Peter Shankman on Social Media For Social Good (Six Years On)

3-minute read

Six years ago (2009) I invited Peter Shankman to speak at a Progressive PR Professionals (PR/PR/PR) event. PR/PR/PR is a community of communicators working for the public good (with 2000+ members total on the listserv and LinkedIn). I've been on the steering committee since the early 2000s. 

Peter is an author, entrepreneur, speaker, and worldwide connector (and skydiver, as you see in the photo) best known for founding Help A Reporter Out (HARO), which in under a year became the de-facto standard for thousands of journalists looking for sources on deadline... and PR people looking for media opportunities. Currently (Jan 2015), he has 165,000+ Twitter followers and 140,000+ on Facebook.

I just re-read a synopsis of his talk that night — "Peter Shankman: Twitter & HARO For the Public Good" (Feb. 18, 2009) — and am so impressed with his insights and foresight, still quite relevant.

As summarized by Amira Rubin, herewith four key tenets of using social media successfully and what's going to matter in the next 15-20 years (or now, 10-15 years). The audacity of forecasting that far ahead in today's fickle, ephemeral environment!

Corporate culture is shifting away from old white males running all the companies and making all the mistakes. Transparency is becoming more important to companies.

The way we get our information has changed. From newspapers to TV in the morning to podcasts to the Web to Twitter.... You can't just put a release on the wire and get results. You need to be relevant for your audience. Employ someone who knows which 140 characters to use to reach the right people, the way your audience wants it.

People used to spend 11 seconds reading a press release, now they spend 2 seconds. Remember, 140 characters is today's average attention span.

Top-of-mind presence
In the 70s media mogul Barry Miller used to call ten random people from his Rolodex each morning. Just to chat. So when you needed something greenlighted you'd call Barry because of top-of-mind presence. Similarly, at 5:30 every morning Peter checks Facebook for friends' birthdays and sends out emails. The response is magical. Establish top-of-mind presence.

A final prediction from Peter: Facebook will start ranking who is important to you. You don't really care about everyone's updates and Facebook is going to adapt. It will become more professional and less personal.

The one prediction where he slightly missed the mark: In the battle of Facebook vs. LinkedIn, he was betting that by 2012 or so there would be one profile platform, Facebook.

While Facebook continues to dominate, over the last few years LinkedIn has increased its relevancy. LinkedIn usage among online adults jumped from 22% in 2013 to 28% in 2014 while Facebook stayed the same at 71%. And as of 2014 half of internet users with college educations now use LinkedIn. It's not a perfect parallel, but maybe it's like Windows vs. Mac, or Android vs. iOS.

In any case, it'll be interesting to see where thing are 10-15 years from now and if his tenets still hold.