Twitter Interview with Jason Baer

As a lead-up to the PRSA Counselors Academy Conference, an annual meeting of independent PR agency owners (and an event I try to never miss), I interviewed social media superstar Jay Baer (@jaybaer) of Convince and Convert, who is presenting at this year’s confab. He is among a small group of forward-thinking social media strategists and luminaries who are helping the rest of us harness the  power of the social Web.

This is a recap of our conversation, matching the style of Jason’s well known Twitter interviews, on how PR agencies need to think about the practice of social and digital media.  Even if you aren’t with a PR agency, this has noteworthy information nonetheless.  It originally appeared on the PRSA blog, “Comprehension.”

@RAReed: We’re transitioning from thinking and talking about social media to doing and measuring its effect. What are agencies getting right?

  • @jaybaer: Social media is so all encompassing that it’s lost meaning to say that you’re good at social media. There are so many facets to it now.
  • The best break social media into pieces and focus on possibilities and outcomes, influence or outreach, brand community or social CRM.

@RAReed: On the flip-side, what are the biggest missteps agencies are making with social media?

  • @jaybaer: Agencies tend to silo their social expertise where they only have a couple people who are the social media experts.
  • There is too much focus on social outposts like Twitter accounts, a Facebook page or YouTube channel versus opportunities to be social.

@RAReed Larger agencies seemingly have the horse power to get a leg up on social media practices.  Where can smaller agencies catch up?

  • @jaybaer: I think smaller- and medium-sized agencies make the transition from traditional to social-enabled PR much easier than larger agencies.
  • Smaller agencies are closer to customers.  They adopt new services more easily  and can change what they do for the client with less internal friction.
  • Large agencies can dedicate staff to social media but that’s not necessarily good.  But they have clients that can experiment more.

@RAReed: What skill sets related to social media do the majority of agencies still need to develop? SEO immediately comes to mind.

  • Content optimization and analytics in all forms and fashion. It’s being better at Excel instead of Word.
  • Marketing is not a campaign any more.  Think of it more as a river and that changes everything.  Monitor and respond in real time.

@RAReed: What are you out to convey in the pre-con session that won’t be covered in the regular CA sessions?

  • @jaybaer: We’ll talk through the social media planning process to build a sustainable strategic framework around all social activities.
  • I want people to learn how to be social and not just how to do social.  Forget thinking Facebook, Twitter or Youtube.  Be tool agnostic.

@RAReed: What are the three or four most important things agencies can do to differentiate and market their social media offerings?

  • @Jaybaer: Understand the science and math of social media.  There is a lot there that people don’t gravitate toward as much as they should.
  • Know the data and numbers.  There’s a right time to tweet, a best way to update Facebook and the right way to search optimize a blog.
  • Help clients with social media CRM and customer retention more than campaigns or the customer acquisition component.
  • In the end we’ll wonder why we thought social media was good for customer acquisition when it’s clearly a loyalty and retention tool.

@RAReed:  What are the first, most important steps an agency should engage in to build its social media presence?

  • @Jaybaer: Understand what you’re good at, be specific about it and then create and atomize content that supports that supposition.
  • Whether it be blogs, podcasts, webinars, speeches, know where you have to participate in the inbound marketing domain.
  • Embrace giving away info snacks in order to eat a meal down the road.
  • Drive content awareness via search optimization. People will eventually find and recognize you as actually good at that particular thing.

@RAReed:  I need a one word answer to this last question: In 2010, when it comes to social media, PR agencies must _________.

  • I’ll have to give it to you in two words: embrace math.