This week, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Social Media Results Conference in London about how to incorporate Twitter into your digital communication plan. Below you’ll see the presentation (and as you can see, its built with Prezi, which is just much more fun that Powerpoint and also went down well with the audience on the day), but I also wanted to share a bit more of my thinking with you regarding PR in the social media space, specifically on Twitter.

Listen, measure & engage

Communicating on Twitter is based on listening and engaging. This holds true if you communicate via the phone, email, Facebook, SMS, or Twitter. You listen and you respond. Now, I use the word “engage” because it has two meanings: it means that you respond to a question, to a trend or issue that you have identified by listening. It also means that what you say on a proactive level needs to be engaging – you want it to inspire the other person to act. On Twitter, than can be a retweet, a fave or a reply. If you’re Twitter stream is full of @ responses and mentions then you know you are listening to and engaging with your audience in a way that they find interesting.

Measurement is the third important element of communicating via Twitter: Tools such as Twitalyzer, Tweetreach, Klout and will produce a number of different reports and key performance indicators that will help you track your own Twitter performance, how far you message has travelled, how much influence you really have – right down to how many people have actually clicked on the link you’ve just shared (the trick is to add a + to the end of links and you’ll see what I mean).

So why should PRs be on Twitter?

Because your target audience – journalists and bloggers – are already there and using it to connect to other hacks. They ask questions about products and companies, announce they are writing an article about an issue that you might have some information on and some even prefer to be contacted exclusively through Twitter. 

Another important audience is also on Twitter: customers. They will be talking about your brand, commenting on things you have done, sharing news about your company and often times provide the first source of information in times of crisis.

And finally, the value of Twitter as a constant stream of “what’s happening in the world right now” – is a huge asset if you use Hootsuite, Tweetdeck and/or Twitter lists to keep an eye on tweeps relevant to your industry.

Twitter is a PRs best friend in times of crisis

By monitoring customer sentiment and trends on Twitter as well as a few key words combined with your brand name(s) will provide you with an effective early warning system. Once Twitter alerts you to a possible situation, you’ll be ahead of the game because you’ll know what to look for and where to look for it. Depending on the nature of the issue you can then chose to update followers through Twitter about the situation or decide to respond on a reactive basis only. Either way, you’ll have a better chance to control the flow of news.

A simple and free way to set up Twitter monitoring for keywords is to set up a Google Alert for status updates on Twitter mentioning certain keywords. You can then set up a rule in your email program of choice to highlight the alert when it comes through so that you don’t overlook it. Simple, free and instantaneous – providing you are there to check your email!

Defining PR in 140 characters in 140 characters

PR on Twitter: live and instantaneous tool to listen for brand mentions, measure customer sentiment and trends; and engage target audiences

So my question to other flacks out there: how do you use Twitter in your everyday PR work?