Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Talk when your publics are listening (and listen when your publics are talking)

First-year Creative Communications students are building their first publicity campaigns; in class, we're talking a lot about how to plan publicity activities to have the best shot at earning our publics' attention. We think about our audiences' preferences and habits when we choose tools, when we choose locations, when we choose messages... and when we choose timing.

We know more people tend to read newspapers on the weekend, and more people tend to listen to radio newscasts during commuter drive-times than in the middle of the afternoon. More people tend to be in shopping malls at mid-day than first thing in the morning or last thing at night. More people tend to be shopping for flowers and chocolates today than most other days of the year.

Knowing these things helps us plan how and where to reach the publics we hope to reach -- and if we plan to use them in our communication plans, it's important to realize there are behaviour trends on social media, too.

Last week, Argyle Social tweeted a link to its "Social Timing Insights Infographic," which illustrates the importance of knowing your publics' habits related to social media. (Follow the link to check it out on Argyle's website -- my screenshots below are a bit tough to read.)

Which social media are your publics using? And when are they using them? It matters, if you want to attract their attention.

Argyle Social compares social media activity for businesses reaching out to business customers (B2B) -- for example, providers of business computer systems -- with activity for businesses reaching out to consumer customers (B2C) -- for example, grocery stores.

This is great information to get us thinking... but it isn't definitive (and doesn't claim to be). If you want to reach your publics using social media, you need to research which platforms they're using and when they're using them.

They may align with the overall trends Argyle Social found, but they may not. For example, in the B2C market:

  • It's possible parents of newborns are using social media at different times from parents the same age, socio-economic status etc. whose children are older (and sleep through the night). 
  • It's possible high school students are using social media at different times than college and university students just a few years their senior. 
  • It's possible a shiftworker's "weekend" falls during what the rest of us call the work week. If it's shiftworkers I'm hoping to reach, I should consider that in planning my social media timing.

As in all things PR, the better you tailor your approach to your publics' habits and preferences, the better job you'll do reaching them.

And the better you measure your effectiveness this time, the better-positioned you'll be to improve next time.