketing environment you’ve created (usually it’s based on a written plan that outlines goals, with strategies/tactics aimed at achieving them). Your ads, sales literature, web site, logo, videos, how you answer the phone, all create a feeling – a marketing environment – that supports or undermines your stories.

Generating your own Facebook “friends” is nothing compared with getting your customers to tweet, blog or talk about your products/services and the wonderful ways they were treated by yourself and your staff. Make that the foundation of your PR and social media campaigns and you’re almost assured success.