Dishing on New PR + Social Media at SFSU

Several months ago, I received a tweet from a follower, Shari Weiss, asking me to come speak to her class. A few days later, I visited San Francisco State University for the first time to share the story of how I went from parenthood to running a cloth diaper startup and how that unlikely trail led me to my role at the Yahoo! Developer Network, where I'm the community manager.

Recently, I was invited to speak again at SFSU and had an opportunity to address another semester’s PR class. Shari’s class is definitely focused on PR, but deals specifically with the shifting sands we’re seeing as social media intersects with traditional public relations practices. New PR, as I see it, means messaging both proactively and reactively, and doing it quickly, where people hang out, and in as transparent a way as possible.

While my visit was really to share my own funky story, I stuck around to view a few of the class’s presentations. Shari had her class go over several social sites, strategies, or technologies and assigned small groups to cover each one. At the end of each presentation, members of the class voted as to their likelihood of using each site or service. For background, only one or two students in the class had used Twitter or blogged prior to entering Shari's class.

Flickr was the site voted most likely to be of interest to the class, followed by Delicious. Hopefully the students weren't just giving them high marks because a Yahoo! employee was in the room. While Google Reader, RSS in general and Technorati were also interesting to these students, most of the social sites got low marks.

One thing I took away from this experience was that while all this stuff is old-hat to us, (web workers who use online social tools daily), it’s clearly unknown to many. These were young people, most under 25, and they just weren’t using any of the sites I assumed they were using. While I guessed that almost all of them were on Facebook, and that they all used some of both Yahoo!’s and Google’s services, these social sites just weren’t on their radar. In case you are wondering where Twitter fits into this, I know that Shari didn’t include blogging or microblogging platforms, because she’d already covered these in an earlier class. For full results, visit Shari’s own blogpost.

Robyn Tippins
Community Manager