Archive for September, 2007

PR-Squared's "Social Media Tactics" Series … Using Twitter To Create & Inform Communities

TwitterThe last two posts weren’t crazy enough for ya?  Let’s get really wacky.  Let’s figure out how to use Twitter to help a Big Pharma company.  That should be an interesting challenge. 

Everybody who uses it tends to fall in love with Twitter, and meanwhile everyone seems to pretty much despise Big Pharma … is there a twitterific way for one of these monolithic drug companies to soften our distaste?

First let’s pick a Big Pharma company.  I’ll choose Pfizer.

Now let’s look at some of the diseases that Pfizer drugs try to tackle.  “Clinical Depression?”  That works.  Depression seems to be on the rise.  Pfizer offers a drug called Sinequan to help manage clinical depression.  A quick Google Blog Search reveals over 12,000 hits mentioning this drug.  That’s enough critical mass to warrant a campaign like the one below.

Now, on to Twitter(I need to assume that you are familiar with Twitter.  If not there are many posts out there that can explain it all to you.)

If we’re a marketer from Pfizer, we can create a new Twitter account called “” 

Of course we could also choose usernames like “Pfizer” (too broad) or “Depression” (too depressing – who’d want to publicly “follow” a Twitter account with a name like that?)  The username “Sinequan” is kinda mysterious-sounding; only those who have a prescription (or know of friends/family on the drug) will catch on to the import of the name; and besides, we’re not trying to HIDE; we are actively trying to be FOUND – just in an unobtrusive way.

Now we go to Terraminds to conduct some twittersearches on the term “depression.”  (Apparently Twitter will offer this functionality itself, soon.) 

Plenty of the microposts that mention this term via Twitter are inappropriate for our purposes, e.g., “Watching an episode of Scrubs about depression” or “ Looks like that tropical depression (#10) has broken up.”  We can safely ignore those.

But this same basic search quickly turns up tweets like these:

“Online test scores me at 76% for adult ADD – but notes that depression and anxiety must first be discounted as causes.”

“Feeling very down… today has not been a good depression day… Hate being a freak.”

I’m still not in the mood to write a new sensible post because of my postnatal depression… was I even pregnant?

(Before you bitch me out for insensitivity for “outing” these posts, please keep in mind that these were written and posted in a public forum!  Clinical depression is horrible & debilitating; using the Social Media techniques described in this post is not intended to exploit but to help these sufferers.)

Ultimately (and sadly), it seems that there are scores of tweets containing the phrase “depression.” 

Now, the Pfizer marketer who manages the “Sinequan” account on Twitter can begin to “follow” any & all of the twitterati who use the word “depression” in an appropriate way in their tweets.  These twitterers will receive an email that “Sinequan is now following your updates on Twitter.  Check out Sinequan’s profile here:” 

Most twitterati I know can hardly resist the urge to check-out the profiles of any new “followers.”  At the “Sinequan” profile page, they’d find a Web link pointing to the official Sinequan webpage maintained by Pfizer.  Actually I’d recommend that Pfizer create a beefed-up landing page for folks who find it via Twitter, e.g., with info on “Why is ‘Sinequan’ following me on Twitter?”, with quizzes (“How can you tell if you are clinically depressed?”) – and, with info on community resources … in other words, a page designed to help sufferers whether they become Sinequan users or not!

And “why is Sinequan following me on Twitter?” – This could be easily explained.  “If you found this page because you saw that ‘Sinequan’ is now following you on Twitter,’ it’s just because you once posted a tweet that used the word ‘depression.’  If you think you might suffer from clinical depression, this site may help you.  If we got it wrong, we’re really sorry: just let us know through this web form and we’ll remove our subscription to your tweets.  (No need to give us any personal info beyond your public Twitter name.)  Thanks!”  Short, sweet, human.

(Speaking of “human” … Ideally there’s a true human personality behind the “Sinequan” account.  It would be nice to introduce them via this beefed-up landing page.)

Now, what should “Sinequan” tweet about?  Because once “Sinequan” has started “following” a few dozen (or few hundred!) twitterers, we can assume that a decent handful will reciprocate and start “following” Sinequan’s tweets.  A community will form.  A community “founded” by Pfizer’s Sinequan rep, sure, yet also a community of people with similar issues who might also start to help each other out.  A virtual support group.

Here’s what Sinequan should NOT tweet about: Sinequan.  If this becomes a Pfizer commercial in execution, it’s a campaign that deserves execution – as in “death.” 

Rather, the Pfizer rep could use the “Sinequan” account to microblog about Clinical Depression.  I envision statistics (“National survey: 25% of the population reported having symptoms severe enough to warranty the diagnosis for an anxiety disorder”), news (“Study: Employers benefit from treating depression”), helpful tidbits (“Pregnant Smokers May Suffer Depression”), etc.  Any one of those tweets could change a sufferer’s life.

