[Re-posted with permission from ProfNet: The Expert Connection, “Beyond the Basics: How to Make Social Media Really Work for You“]

by Evelyn Tipacti

A special installment of our monthly #ConnectChat will take place Tuesday, March 15, from 3 to 4:30 p.m. EST.

“Beyond the Basics: How to Make Social Media Really Work for You” will feature two special guests: Ellyn Angelotti, faculty member, digital trends and social media, The Poynter Institute, Poynter Online; and Barbara Nixon, professor of journalism and public relations, Southeastern University.

This is not your basic “Social Media 101” discussion. Ellyn and Barbara will share specific techniques on how to increase your audience and get real, measurable results.

Topics of Discussion:

  • Choosing what social media tools to use for your particular needs
  • Developing content
  • Using social media platforms to increase brand awareness
  • Getting more comments on your website or social media page
  • Getting existing followers or friends to interact with you and each other

Ellyn and Barbara will also discuss your particular challenges and guide you on how to find a resolution.

To submit questions for Ellyn and Barbara in advance, please e-mail profnetconnect@prnewswire.com or tweet your question to @profnet or @editorev.

We’ll try to get to as many questions as we can. Of course, you can also ask your question live during the chat.

To help you keep track of the conversation, we will use the #connectchat hashtag. Please use that hashtag if you are tweeting a question to Ellyn or Barbara, or participating in the chat.

If you can’t make it to the chat, don’t worry — a transcript will be provided on ProfNet Connect by the end of the week.

About Ellyn Angelotti

Since joining The Poynter Institute in 2007, Ellyn Angelotti has helped Poynter explore the journalistic values and the legal challenges related to new technologies, especially social media. She also has helped create and develop Poynter’s use of interactive teaching tools like online chats and podcasts.

Angelotti regularly teaches journalists how to effectively use interactive tools as storytelling vehicles, and how using these tools changes the media landscape. In the summer of 2009 she traveled to South Africa to teach and research mobile storytelling. As a judge for national multimedia journalism contests, including the National Press Photographers Association Awards and E.W. Scripps National Journalism Awards, she has studied and taught about best practices in innovative storytelling.

Her current work is focused on the intersection of journalism, technology and the law. She is attending law school part-time at Stetson University College of Law.

Before coming to Poynter, Angelotti directed award-winning, nontraditional multimedia sports content at the Naples Daily News in Florida. There she created and produced two interactive vodcasts, “PrepZone” and “Blades Playbook,” which won the Newspaper Association of America’s Digital Edge Award for Most Innovative Multimedia Storytelling. While attending the University of Kansas, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and journalism, she worked at the Lawrence Journal-World as multimedia journalist. There she helped launch two award-winning websites and weekly print products, “Game” and “The Lansing Current.”

About Barbara Nixon

Barbara Nixon teaches journalism and public relations at Southeastern University (both face-to-face and online). She also worked for several years in human resources for a Fortune 500 corporation. A Life Member and Past President of the International Listening Association, Barbara served in ILA board roles for more than a decade. She is completing her dissertation at Capella University, focusing on leadership development in volunteer organizations. Fascinated by social media, Barbara blogs at publicrelationsmatters.com and tweets as @BarbaraNixon.

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Image Credit: "Montreal Twestival 2009 Cupcakes" by Clever Cupcakes

During Week Seven of our Spring Semester, I have the opportunity to attend the Social Fresh Conference in Tampa. (Thank you, HubSpot, for the free ticket that I won!)

So instead of class on Monday/Tuesday, spend some time learning on your own about using Twitter. Here are a few ways to learn. We’ll talk more about Twitter either right before or right after Spring Break (depending on which class you are in). Be sure to follow the directions in Step 4 so you “take attendance” for the class; you can send the required tweet/message anytime before midnight on Tuesday.

