Twitter’s New Flight School Teaches PR & Marketing Pros on the Fly

Always the ones to stay on top of what PR professionals and marketers need to be more successful, Twitter has launched a new online training program for agencies called Flight School. The new training hub is designed to familiarize shops with Twitter and help them keep abreast of new features (like the Flock to Unlock tool we wrote about recently).  It will teach agencies how to develop high-impact campaigns for their clients and will also help them maximize their content for their brands on Twitter.  Flight School will also train on how to promote messages at the right time to your target audiences.

Unlike any tool I’ve ever heard of, these training modules will also help PR agencies address different agency roles and functions, including senior leadership, campaign management and account planning. This can be helpful, not only to those starting out, but also to senior staff who may want to refresh and hone in on their strengths for the better of their agency. (Twitter’s ad-selling rivals Facebook and Google, as well as the online outlet BuzzFeed, have launched similar tutorials for agencies.)

PR in Tandem with Social 

Twitter has always been on the forefront of PR’s convergence with social media, by virtue of being a real-time customer engagement channel.  So, it’s no surprise that news of Flight School is making waves in the PR agency world. As written about on PR Daily, “Twitter has a handful of participating agencies at launch,” and they are encouraging entire agencies, not just small singular or in-house social media teams, to sign up for the training. The trainings are free and can be accessed even via tablets and mobile phones. Easier to view…and also easier to share via social.

Twitter Sets Up Agencies to Succeed with Flight School

With these training modules, Twitter is getting really active in helping to ensure agencies get the most of Twitter. As JP Maheu, Senior Director, Brand & Agency for Twitter says: “We realized that our agency partners, which are critical to the success of Twitter, could use our help in understanding not only Twitter itself, but also in understanding how they can leverage Twitter on behalf of their brands.”

Kudos to Twitter for trying to make success easier for agencies: it’s a smart move.

You can follow the news on the new program on Twitter with: #takeflight or  #FlightSchool and read their blog post, here.

Agencies can request access to training at this link.  The Flight School video is here:


Dissecting Influence on Twitter: Understand It to Obtain It

Want to get a better understanding of how to grow your influence on Twitter? (Yes, you.)

What is Influence – and Can it Be Measured?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, influence is defined as being “the power to change or affect someone or something, the power to cause changes without directly forcing them to happen.” This idea of influence on social media has hooked marketing and public relations professionals, because the ability to reach a wide audience through a handful of influential individuals is extremely compelling – so much so that people have started devising ways to “measure” influence on Twitter.

The only problem with trying to measure influence is that, by its nature, influence isn’t something that can be measured. And creating our own variables by which we measure it might actually be doing more harm than good. Of course, a large number of followers, retweets and mentions will do much to create influence, but that is not the question we should be asking. Instead, we should be asking what influence means.

What is Real Influence on Twitter?

Recently, a reporter approached our firm with a series of questions regarding what we thought about influence on Twitter: who has it, how does one obtain it, how do you measure it, etc. One question he asked stood out among the rest: he was curious to see who held the most influence between companies selling a product, celebrities, politicians, or professionals who advocate a cause. It was an interesting angle to analyze, but I questioned the value of lumping together all of these potentially influential accounts.

Sure, it’s obvious that celebrities like Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga with millions of followers receive an enormous level of engagement. And, yes, when Lady Gaga makes a comment on a pressing national issue, her tremendous influence is shown as media will showcase her tweets. But how well does this translate in measuring influence on Twitter? A high percentage of Lady Gaga’s followers do not follow her to hear her speak out on world affairs. They follow her because they are fans of her music. Other than knowing the number of retweets a tweet like this received, we have no way of knowing which of her users took away a legitimate concern and/or understanding of this – actual influence.  Similarly, Justin Bieber could tweet his endorsement of a political candidate (which would apparently crash every Twitter influence algorithm) – but how many of Justin’s 50 million followers are even old enough to vote? How many have a vested interest in politics? How many even take Justin’s comments seriously on politics? (Never mind that Justin is Canadian and can’t vote himself.)

So how does all this translate to the rest of us non-celebrities looking to gain followers and gain our own influence?

How to Gain Influence on Twitter (if you’re not Justin Bieber):

Ultimately, influence on Twitter is something that takes time and effort when you have not been lucky enough to land in the national spotlight offline (unless you were one of the lucky accounts first on the platform and the first to be included in Twitter’s suggested lists). Those who don’t have celebrity status need to put in the time – and it’s a lot of time – into establishing a valuable point of view on the topics and areas most important to it, engage with other users, create discussion and tweet relevant and unique content.

