Here’s a thought: You actually don’t have to be ‘doing’ social media to benefit from social media and everything it stands for.

Whaaaaaat? Exactly that – the offline PR world can learn heaps from social media without ever having to tweet, blog or open up a Facebook account.

Social media is, can be, and should be, more about a state of mind than a set of tools.

Sure technology is critical because it drives social media, but without the right attitude and willingness to be open, networked, responsive and ‘conversation-friendly’, all the technology in the world won’t help you be an online success.

With that thought in mind, here is a quick guide as to how brands can benefit by following emerging social media protocol.
By following these five ‘rules’ in the physical world, not only will brands improve their overall PR efforts but also they will be more ‘social media ready’ once they decide to fully embrace the new media landscape.

(Please note: by PR I mean the full gamut of communications – marcomms, corporate comms, internal comms, media relations etc.)

1. Increase transparency

Start opening up the organisation and communicating with spirit and candor, internally and externally. Take baby steps – let out more information than you may have done in the past; empower individuals with additional communication duties without eyeballing their every move. Stop trying to counter every argument with spin.

>>> Transparency is the currency of social media. If you’re not open, welcoming and responsive to two-way conversation, you’ll fail in your social media efforts. That said transparency works incredibly well offline as well. It’s a must in today’s communications.

2. Cut the jargon

As a rule, large organisations have poor reputations for spinning and polishing every word of their communications (press releases, websites, brochures, newsletters etc.) – the result of which is a morass of bland, unintelligible gobbledygook that no one takes any notice of. Humanise your corporate copy so that people can understand it – who knows, they might start trusting the source!

>>> Doublespeak and psychobabble does not cut it in social media circles for very good reason – it’s non-communicative, and social media is all about communication and connection. If you keep in mind the language and content of a conversation you’d have face-to-face, then you’re thinking in the right direction.

3.Ramp up your face-to-face efforts

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from immersion in social media, it’s that face-to-face activity is more important than ever! By upping your quota of strategic face-to-face activity through events, briefings, roadshows and the like, you will crystallise connections and deepen relationships with influencers.

>>> While social media has increased and improved social banter, allowing more conversations and creating more ‘tribes’, we must not lose sight of the basic human need to connect with each other in person. Of course, this need merely improves the communication aspect.

4. Recognise and leverage the power of communities

We live in a world where communities and tribes and niches are multiplying exponentially via the web. They are gaining greater power as their conversations get louder. Try tapping into the ‘flight to community’ trend – become involved offline in a positive way and your communication efforts will be magnified accordingly.

>>> Social media is all about community – hundreds and hundreds of thousands of communities, bound together by a common interest or cause. This is a trend that is only going to increase as more and more people turn to the social web.

5. Listen

Last but by no means least – learn to listen! Sorry, no, don’t just learn, ‘do’. Today! This will improve your communications significantly.

>>> The first rule of social media, especially for an organisation, is to listen. Monitor the conversation. Take the pulse of the community before bursting forth with too much enthusiasm and your key messages under your arm. This has always been the case, of course, but social media has reminded us how important it is to listen in the real world to anyone with the potential to impact our business and reputation e.g. staff, suppliers and partners, consumers, government, the media.