Step 1: Watch

If you haven’t seen it already, watch Twitter in Plain English, made by the folks at Common Craft:

Step 2: Watch

Then watch the Inbound Marketing University webinar titled “Twitter for Business,” led by Laura Fitton (@pistachio on Twitter) OR “Twitter for Business” led by Paul Gillin (@pgillin on Twitter). You don’t have to watch both, unless you’d really like to see two different perspectives on using Twitter.

Twitter for Business from Paul Gillin on Vimeo.

Step 3: Read

Read my post 10.5 Ways for PR Students to Get the Most Out of Twitter.

Step 4: Subscribe

Set Up Your Twitter Account

  1. Go to Twitter. Click Get Started, and sign up. I prefer it if you use some version of your first and last name as your Twitter ID. (Avoid putting numbers in your Twitter ID, or you may appear like a spammer.)
  2. Upload a photo or avatar.
  3. Write a brief (160-character or fewer) bio. It’s good to mention that you’re a PR student. Consider mentioning your university.
  4. Send a tweet saying “I’m a student in @barbaranixon’s #COMM2322 /#COMM4333 / #COMM4633 /#SPC4350 class”. (Use the correct number for your class.) Be sure to include the #xxx1234 indicator, with no spaces between the hashtag (#), letters and numbers. It is by you sending this tweet that I will “take attendance” on Monday/Tuesday.

Step 5: Follow

Follow the people I recommend in my Starter Pack for PR Students list:  — at least for the duration of this semester. I will also create lists for students in each of my classes (but I cannot do this until I have all your Twitter IDs.)

Additional Information

  1. If you already have a Twitter account that you use primarily for social (not educational or professional) reasons, you may wish to create a fresh, new account for this class and professional reasons.
  2. Review my tips on Choosing Whom to Follow on Twitter: My Strategy.
  3. Review Prof. Sam Bradley’s College Student’s Guide: Twitter 101.
  4. Review The Anatomy of a Tweet: What Do All Those Symbols Mean?
  5. I find using the web interface for Twitter to be clunky. I prefer using TweetDeck, a free Adobe Air app that works great on PCs and Macs. TweetDeck makes it really easy to send URLs via Twitter, as it automatically shortens them for you.
  6. I’ll occasionally post information on Twitter and use the hashtag for your class (#COMM2322, #COMM4333, #COMM4633 or #SPC4350).By using this hashtag, I’m indicating that I want students in this class to pay special attention to the tweet.
  7. If you’d like to publicize your blog posts via Twitter, you can it automatically in WordPress.

If you’re a college student, especially a college student majoring in public relations, I’d love to hear how you have benefitted by using Twitter.

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The Top 5 Posts in 2010

On December 29, 2010, in blogging, journalism, public relations, social media, by Barbara Nixon

Image Credit: "Logo Top 5 de las 5" by Alberto Carlos Diéguez

The traffic at my blog Public Relations Matters ebbs and flows, much like with most blogs. When my classes are in session, I know for sure that certain posts will gain hundreds of hits, because I post all my assignments on my blog. For the purpose of today’s Top 5 post, I am not counting class assignment posts. Below you will find my five posts that had the most traffic in 2010.

  1. The ONE job interview question: I asked Phil Gomes from Edelman what the ONE job interview question was that he tended to ask in almost every interview for a public relations position. He gave me his choice, in video form, and proceeded to interview several colleagues at Edelman for their choices as well. I show this short video in my classes each semester when I discuss job interviewing.
  2. Five Ways to Keep Current in Public Relations News & Trends: Occasionally, my students ask me how I know so much about what is going on in the world of public relations. It’s simple: I actively try to stay up on news and trends. This blog post explains how I do it, and how PR students should do it, too.
  3. How NOT to Hashtag in Twitter: In early December, the person running the CNN’s Breaking News Twitter account chose to use some tasteless hashtags in a tweet about the murder of a child. I contacted a CNN producer about it. Then I blogged.
  4. AP Style Bootcamp :: Flagging Your 2010 AP Stylebook: Whether you are a journalist, PR pro or student, sometimes it’s hard to find what you are looking for in the AP Stylebook. In this post, I shared my strategy for using Post-It Notes to flag the book for easy use.
  5. 10 Tips for Polishing Up Your Blogs, Fall 2010 Edition: Students in all my PR classes blog as part of the course requirements. I’ve read hundreds of student blogs over the past few years. Students typically make the same mistakes from semester to semester. I thought writing a post with the 10 most common mistakes would help my Fall 2010 students. Sigh. If only all of my students had taken the tips I shared to heart.