Establish a strong online presence and you will gain followers: play into trending topics and craft messages around timely subjects. Tweets have a relatively short life to be seen, so make each one count. Also, don’t forget the most important element when it comes to influence: don’t try to influence everyone. Tailor your content to a specific audience or industry. Those who shoot far and wide will often not connect with anyone. Growing your own influence will allow you to connect with these more influential Twitter users (make sure these people are the correct fit for your message and audience).

When it comes to your following, these people matter the most. A high number of followers will definitely increase influence and clout for your message, but that number isn’t everything. Certain Twitter accounts may have 200,000 or more followers, but how many of these people are actually engaging, responding, or retweeting? An easy way to test influence on an account is to ask a question and see how many followers respond. This will tell you how engaged followers are with the content you are putting out. Engaged followers are the most desired followers, because these are the people that will actively promote your product, champion your cause, or support you in the polls. A large following will mean your message is seen by a large audience, but how influential are you truly if you have 100,000 followers but nobody comments or engages with you?

Similar to the offline world, gaining influence on Twitter is hard earned and takes a tremendous amount of time and patience. Choosing a target audience and getting that audience to engage with you is crucial to increasing social media clout and influence in an online world. Create compelling content, engage with people, make connections and watch your influence grow.

Landen Zumwalt is a PR professional at Raffetto Herman Strategic Communications

Top Social Media PR Trends Bringing PR into the Future, Part Four: Big Data

In this fourth and final installment of our series on top social media trends in PR, I’m going to talk about Big Data.  Big data is a big deal, and it’s affecting all of marketing.

 What Is Big Data?

The exact definition of Big Data is: “any voluminous amount of structured, semi-structured and unstructured data that has the potential to be mined for information. Although Big Data doesn’t refer to any specific quantity, the term is often used when speaking about petabytes and exabytes of data.”          (- Margaret Rouse) (For those of us who don’t know what a petabyte is we can probably use the word “gozillions of sources” or some such.)

How Is Big Data Affecting PR and Social Media?

Big data is a problem: it’s hard to mine, because it’s really, really big.  For the purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on data that exists outside the firewall: social media chatter, news mentions, blog comments, and other data online that PR and Social Media folks (not to mention other pieces of the business organization) can access using social listening.  (For more on social listening across the business organization, check out our social listening webinar.)

People are making themselves heard online, and your brand story is being told whether or not you want it to be.   Unfortunately, finding all those conversations and getting a signal from the noise isn’t humanly possible.  That, of course, is why folks like us make a social media monitoring tool, and a media monitoring tool: so that PR and marketing pros can understand, from a holistic standpoint, what people are saying about them.  Those people can include analysts, customers or the competition.

How Are PR and Marketing Professionals Using Big Data?

Customer Relations

There has been a lot of talk from the beginning of… well, Twitter… as to whether social media channels should be used as customer service channels.  At the end of the day, the reality is that customers will use these channels to talk about and get ahold of us – and that’s a good thing.  This sort of customer feedback used to be only accessible via call centers and focus groups, so harnessing the sort of feedback that we get on these channels can give us great insights into our own marketing efforts.  Also, anyone who takes the time to mention us on Twitter is a potential brand advocate: even if that person is angry at the beginning, the value of solving that problem immediately can turn a detractor into an advocate – and that’s great PR.


PR professionals are using Big Data as a means of getting their message across to the right customers, finding them where they are at the moment.  This is done via hypertargeting and location-specific real-time marketing: you can find your specific audience, wherever they are and on whichever platform of social media they are engaging on at a given time.


“Introduce data visualization into your content wherever and whenever possible,” says Ryan Farrell in an article from Content Marketing Institute.  What better way to do this than with infographics?  Infographics are hugely shareable, and great for press pickup – and the good ones are based on good data.  (For a quick article on what makes a great infographic, check out this article: 3 Steps to Infographic Marketing greatness.)


If you’re uncertain as to what’s going to resonate with an audience, you can use Twitter to try the same message a few different ways, and see what sticks.  This includes basic testing like email subject lines, as well as more complicated scenarios like crisis communication and brand messaging.

Competitive Analysis

Speaking of data outside the firewall: the beauty of social listening is that you can do the same sort of analysis about your competitors that you can do for yourself.  For example, you can use competitive analysis in the form of reports by the Meltwater online media analysis tool, (Meltwater News), to uncover competitors’ activity and detect industry trends. Thus, you can improve your competitive presence in your industry and stay on top so that customers come to you rather than them.


