PR agencies specialize in 60 major market sectors according to ActiMedia.
Sports, FMCG, Transport, Drinks, Music, Charity / Non-Profit and Retail are just a handful of them.
Most agency practices and in-house teams are grouped together based on this specialist knowledge, especially in relation to having in-depth knowledge of ‘their’ media.
But (there’s always a ‘but’), I very rarely see blog posts or comments in relation to specialist social media in any ‘one’ sector – anything I see tends to be about general platforms / channels / trends.
It might be time to consider a change…
Knowledge acquisition vs knowledge application
It would have been the same when TV burst onto the scene and when the internet first emerged – understanding how they worked enabled appropriate messaging to be crafted to suit each platform.
Without devaluing it too much, I don’t think that too many people within any organisation have to know social media, as a channel, inside-out.
While it is important to have someone playing the evangelist role and educating people about major trends and developments, it is simply another channel.
What is probably a great deal more important is knowing the blogs, influencers and conversation drivers in the sector you’re responsible for.
That knowledge, coupled with knowledge of the more traditional media in a sector, becomes incredibly valuable (incredibly quickly) because it can be APPLIED.
How to ‘get vertical’ in social media
In theory, this shouldn’t be any different to bolstering your knowledge of an element of traditional media, but a few minor tweaks might help make it happen more quickly.
Here are a few suggestions to get started…
- Firstly, know the sector(s) you want to focus on – the narrower your four focus, the greater applicable knowledge you’ll yearn
- Make understanding the social media ‘targets’ in your sector part of your regular routine – if you spend 30 minutes each morning reading the finance sections of the papers, take 15 minutes from there and put it towards reading key financial blogs (and subscribe to a manageable amount)
- Start a blog about what’s happening in your sector – this can be as simple as creating a Posterous site and aggregating any relevant information – but keep it specific
- Follow key conversation drivers in the sector you are interested in on Twitter – and actually engage with them, get to know what interests them (sites like Klout can help here)
- If you can’t find those people immediately, follow conversations about the topics you are interested in and then key people will emerge from there
- Keep records of any contact / conversations you have with them, don’t let that intelligence go to waste
- Make comments on blog posts in the sectors you are interested in, show a real interest
- Produce a weekly wrap about what has happened in your sector, not just social media, but all, bringing the whole picture together – this could simply be a word cloud / wordle
- Finally, ask questions – apart from observing, the only way to understand how someone likes to be engaged is to ask them
Now, I know this seems like basic stuff, and maybe I just follow too may people interested in the broader topic of social media and communications, but I couldn’t find that many people doing this when I had a search the other day (check out the AllTop Social Media page versus the Sports Marketing page as an example).
In fact, if someone could point me in the direction of 60 people who specialize in the 60 major sectors that exist, I’d take each one out to dinner personally and thank them for how invaluable they are.
What’s in it for you?
I can’t think of too many examples in life where being a specialist about a topic / sector plays out badly for that person in question.
So, if you have been wondering what social media presence might be right for you or how to make social media fulfill some more practical needs, this might be an option to take.
Communications students might also want to adopt this approach.
If you spend a year looking at one sector as opposed to the practice of communications via some of the activity outlined above, I think you’d find getting that first job a little easier.
You can add practical value from day one, as opposed to providing theory only.
Anyone can talk about the best way to communicate, but only a few people can talk about the best way to communicate to doctors – that is invaluable.
Can anyone highlight some great vertical social media bloggers / specialists?
Are there too many general social media blogs out there?
I’d love to know what you think.
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