Are there other posts that you read at my blog in 2010 that resonated with you, but aren’t listed in the “most popular”?

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How NOT to Hashtag in Twitter

On December 1, 2010, in public relations, by Barbara Nixon

[UPDATE 12.06.2010: Jen Zingsheim and Mark Story had a discussion of this blog post
in last week’s Media Bullseye Radio Roundtable podcast.]

I started this morning just like I start most mornings, with a cup of chicory coffee and a review on my Samsung Epic of what’s been written on Twitter overnight. Things looked pretty calm and innocent until I saw this tweet from CNN Breaking News:

My first reaction to the tweet was: “How horrible for the girl!” Then I reread the tweet. My feelings for the plight of the girl intensified when I noticed that the CNN Breaking News Twitter account had used the hashtags #dead and #raped. My stomach actually turned.

Within seconds of me reading the tweet, I responded with this:

It just seemed best to contact CNN Breaking News directly with my displeasure, rather than complaining about it without “talking” directly to them; I have yet to receive a response, but I wasn’t really expecting one via that account. I also DM’d (direct messaged) a CNN producer to let him know about the firestorm of complaints about the inappropriate hashtags.

Let me back up a little.

  • If you’re new to Twitter, a hashtag (what we used to call a pound sign) is often used in front of a keyword in a tweet. It helps people to search for tweets with that keyword in them.
  • For example, when I am watching a NASCAR race, I will set up a search in TweetDeck to find all tweets with the keyword #NASCAR in them. This allows me to see tweets from people who are interested in the same topic as I am — without having to follow them. When the NASCAR race is over, I simply close the column in TweetDeck, and I no longer see #NASCAR tweets, except from those whom I am already following.

Let’s get back to the tweet I saw this morning from CNN Breaking News. I have several issues with the way this tweet was written, and they all revolve around the use of the hashtags. If I saw the tweet without any hashtags, I would have likely clicked on the link to read the story and not had the gut-wrenching reaction I did.

  • Why would CNN want people to search for the terms #dead or #raped? I could understand it if it was a different tweet with #CyberMonday or #WikiLeaks hashtagged. But “dead” and “raped”? Who actually searches for those terms in Twitter? And why would CNN want to be associated with this? As I mentioned in my tweet to them, it seemed insensitive.
  • Was CNN trying to create a trending topic? If so, those words are not ones I’d ever want to see trend. Ever.
  • And as for “#N.C.” — when hashtagging in Twitter, you have to use one word or phrase, with no punctuation, or the hashtag doesn’t work as planned. The link will only “catch” the letters/numbers that are right after the hashtag. If there’s a period, the link stops. So if someone clicks on #N.C., the search will return tweets where people have hastagged the letter N alone. Not very useful, no?

So what’s the lesson to be learned from this morning’s tweet from @CNNbrk?

Think carefully about what words you hashtag in a tweet. Will clicking on the keyword be beneficial for your readers? If not, then you can still use the words (if they are necessary to get your message across), but avoid the hashtag.

What are your thoughts about the @CNNbrk #hashtagfiasco?

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Twitter bird paper-toy by Nerea Marta.

"Twitter bird paper-toy" by Nerea Marta

[Updated from my original post written in December 2008 :: Additions are in italics]

When I first started using Twitter about a year ago in 2007, I would follow anyone who first followed me. As Twitter has grown, I have realized that I need to be more discerning so that I don’t get overwhelmed. Here’s a brief description of my thought process.

