Coffee Break with Peter Giles

Founder and President of Giles Communications

With 25-plus years of public relations and marketing experience— including work for AT&T, McDonald’s, Citibank, and PepsiCo—Peter Giles launched his eponymous PR firm in 1986. Based in Purchase, Giles Communications has conducted PR, marketing, and social media campaigns for clients ranging from Yamaha to Texaco and Consumer Reports. We picked his brain about social media over a long coffee break (“with fat-free half-and-half—in a big mug”).

What’s the single biggest mistake businesses make when using social media?
The quickest way to lose your audience is simply letting social media accounts become stagnant. The next quickest way is to be boring.

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What’s the first thing a company needs to do before Tweeting or Facebooking?
Build a marketing infrastructure—key messaging, elevator pitch, Twitter hashtags, influencers, etc.—that forms the basis of your online branding and outreach. Also, your online reputation is an amalgam of everything about you that is found on the web, so take stock of relevant assets—images, videos, blogs—that you can weave into your campaign. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself posting for your own amusement, with no real business outcome.

How does a business break through the ‘information overload’ and connect with potential customers?
A constant barrage of directives—Tweet, Like, Fan, Follow, Share, Subscribe, and Connect—contribute to this overload. Unfortunately, many marketers miss the point; they forget to tell people why they should do these things, and what’s in it for them. People want value and authenticity, and contextual information. This sparks trust and relationships. Stop marketing and start engaging.

How does one best measure social media return on investment?
Simply having a lot of Facebook friends or Twitter followers is of little consequence. ROI is all about conversion—that is, measuring how many people find you in a Google search, move from a Facebook or Twitter post to your website, to a specific page, or to a sale. Important tools, such as Google Analytics, URL shorteners, and HubSpot, reveal critical metrics of your social media campaign.

How do you best reach target markets/demos with social media?
Many marketers make the mistake of thinking, ‘If I build it, they will come.’ You must go out and search for communities that meet your needs. One of the best ways is to think like your customers. What groups have they joined on Facebook? What Twitter hashtags do they monitor? Go where the fish are.

What’s the very latest in social media trends?
Geolocation services, such as Groupon and LivingSocial, are red-hot, fueled in large part by GPS-enabled smart phones. Yet, as attractive as they are, they tend to present offers located farther than most people are willing to travel. I believe that local publication groups will ultimately be able to deliver better micro-targeting for this promising new area of advertising. Social curation, such as Quora.com’s model of sharing and refining a knowledge base, is also getting great traction. And, finally, social integration—building social activity into your static company website—is an important trend, in that it allows you to tell people your full story on your site while actively engaging with them.

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How do business owners best manage their time with social media?
Social media marketing is extremely time-consuming—when done properly. Using tools that aggregate your social networks, such as HootSuite, Seesmic, Postling, TweetDeck, and ManageWP, improves your efficiency and reduces time spent on social media. Ultimately, you need downtime to think clearly and recharge, and this means turning off things that plug into the wall and buzz throughout the night.

What should a business blog be about?
Start with your business plan. It doesn’t need to be traditional, but it should define your company goals. Keep your posts short, consistent, focused, and relevant. And, by all means, don’t talk endlessly about your products and services. Instead, write about things that are of interest to the people you are trying to reach. And if you don’t know, survey them.

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