The 5 Categories of Digital Friends for PR Professionals

digital friendsLast week, I was having a conversation about my peeps on Twitter.

“How did you get them all?” “What did you do to get their attention?” And possibly “Did you buy them a steak dinner?” And it got me thinking about the many reasons people like following others, as well as getting others to follow them.

While the top reason is ego…eh, influence, there are other aspects to offering reasons to get people to like your pictures or posts, or comment on your tweets. So, I began to audit my own Twitter account, which led to me this: PR folk making “digital” friends.

Are they real? Do they exist? Would they care if they met you IRL? Does any of this make sense? For the average PR pro, digital friends fall into five main categories (yes, it’s this week’s #5Things).

Where do you fall?

Friends-Public-Relations1. PR Pals — You have been to a PRSA function, an IABC happy hour, or a social media club soiree. You meet someone from the rival agency, exchange Twitter handles, and enjoy the connect. Of course, you haven’t tweeted each other since, and that’s usually the life of this digital friend. You can swap stories about “the boss,” “the clients,” or “the gig.” And who knows, maybe you’ll start looking for bigger horizons and this contact will be your “key in the door.” However, you have to show yourself as a resource — someone who knows what’s up in the business. Friends are born in social media for doing much less.

twitter-journalism2. Journalists — You have been working hard to get the attention of your local reporters. A pitch goes well, but yields nothing substantial. You have another story angle, and your pitch becomes a little friendlier. Suddenly, you bow up and click ‘follow.’ Now what? Keep track of stories? Compliment coverage? Give a shout out? You should. Why? They work just like you do. Understand the ethics of what we do and show them you understand what they do. It really can be that easy.

social media expert3. Industry Leaders — The gurus, the real experts of social (e.g., David Meerman Scott, Scott Stratten, Jason Falls), are great people to follow. But to earn that follow back you have to be equally engaging. Give them something, you know, other than compliments. Insight, a clue that you have read their work, or possibly even a trend question. These folks are considered leaders for a reason: they are constantly showing others how to do this thing. The fact that opine pretty well doesn’t hurt either. That said, be a fan…not a stalker.

fan-engagement4. Fans — You have been working at it diligently: a blog post here; a tweet-up there. You wax the comedy or braintrust, and BOOM goes the dynamite! You just earned a fan — someone who isn’t looking for much in return but just digs your sensibility about PR, social media, herding cats, or whatever it is you discuss. Now the hard part: earn his/her trust. If you want them to continue to applaud what you bring to the table, keep your game up. Read more about the industry. Talk more about the industry. And then earn more fans in the industry.

friends5. Hopeful Contacts — You are almost at the peak of Mount Everest. You have a few contacts in PR that you have seen in conventions or read in blogs, and you think they would a great happy hour guest for your agency. Sure, they live in another state, but who knows? Be the personification of that little blue bird…be social. Share stuff. Post pictures. Tweet a little genius. And you never know, that contact follows you back, takes you up on the invite, and you have a new “PR pal.” See how easy that was?

If you look through your digital friends, you will start to see these five groups. Arguably, you won’t be inviting any to Thanksgiving dinner with the fam, but what you can do is establish a good relationship, and who knows how you can use them in the future?

Now determine who falls into which silo and tweet accordingly.