Will Sinequan sales soar?  Not likely.  Will more people who may suffer from clinical depression seek out a doctor? – maybe ask their physician about Sinequan?  No doubt. 

More to the point:  would anyone object to this use of Twitter?  If it is handled with sensitivity, I think not. 

And that leads us full circle.  The use of a Social Media tool like Twitter – used with subtlety, grace and in adherence to the idea of contributing to the community – could make a Big Pharma company like Pfizer look downright humane.  Maybe even human.  Whodathunkit??

UPDATE:  GREAT conversations happening in the Comments section of this post, thank you!  To those of you who may be “creeped out” by the Big Pharma example, try thinking of a completely different example before shutting down on this idea. 

What if the twittering marketer was a rep working for Amazon’s new MP3 download service, who wanted to conduct a grassroots campaign by “targeting” people who had tweeted about some cool new indie bands?  The subsequent tweets might be news about upcoming cool concerts, links to free MP3s, factoids about up-and-coming artists, etc.  By creating this community of “followed” folks, the community that might form could also more readily discover and follow each other… 

Again, the marketer would have to focus on being helpful, not exploitive.  Give this happy-friendly-musical example, do you still object…

PR-Squared's "Social Media Tactics" Series … Edgework With Social Bookmarking

IStock_000002419694XSmallExtending off the ideas presented in the last installment re: using for thought leadership … You can also use social bookmarking for “edgework,” which is a fancy name for direct interaction with end-users.

This is risky.  Proceed at your own risk.  Your mileage may vary.  A lot.

“Traditional” PR/marketing pros tend to deal with a narrow band of professional influencers (i.e., the mainstream media and the better-known bloggers) - with whom there are unstated but well-known “rules of enagement.” 

Operating in this world is like working at a zoo.  Follow the rules and you’ll be okay; but poke the bear and you could lose an arm. 

But, direct contact with “the people” carries all the risks you’d expect.  You’re in the jungle where the Wild Things Are.  In this realm you tread lightly and leave your big stick at home.  This is about subtletly.

Nervous, yet?  Good.  OK, here goes. 

An example of edgework via

Look here and you see that 120 people used to save the news release we originally issued re: the Social Media News Release template.  Look here and you see that you can add another 88 users who saved the template (pdf) itself.  Likely there’s some overlap, but for now, figure that there are 200–odd people who have expressed genuine interest in the SMNR debut.

Now, look here and you see that just 35 people used to save my blog post about SHIFT’s Social Media Newsroom template (pdf).  And only another 20 folks saved the actual PDF.  That gives us roughly 50 people who expressed an interest in the Newsroom.

The delta between the people interested in the templates for the Release vs. the Newsroom is at least 150.  What to do?

We can use the “for:username function of to add the relevant Newsroom links to the 150+ accounts that had already saved the News Release template.  The saved link will appear in these end-users’ “in-boxes” as a “Link for You.”

Before talking about what could happen next, a key issue is: how to approach writing the message to these strangers?  Some might appreciate your gesture; some might see it as an intrusion.  (Granted, is a SOCIAL – read: public – bookmarking service, yet some people could still take offense.) 

Remember, you only get 255 character spaces with, so, keep it short & sweet, like so:

“Noticed you’d saved SHIFT’s Social Media News Release template. Thought you might also be interested in this Social Media Newsroom template.  There’s a PPT available, which describes the whole approach, at I’m at”

That’s 247 character spaces, in which we’ve explained HOW we found the person (relevancy), WHY we are “intruding,” and WHERE they can get more info if interested, including how-to write back, for more info (or to kvetch). 

It’s important to note that many people who use for personal reasons draft quick notes (to themselves and/or to the community) about WHY they saved the link.  This allows for a more meticulous approach, i.e., if someone has noted that they dislike the Social Media News Release template, they shouldn’t get the generic note used above!  We could ignore them, or try a softer approach.

Now what?

Once the outreach has been made via the “for:username” function, some folks on the receiving end of our campaign will elect to “accept” this link by actively saving it within their account (a metric you can track).  Some folks will take further action: they might blog about it (measurable); they might download the template (measurable); they might comment at the original Newsroom’s debut blog post (measurable).  They might email you directly (measurable).  They might do nothing (also measurable). 

In any event we can feel pretty confident that we’ve ONLY reached out to people who would likely be genuinely interested, based on their prior, public social bookmarking behavior.  If we’ve kickstarted the conversation about Social Media Newsrooms a-fresh, it’s likely going to be a smooth and productive transition with this crowd.

Now, extend this approach with your own brand. 

What if you are pitching a digital camera?  How about checking out this link to see the most popular posts tagged with the phrase “digitalcamera.”  You see that the top link is to the well-regarded blog, Digital Photography Review, which has been saved by over 10,000 users

Maybe that’s too many?  Maybe you want to focus an “edgework”  campaign on the cutting-edge Flickr community?  Cool.  The #2 most-saved link using the “digitalcamera” tag is this one:  “Top 10 cameras on Flickr – Digital camera news –,” which has been saved by 115 people.  What can you do with this information…?