Using Big Data to your advantage might be easier to implement than you think.  When considering using Big Data in your marketing strategy, always think about customer relations, how you can use hypertargeting  and infographics, and competitive analysis.  So, don’t let the term Big Data scare you…there are tools available so tap into them!

Let us know of any trends that you see that are not on this ongoing list of Social Media PR trends that are helping you shape your current PR campaigns today. There are ways that brands are innovating every day; it doesn’t stop with those topics we’ve discussed in this series. So please let us know about any others you know, relating to the ones we’ve discussed, in the comments so we can share them as well.

The Definitive Guide to Business on Facebook – NEW E-Book

Grow Your Business on Facebook

If you want to grow your business on Facebook, check out this comprehensive Facebook marketing guide for an end-to-end look at maximizing your efforts for success.

Looking to grow your business presence on Facebook?  Look no further!

We’ve taken all 7 of our Facebook marketing guides and combined them into one big beast of a book for those of you who want a comprehensive resource on Facebook marketing without having to hit a download button 7 times.

This guide is essentially a collection of everything you ever wanted to know about marketing your business on Facebook, and didn’t necessarily know you needed to know.  It’s full of practical hands-on tips and tricks to illustrate how you can use things like Facebook Graph Search in unexpected ways (like for hiring, or figuring out whether or not your pizza restaurant should offer delivery service).

To download this comprehensive Facebook marketing guide, click the book cover at left, or click here:   Facebook for Business

ALS’ Ice Bucket Challenge: 5 Reasons It Worked

WCVB Boston Anchors Accept the Challenge On Live TV

Recently, we’ve seen a fundraising campaign gone viral in the unstoppable Ice Bucket Challenge, which supports the ALS Association. ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, affects approximately 30,000 people nationwide and 400,000 worldwide; this campaign has led to over 1.2M videos being uploaded to YouTube.

To put the success of this campaign into perspective: that’s 40 ice water videos for every American affected by ALS.  And the movement is still growing.

So, why has this campaign been such a runaway hit?

5 Reasons The Ice Bucket Challenge is on Fire 

Although it has run up against a little controversy (as we talked about in this article on the value of “slactivism”), this campaign is running strong and – if you’ll permit me a frozen water pun – it’s still snowballing.  Here’s why:

1. Lots of people like an excuse to be silly, and in this case it’s for a good cause.  This challenge gives people permission to let go and be a little goofy, and it doesn’t even require growing and sporting a moustache for an entire month.

2. There is a feel-good payoff for the participant: participants helping out a charity initiative and, as a bonus, posting a selfie-for-good is sure to garner some Likes on their Facebook walls.

3. The “challenge” piece is infectious: calling out three friends or colleagues to take the challenge adds a bit of healthy competition, much like the way a kid would say “I dare you!”  But, this being a charity initiative, there’s more: “passing it on” creates a sense of community as well.  I saw an article yesterday calling the Ice Bucket Challenge a modern-day chain letter, and there’s something to that comparison.

4. It’s easy: anyone with a ready supply of water, ice, a container to hold them, and a smartphone with internet access can manage the Ice Bucket Challenge – including a pantsless James Franco.

5. It’s something that can be done as a group, which leads to exponential growth.  Teams of news anchors, families, companies – as something that can easily be done in teams or groups, awareness can grow at a group rate.


The association is extremely pleased with the results. “While the monetary donations are absolutely incredible,” Barbara Newhouse, president of the ALS Association says, “the visibility that this disease is getting as a result of the challenge is truly invaluable. People who have never before heard of ALS are now engaged in the fight to find treatments and a cure…”

This campaign has attracted high profile participants from the likes of Bill Gates to Ben Affleck, surf legend Laird Hamilton, the Kennedy clan and Today Show’s Matt Lauer (who was initially challenged by golfer, Greg Norman), and even prim-and-proper Martha Stewart. At one point, this Huffington Post Impact article stated there had been a 1000% increase in donations to the ALS organization.*

Since my cohort Leslie wrote her piece yesterday about the Ice Bucket Challenge and the Value of Slacktivism, that value actually went up $10M.  Whoa!

Who would have thought that 2 molecules of hydrogen combined with one of oxygen could so drastically raise brand awareness and top of mind?

UPDATE:  As of Friday, August 22 the Association has now raised $53.3 million.  On August 26th, it is now $70 million!

*As of Aug. 29th, they have raised $100 million in 30 days – Epic!

* Figures courtesy of the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and