All I Need to Know I Learned Through Twitter.
Guest Post by Lauren Sandelin
My professors would cringe if they heard that question come out of my mouth. Perhaps because a tiny bit of them
knows that this is true. Now let me back up a second here – we all need that foundation we build through coursework, I’m certainly not arguing otherwise. But in a field that is based so much around learning on the job and from actual experiences in the industry, textbooks and class assignments can only take an upcoming PR graduate so far. Those textbooks I speak of? Constantly changing. New editions come out left and right as those in the academic world struggle to keep up with the newest industry rules and trends. Want proof? The AP Stylebook is the only book I’ve ever reused in more than one class, but even that gets the occasional facelift.
We work in a field that is always changing based upon the latest trends. There is no guarantee that what’s working for you now will still have the same level of success six months down the road. So how do we cope?
The jury may still be out on that one, but with social networking sites this has become much easier. Not only that, but it has given me the hands-on education required for PR. The things professors and textbooks can only speak of, Twitter does. So what are these things and why are they so important? Read on, my friend.
Networking. Now I’m not saying fill your Rolodex to capacity and call it a day. Absolutely not. We’ve all heard this before – “quality over quantity.” Sure, that may be the overused phrase of the day – but let’s be honest, it’s true. It’s not about the size of your network, but rather who’s in it.
You don’t follow people on Twitter that don’t add value, do you? Nope. You follow those that bring something to the table. People that share information, provide industry updates, or post links to relevant content. If all you ever Tweet is what you had for lunch, what song you’re currently listening to on Grooveshark, or you’re exact location while sipping on a coffee, I could probably do without your updates filling my Twitter stream. Don’t get me wrong, this is all okay in moderation (I want to get a feel for you personally, also) but if you’re not adding much value, say goodbye to your space on my Twitter stream. But remember, others are evaluating your value as well…and it’s not just on Twitter.
Building Relationships. Open up that Rolodex and blindly pick a name, any random name. When was the last time you communicated with one another? The last time you reached out to either provide something or ask for something? Relationships are all about the give and take, requiring an equal effort from both parties. In any industry, you need those relationships and PR is no exception. So build, build, build.
You Are What You Tweet. As professional communicators, we are only as good as our word – and that word better be pretty darn good. On Twitter, your value is what you tweet. Sure, a 140-character limit doesn’t give you much room to get your point across, but all the more reason to make each of those characters count. We’re taught throughout college to write concisely – get to the point, support your point, and get out. Easier said than done, but Twitter forces us to do just that.
Instant Information. Yep, it’s no surprise that we’ve become a society that demands to know about things as they happen. Thanks to the Internet and the evolution of social networking sites such as Twitter, this has shifted from being only a possibility to becoming a reality. Admit it – we’re spoiled. We are provided with up-to-the-minute news, often before a story’s even fully developed. With a few taps of the keyboard and a quick click of the mouse, the story goes viral. Oh, and some of those sources of information? Well, let’s just say they’re not so reliable.
It’s no surprise that all PR professionals must keep this in mind. Use what you can to your advantage, but be wary of what you find. Sure, it can become a challenge – but armed with the right knowledge and a little social media savvy, this becomes yet another asset to benefit from.
Become an Extrovert. Twitter is all about engagement, and you can’t engage by keeping your mouth shut. Luckily, this forces us all to become extroverts whether we want to or not. As communications folks, we like to think that our social skills are up to par (and I’m sure for many, this is indeed true). We want to share ideas; we want to expand our networks; we want to get to know other people, learning from them and about them. To put it simply, this all relates back to relationship-building. No shocker here. Welcome, once again, to one of the major foundations of PR (and social media platforms).
A Little Help, Please? I’ve always considered myself an optimist. You know, that annoying “glass is always half full” and “everything will work out” kind of attitude. So why is it that I was so shocked by the generosity of those in the Twitterverse? People want to help. People like to help. People will help. It didn’t take much time to realize that this wasn’t just a quality unique to Tweeps. I can’t speak for other industries, but the PR pros I’ve spoken with are always up for sharing their knowledge and expertise. I’m sure this is not unusual – in fact, I’m confident this is the case across the board, in most (if not all) other career fields. The key to advancing any profession is learning from one another and growing as a group. Seems pretty obvious, right?
So there you have it. Those are the teachings of Twitter as I’ve chosen to apply them to PR and the professional world in general. Yeah, it’s probably only the tip of the iceberg and I’m sure I’ve missed quite a few. Think of any others (or do I need to reference the value of sharing ideas again)? Come on. Go for it, I’m all ears.
Lauren Sandelin is a senior at Miami University (Ohio), where she currently serves as the PR Director for the university’s PRSSA chapter. She will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations. Connect with her on and , or visit her blog.