I tend to automatically follow:

  • people I’ve met in real life (if I liked them when I met them)
  • students of mine at Georgia Southern University & Southeastern University
  • PR students & faculty from other universities
  • people who live in the Savannah or Statesboro (GA) Lakeland/Tampa/Orlando areas
  • people who engage me in positive ways with @barbaranixon tweets

Occasionally, I’ll revisit the people I’m currently following and make a determination if I still want to invest time in following them. Today I looked back at the last two days of tweets in my time line. And then I made a purge of about 250 people that I was following. I honestly have no idea why I was following some in the first place. Some were laced with foul language, while others just plain brought me down with their negative tone. Others tweeted about things that I’m no longer interested in.

If your tweets don’t make me learn or laugh, then quite often I don’t keep following. It’s as simple as that. However, I may add you to a Twitter list and look at the list on occasion. Or I may engage with you when I follow a hashtag like #TopChef (as we live-tweet the Bravo TV show) or #NASCAR (during races).

About once a month, I’ll visit my Followers page and hover my mouse over a name. If there’s no real name or any bio at all, I usually don’t look further. I’ll read a bio if it’s there. If in your bio you’re promising me things that I’d hear in a late-night infomercial, it’s unlikely I’ll follow you. Things in a bio that may intrigue me include:

  • public relations or social media
  • student affairs / higher education
  • photography
  • Auburn University
  • Presbyterian
  • autism or Asperger’s syndrome
  • food/cooking

Though it’s not hypercritical, I prefer engaging in conversations on Twitter with people who use their real photos. It’s nice to have a name and a face together.

If I make it as far as looking at your most recent tweets:

  • Is there a mix of original comments, @replies,  retweets and links? (If all the tweets are of one type, I usually don’t follow.)
  • Do I see @replies to people I know?
  • Do I think I’ll learn something from you?
  • Are many of your tweets of a positive nature (not whiny)?
  • Do you avoid foul language (most of the time)?
  • Do you make me laugh?

If I haven’t followed you, and you would like me to, it’s generally a good idea to send me an @barbaranixon so that I know you’re interested in engaging in conversation with me. And if it seems like I’ve been talking in a foreign language here, take a look at A Twitter Lexicon.

So, what’s your strategy? How do you decide whom to follow?


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Firefox cupcake by M i x y.

"Firefox Cupcake" by M_i_x_y

Thanks to Ragan’s PR Daily, I learned about Danny Brown’s post from last weekend titled “52 Cool Facts About Social Media.” Here are a few of the facts that I found most interesting. I encourage to visit Danny’s blog and read the remainder of the list he created.


“2. More than 25 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) is shared each month.”

“9. People spend over 500 billion minutes per month on Facebook.”


“11. Twitter’s web platform only accounts for a quarter of its users – 75% use third-party apps.”

“12. Twitter gets more than 300,000 new users every day.”


“21. LinkedIn is the oldest of the four sites in this post, having been created on May 5 2003.”

“26. 80% of companies use LinkedIn as a recruitment tool.”


“34. Every minute, 24 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube.”

“40. YouTube uses the same amount of bandwidth as the entire Internet used in 2000.”


“43. 60% of bloggers are between the ages 18-44.”

“44. One in five bloggers update their blogs daily.”

So, did any of these facts surprise you (either from the stats I excerpted, or the ones at Danny’s blog)? If so, which ones?

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JKL 5 by mag3737

Let’s face it . . .  whether you’re a PR student, practitioner or faculty member, we’re all busy. So how can you get (and stay) up to speed with the ever-changing world of public relations? Here’s a quick guide to how I stay current in public relations.

One: Listen to PR podcasts.

