Wednesday, July 23, 2008

HARO's a social media triathlete

 If you're just getting your toes wet in the new media pool, or are stuck high and dry wondering what it can do for you, consider the case of PR maverick Peter Shankman. He started Help A Reporter Out as a Facebook group where public relations types could learn about reporter's queries and searches for sources, products and research....for free. (Same for the reporters.) Today, it's a PR phenomenon, having grown to more 16,000 members, prompting its move beyond Facebook and threatening a paid service, PR Newswire's ProfNet, according to this article in The Industry Standard. Shankman sends 3 to 4 emails to his list daily, with dozens of queries in all topic categories and rave reviews from all types of users. (Business owners as well as communicators can join.) Shankman keeps us entertained with updates on his cats, triathlon training, and outings of users who spam reporters with off-topic pitches.

Shankman has only recently begun to accept sponsor ads in the emails, and doesn't charge the users. How does he grow the list? Classic word-of-mouth marketing merged with social media. Here's a sample of what he does:
  • posts frequent updates on his travels on Twitter;
  • uses Twitter and the email to alert readers to which cities he's in, to encourage face-to-face meetups;
  • asks users to organize HARO happy hours in other locations he's visiting (announced on the list, of course);
  • keeps up the Facebook presence and the now-current-home, the HARO website;
  • asks happy users to use Digg, Twitter, their own blogs and more to encourage new users to sign up; and
  • asks his user community for their ideas on promoting HARO--it's in everyone's interest to do so--and offers prizes. A recent winner had all of us posting the same short signup message on all of our update sites, from LinkedIn and Facebook to Twitter.
Clearly, it worked on us. Even if you don't sign up (and why not?), it's worth studying Shankman's approach as a model for using social media to promote your business.

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