Example: Perhaps your client is a big camera company, which wants to create a focus group for an upcoming “dummy-proof” dSLR by recruiting people who have publicly saved at least ten “digital photography 101–style” links. 

First off, you could create a microsite containing a special offer to people who volunteer for this focus group, and then “save it for” this newbie group whom you’ve identified via the tag search strategy we’ve outlined here. 

Ninety people have saved this article about “Which lenses for my Digital SLR (Canon)?”  Given the “tutorial” tone of the article, it’s safe to assume that these 90 people are likely getting serious about photography but may still be fairly new to the burgeoning dSLR field.  You could cross-reference these 90 users against the 115 users who saved the “Top 10 cameras on Flickr” link mentioned above and voila:  you’ve identified exactly the types of people who may be happy to serve in a focus group about your client’s new dSLR camera – especially if you offer them a big coupon for your branded goods, or maybe consider gifting them with a Flickr Pro account.  In return you’d get terrific feedback from savvy online consumers about your product and brand… and possibly the beginnings of a buzz campaign about your upcoming product launch.

When you’re living on the edge, the possibilities are endless.

PR-Squared's "Social Media Tactics" Series … Using for Thought Leadership

IStock_000003262230XSmallOn occasion I toss out some ideas re: using Social Media tools for PR/marketing purposes.  One of my favorites is using (as described here), but it is still a misunderstood technique. 

I’m going to attempt to describe the idea again below, and use this post as a jumping-off point to start a series of posts on “Social Media Tactics,” in which I’ll lay out some of the wacky ideas that are rolling around my skull. 

I first described “purpose-built” pages when we launched the Social Media News Release (SMNR) template.  The term “purpose-built” is kind of kludgy but… the basic idea was to create a customized account for every MAJOR news release.  In this customized account, the marketers could save a bunch of links that would allow anyone interested in the news to gain more context about the release. 

For example, in your news release or on your webpage you could say: “Today we released MegaWidget.  Go to this page to see 50 links re: our ten prior widget releases; online news coverage about our company and about the widget industry over the past 12 months; a bio on our chief widget officer; etc.” 

Unfortunately, most of the “purpose-built” accounts created to support SMNRs are empty … EXCEPT for the links, i.e., the links are there but, few people take advantage of the fact that allows 255 character spaces to explain WHY each link was saved. 

For example, using the MegaWidget example I’ve invented above, the widget marketer could bookmark a great piece of past coverage and say, Read this article if you want some good historical background on the widget industry…Note that MegaWidget capabilities are talked about as being in the far-distant future but became available with our next release.” 

That’s 215 character spaces – well within the limit – and yet in that brief note you’ve told the reader that this article not only contains good background info but you’ve also been able to highlight the true innovation of the latest MegaWidget!

It gets better (tags!):  The MegaWidget marketer can use tags to differentiate the different links within the account.  Let’s say that the widget industry is notoriously full of misinformation.  Whereas in the past a marketer might wish that untrue/unfair/unflattering articles would simply “go away,” that’s just not gonna happen in the Google Age.  So, the marketer can tag the “bad” articles with a term like “misinformation” and furthermore can add 255 text characters’ worth of rebuttal.  

For example, “This article about the ‘death of widgets’ got a lot of buzz when it came out but events have proven that the widget industry – and MegaWidget - was more resilient than predicted.”  BANG!  Within 180 character spaces and via the telling 1–word tag, “misinformation,” a naysayer is essentially de-positioned.

It gets better (RSS!): If you like this strategy for news releases, you can extend the power of this approach.  Start saving/commenting on industry news a few times per week, e.g., the MegaWidget marketing exec can save/tag/comment on all news of interest to widget-watchers, and this audience can subscribe via RSS to the entire account and/or to the RSS feeds of individual tags. 

For example, the company’s official spokesperson or CEO might subscribe to “” to make sure that they were always up-to-date on any negative press in the widget industry (as well as the official response to such news).

Do this right, and you’ll get reporters to subscribe via RSS to your company’s “daily dose of thought leadership.”  Your company will become known for being savvy, opinionated, and available.

Note #1 – For the purposes of this post, the term “widget” is being used in the generic sense, not to describe Web 2.0 software.

Note #2 – If you’re kinda clueless on and social bookmarking, never fear!  Check out this great, quick video.

Note #3 – The “Social Media Tactics Series” will be an ad-hoc series of posts … so, feel free to check back tomorrow (please do!) but it’s just as likely I’ll wait a day, a week, 2 weeks, etc. in-between these types of posts.  Even then, some of these ideas will be half-baked and your constructive criticism will be welcomed. 

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"Internet People"

It’s shocking how many of these snippets already “bring back memories.”

How Relevant Is Geography?

For about a week now, I’ve made sure to alert the Twitterati that we’re on the hunt for Social Media savvy PR pros for our Boston & SF offices.

Show some social media love would ya?

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