Some of my favorite podcasts are: For Immediate ReleaseInside PRThe Creative CareerTrafcom NewsMarketing Over Coffee and Coming Up PR. My favorite time to listen to podcasts is during my daily two-mile walks in this sweltering Florida heat. I also listen to them when I drive, work out and clean the house. Some people prefer to listen to podcasts on their computers; my preference is listening to them on my Palm Pre or iPod.

Here’s a short video on how to subscribe to and download podcasts using iTunes. If you’re not an iTunes person, you may want to visit Podcast Alley, where you can find thousands more podcasts. You can listen to the podcasts directly from the website.

Two: Subscribe to daily or weekly PR e-mailed newsletters.

My favorite PR newsletter is one that comes into my inbox daily from Ragan Communications: the PR Daily newsfeed. When I want to read the latest on PR, this is the newsletter I turn to first. Another helpful newsletter comes from Chris Brogan; Chris provides different content in the newsletter than he does on his blog, so it’s definitely worth subscribing.

Three: Follow PR practitioners on Twitter.

Are you a public relations student (or recent grad) just getting started using Twitter? Try following some (or all) of these people or organizations in my Twitter Starter Pack for PR Students. They all have something in common: they tweet useful or interesting information for people involved in public relations.

Four: Read PR blogs.

There are hundreds of blogs about public relations. I’ve bookmarked many of them in Delicious for you. You can subscribe to them using your favorite RSS reader (such as Google Reader), or just read them on the web. Some of the most helpful blogs I’ve discovered recently include The Comms Corner and Karen Russell’s Week’s Best (which I just learned is on hiatus for the summer), as they aggregate current posts of interest to PR practitioners.

Five: Watch the news on TV.

Yes, I said “watch the news on TV.” I mean on a real TV, with a complete newscast, not just bits and bobs that you catch online. I start off every day a steaming mug or three of chicory coffee and at least an hour of broadcast news, usually with 15 or so minutes of local news followed by the Today Show. By knowing what’s going on in the world, it helps frame the snippets of stories I read or hear online throughout the day. To be sure that I’m keeping up on the news, I also listen to the podcast version of  NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me weekly news quiz. (I sometimes even play the Lightning Round of Wait Wait in class on Mondays to see how much my students know about what’s going on in the world.)

Your suggestions?

What additional resources would you recommend?

(NOTE: This post is an updated version of one I wrote in early January 2010.)

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We’re about halfway through our One Week of Twitter. Many of you have provided your Twitter ID. I have made lists of the names (using a service called TweepML). Be sure to follow everyone in your class, along with the additional people I recommended in the One Week of Twitter assignment blog post. And follow others, too! If you’re not following people who are interesting to you, then you will get nothing out of this assignment.

You can easily add your classmates to your following list in Twitter by visiting the appropriate link below and following the directions on the page:

Five tips to keep in mind:

  1. I see that some of you are tweeting, but not really tweeting anything of substance. It may be okay to write “Sooooo bored!” as a Facebook status for your friends, but in Twitter, try to be more engaging and professional — at least for this one week assignment.
  2. Remember to reply to people in addition to writing your own original tweets. Broadcast-only tweets may be okay for some news organizations, but not for real people.
  3. Check your @UserName (username = your Twitter ID) to see who is writing directly to you. I am hearing from some of my Twitter friends that they’re writing to my students, but my students aren’t writing back at all. Maybe it’s because you didn’t know how to check for replies?
  4. Share links to information you find interesting or useful, along with a little commentary on why others should read it.
  5. Use Twitter’s search feature to find tweets marked with the hashtag for your class (#PRCA2330, #PRCA3330 or #FYE1220).

Hope you found this note helpful.


(PS — You’ll write about your Twitter experience next week.)

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[Originally posted February 24, 2010.]

