Google “social media case study” and what do you see? Wonderful stories about Ford, Starbucks and Coca Cola or disastrous stories about Kenneth Cole, Nestle and others. What do these companies have in common? They’re all major consumer brands — they get a Mashable.com story for a YouTube video of somebody sneezing.
So how are these case studies going to teach you, as a PR professional, how to establish a network and promote the brands of your solar, wind and other renewable energy clients? They’re not. Fortunately for you, I will. Below are six simple tips to succeed in using digital media for renewable energy companies:
- Know your audience. Looking for media exposure? What about investors? Industry analysts? They’re all using social media. Use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to follow or become a fan of journalists or media outlets that may be interested in using your clients as sources, investment firms that invest in renewable energy and industry analysts that influence your clients’ industries. By knowing what they’re doing, you put yourself in a better position to make a connection on behalf of your clients.
- Find groups. LinkedIn and Facebook have groups; Twitter has chats. Whether you represent companies that are involved in energy storage, CO2 conversion or electric car-charging units, there is a group of like-minded individuals waiting for you. Go online and make some connections. Use the efficient search functions on LinkedIn and Twitter to search for and join these groups, and set a goal of networking within them at least once a week. Try responding to others before posting and asking for feedback on your clients’ companies. On Twitter, there are weekly chats such as #biochat and #agchat, among others.
- Consistency. Set goals and stick to them. One of the most frequent issues/complaints I hear is about companies that create an account, then unintentionally neglect it. Use your computerized (Outlook, Google, etc.) calendar for reminders to post on behalf of your clients. Four tweets a day. One or two Facebook posts. Ten minutes spent networking on LinkedIn.
- Hashtags and linking out. A renewable energy company isn’t the same as a T-shirt company or a wannabe rapper. The audience is smaller and better informed. The folks using renewable energy related hashtags are generally industry veterans and individuals whom you want to make aware of your clients’ companies. Use tag words such as: #solar, #windturbine, #energyefficiency, #carbonsequestration, etc. If you’re posting content that isn’t original, make sure you “link out” to the content originator. This can be done by “friending” them or “liking” their page, then putting the “@” symbol before their names when you reference them. You’ll notice Facebook will auto-fill the rest. Bonus: this will often give your clients’ companies exposure on their pages as well.
- Video, video, video. Renewable energy technology is more complex than a new pair of sneakers or an energy drink. Photos don’t always do it justice. If your clients don’t have b-roll, encourage them to get some. Examples include a video of how a solar module is made, a video of how the engine in an electric vehicle works or an animated demonstration of how natural gas is converted into gasoline. Animation in general can be very useful for companies that are pre-product. These videos should be strategically placed on social media outlets and available upon request from interested parties.
- Take the conversation offline. So you’ve followed the five steps above and have successfully integrated a social media campaign into your clients’ PR efforts. Now what? Encourage your clients to take these relationships to the next level — offline. They can set up meetings or lunches at upcoming conferences or when they travel to cities where the people in their networks work or reside. Social media is great, but real-time connections are better. Clients should cultivate these relationships by making the effort to meet in person.