On the Social Media Release

One of the many areas of communications which can be improved by using social media services is the press release. Indeed, there are a number of sites dedicated to creating a ‘social media release’, including a group blog and a wiki.

Brian Solis recently put together a really useful post: “The Definitive Guide to Social Media Releases” which contains tonnes of information about the whys and wherefores of this development of a traditional communication tool.

Obviously a Social Media Release needs to feature Social Media ingredients, which includes links to bookmarking networks, contextual tags, the ability to track and host conversations, and also discover them within social networks. The inclusion of new features to simply make a fancy, shiny, new whiz bang press release doesn’t necessarily cut it.

So, what socializes a release?

A Social Media Release should contain everything necessary to share and discover a story in a way that is complementary to your original intent; but, the difference is, how they find it and the tools they use to share and broadcast.

This begs the question: what is a social media release? Well, it is an online interactive document that puts out a message in such a way that it is conversational, using online tools to enable people to add to the discussion as well as just read the message.

Todd Defren has identified four key features of what a social media release does that a traditional one doesn’t:

  1. Ensure accuracy
  2. Embrace context
  3. Build community
  4. Be findable

In other words, a social media release puts you in control of what’s being said about your release by ensuring your content is a part of the conversation around it.

How can this be achieved? By putting together an electronic press release that incorporates social media services which can have a useful and viral effect on the story you are telling. So, photos on the release are posted and linked back to Flickr, you can embed videos hosted at YouTube, related stories can be saved on del.icio.us – and all of these linked together through a common tag. This tag can then be used to locate and present feedback on the release, so people can find out what is being said without having to look for it. Use links to enable people to share the release on Digg, Reddit , StumbleUpon and other sites to help spread the word.

What does one look like? Try this example from Ford, thy are using Flickr, YouTube, a growing list of related blog posts and the ubiquitous buttons to share the release on various social bookmarking sites. Or there is Cisco’s effort, which includes a YouTube group, del.icio.us and Digg and even Second Life (thanks to Shel Holtz for both of these examples). Shift Communications have a PDF template that you can adapt.

One point that is worth making is that (for now at least) the social media release does not replace the traditional press release. Instead, it offers an alternative for those that are actively engaged in this space. It also provides a richer experience for those that use it, and so in time people will begin to prefer it as they see its advantages. So, it offers an additional service rather than a replacement, and given the low costs and barriers to entry when it comes to this stuff, it really won’t cost you a great deal more to do – and if it engages just a few more people with your message, then surely it’s worth it?