Editor’s Note: During the YouToo Social Media Conference on April 10 at Kent State University, Ben Brugler and Ryan Collins challenged the student attendees: Send us your best recaps for a takeover of our Microbrew blog, typically reserved for AKHIA interns. Kent State graduate student Alyssa Godfrey, a public relations major, is featured on the last day of the takeover.

I’m just beginning my study of public relations. Up until recently, I hadn’t used Twitter for much more than stalking some of my favorite celebrities (how could I resist?!) and following the news. Everything I learned at the YouToo Social Media Conference was shiny and new to me, but that puts me in a good position to speak to the conference’s value for PR students.

This was my first-ever professional conference, and I have a feeling it set a high bar for future events I attend. The speakers were excellent, the live Twitter feed from @YouTooSM had us all in stitches more than once, and, above all, I walked away with valuable knowledge that I couldn’t have gotten from classroom study alone. There is nothing like hearing from real practitioners in a room full of your peers.

Social isn’t as special as you think

Hear me out! You would think it was, since we had a conference on it. (Wait, what is this blog post about, again?) But the editor for mobile web at The Washington Post, Mark W. Smith, tells us that social media is just one communication channel. That said, social is valuable (obviously!), and the trick is to get your target audience’s attention.

  • Get attention, but do it right. It’s important to hook people quickly on social media but avoid click-bait. Instead, use declarative headlines and emotionally charged images. Make sure the story delivers on the headline’s promise. Is the ending of that video really unbelievable, or are you just trying to make me click on it?
  • Your social audience is a mobile audience. Everything you create must be adapted to mobile devices because that’s how most of your audience will access it.
  • Videos get noticed but must be versatile. Video is a powerful social tool. In fact, Facebook’s algorithm typically places videos higher in News Feed. However, with Facebook’s auto-play feature, your audience must be able to understand your video without audio.

We love you, Gini!

This is the tweet that broke the conference.

After listening to Gini Dietrich, author of Spin Sucks, I can see why she has such stalwart fans. She had a lot of important messages for us about succeeding in social media and keeping the industry honest.

  • Miley Cyrus (and her PR team) is a genius. One of Dietrich’s most memorable quotes from her presentation was, “Sex sells, but only if you’re selling sex.” In Miley’s case, that’s exactly what she’s selling. Dietrich showed us through the PESO model (paid, earned, shared and owned media) how brilliant her PR strategy was. Miley Cyrus was able to turn her critics into loyalists. The take-away from this case study? Integrate!
  • Spin truly sucks. Honesty and transparency are imperative, and an ethical use of social media is better for business in the long term. Unethical tactics may work in the short term, but, ultimately, strong ethics build trust that will carry a business forward. It’s up to us as PR practitioners to be a moral compass for the organizations we represent.
  • Storytelling creates kinship. This infographic from Jay Baer of Convince & Convert sums up Gini Dietrich’s message about using stories to build relationships on social media.

Read, talk and play

A common thread throughout the conference was summed up perfectly by Chris Sledzik: Read, talk and play. The best way to stay up-to-date on social media is to read widely, talk to others in the industry, and be an avid user of the platforms.

This brief overview doesn’t even begin to cover the wealth of information shared at the conference. For more, I’ll refer you to this excellent SlideShare from Monina Wagner, Social Media Community Manager at Content Marketing Institute.