In the two years that I’ve been using Twitter, I’ve tried my best to get my PR students using Twitter, too. Most of them dutifully complete their One Week of Twitter assignment, then fade away when it’s no longer a requirement.  One week definitely isn’t enough time to “get Twitter,” but the classes I teach aren’t Twitter 101 classes . . .  Twitter is simply a small component of the classes. And the more I make it an assignment, the less they seem to like it.

So this week, I decided to compile a list of reasons and ways PR students can get the most out of Twitter. Maybe if they (you?) see the benefits, it will encourage you to stick with it even when it’s not an assignment.

  1. Write a good 160-character bio. Mention in your bio that you are a PR student and which university you attend. If there’s room left, include some additional information to personalize your bio. I know a lot of PR pros who always follow students back, if they know they are students.
  2. Upload a profile picture. Make yourself look like a human and not a generic bot. I recommend you pick a nice square picture of yourself. When you use a rectangle, it will be cropped, and you have no control over where the crop is. Try to have a picture that looks relatively professional. And by all means, have only YOU in the photo, no significant others or pets.
  3. Help your followers (or potential followers) learn more about you. In your profile, share a link to your blog (if, and only if, you update it regularly) or LinkedIn profile. Newbie mistake: Adding a link to your Twitter profile. Um, the person is already AT your profile page, so it’s kinda superfluous.
  4. Follow PR people. I created a Twitter Starter Pack for PR Students with about 60 engaging people and organizations to follow. Read what they write. Get a feel for how tweets look.
  5. Reply to people. If someone says something thought provoking, send him or her a note back with an @ reply. Even if the person isn’t following you, he or she will see your message. (I tend to follow back more quickly when someone sends me an @barbaranixon to start a conversation with me.)
  6. Introduce yourself. Twitter isn’t like a midddle school dance. You can’t just stand around, leaning on the wall, hoping someone will “ask you to dance.” It’s okay to send tweets to PR pros. And most of them really like it when you do! Let them know you’re a PR student. You may be surprised how helpful many of them are.
  7. Share links to interesting information. I recommend using Bit.ly for shortening links. Bit.ly can change a URL from “http://barbaranixon.posterous.com/a-fordmustang-sandwich-bump-drafting-stopped” to “http://bit.ly/cLCgNG” — this is a huge help when you’re trying to share a long link but don’t want to use up most of your 140 characters with the URL. A bonus? When you sign up for a free Bit.ly account, you get some analytics for free, which means you can tell how many people clicked on your link.
  8. Ask questions. In “real life,” how do conversations work? Lots of times one person asks a question and the other person answers it. On Twitter, if you ask a question, you may be pleasantly surprised at the responses you get, both from PR pros and other followers. Tip: PR pros tend to like to offer advice to PR students.
  9. Connect Twitter to your cell phone. If you can access Twitter from anywhere, it’s more likely that you will use it more often. I have DMs (direct messages) come right to my Palm Pre. And I can send a SMS tweet to 40404, and it will update my Twitter profile automatically.
  10. Twitter isn’t Facebook. And it’s not supposed to be. Twitter is more than a series of Facebook-type status updates. If that’s what you want to do, use Facebook instead. Very few people on Twitter really care that you’re “really really tired today” or that you “just left the gym.”

And now for tip 10.5: Interested in getting more followers? Take a look at your last page of tweets on Twitter.com. Read them carefully. If you didn’t know you, would you want to follow you?

So those are my 10.5 tips. What else would you suggest?

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If you participate in the social networking site Twitter, it’s likely that you have come across an account called BPGlobalPR, which has more than 135,000 followers. And if you’re like me, you probably have been thinking, “This account can’t be for real.” I mean, why on earth would BP’s public relations team tweet things like this? Here’s a sample tweet from the account from last week:

Sample Tweet from BPGlobalPR

ABC News’ Dan Harris (virtually) sat down with the person who runs this satirical account to get to the bottom of the story.

Warning: Some of the language in the video is PG-13 (not awful, but not what I’d want to play for my kids).

So what do you think? What should BP’s real public relations executives do about this satirical account?

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