I think pretty much everyone using the Social Media News Release template is making a mistake. Yes, the original creator is a friend, and I have even hired his firm before (and I like them!). Yes, the social media news release has been released and revised to a lot of acclaim in the PR and marketing world. And yes, the major news release distribution services are all scrambling to embrace multimedia, discussions, and other features to support the template. [For those of you not familiar with what I'm talking about, the Social Media News Release is a new template for press releases that incorporates social media and multimedia. You can read this article for background on the social media news release template and also visit www.socialmediarelease.org.]
Why is the Social Media Release a Mistake?
I think it's a big mistake using this template for all of your news releases. More than one mistake, actually. How did I come to this conclusion? It took a while. Maybe I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer. But ever since starting to send out news releases and playing with the new template, I was feeling uncomfortable with what we were doing for a few reasons. Here are some of the things I did not like about using the Social Media News Release (SMNR) for releases sent over the wire.
1) No aggregation of critical mass.
The value of news release distribution services is that they spread your news release around to lots of other websites, hopefully hundreds (that's why you pay all that money). The value in social media, discussions and comments is to have some level of critical mass aggregated in one place so people can interact with each other. If only one person leaves a comment on the version of a news release on a given website, what's the point? The really good stuff happens when people leave lots of comments and discuss amongst themselves. Do you really want 500 different people to each leave one comment on 500 different websites? How are you supposed to manage, monitor and respond to all that? Wouldn't those 500 people be much happier if they all could see each other's comments and have a discussion amongst themselves?
2) (Almost) No one reads news releases.
Our news releases get a tiny number of views on the news release websites. Tiny. Like if I had a dime for each view I still couldn't buy myself lunch. HubSpot is not the biggest company in the world, but we have a blog with thousands of readers and we're in the top 1% of all websites by traffic. So if our news releases get a tiny number of views on the wire services, your number is probably equally minuscule. (If you are Microsoft, Pepsi, Apple or Google, stop reading this blog - you are playing a different game than 99.9% of us marketers.) But, for the rest of us, the news release you send on the wire is being read by no one, so stop spending all that time integrating all that multimedia content and sending it out.
3) It's really expensive.
Social Media News Releases with Multimedia (the way you are supposed to do it) are darn expensive. To do a pretty limited distribution with any sort of reasonable multimedia is hundreds of dollars... per release. To be honest, I just don't see the value of spending all that extra money just to embed some video and images into a web page (which you can do for free many other places on the web). If you start a blog, you can write as many articles as you want for very little money, and that is a much better deal and will have a much higher ROI.
4) You're working towards the wrong goal.
As a marketer, you want to bring people to your website when possible. It makes it easier for you to sell them stuff, and you can better expose them to your company and brand. Your website is where they convert into leads and buy stuff. And that's your job as a marketer, getting people to buy stuff. So why are you paying money to put your content on other websites? Especially when it doesn't drive them back to your website? You should want to have some content on other websites, but leave the really juicy stuff just for your site to pull people back there.
5) Diminished SEO value.
A huge part of the value of news releases (of all types) is in the links back to your own website they create for SEO purposes. The Social Media News Release contains links (probably too many!), but a lot of the links are not optimized and tend to link off to other resources, basically helping these other websites with SEO when you are the one paying to distribute the news release. Just try running one of your SMNR releases through http://www.pressreleasegrader.com/ - you'll probably get smacked for having too many links. Putting your news release into the SMNR format greatly reduces the SEO benefit to your company.
6) Incompatible with your (social) multi-media accounts.
I was shocked to learn that when I published my first social media news release, to put a video in it, it had to be hosted in the YouTube Account belonging to the news release service. What? Yes. This video was our video. We made it. It is on the HubSpot YouTube Channel. But to put it in the news release, I had to give a copy of it to the wire service to upload into their YouTube account. Why is this bad? First my video gets lumped into thousands of others in their account about everything from marketing software to roofing shingles to deep sea exploration equipment, this makes it harder for people to explore our other videos since they are looking at an account with all different videos, not just HubSpot videos. Second, all of the comments and ratings people leave on that video are separate from the ones on the (real) video in my HubSpot account. Finally, the video in the account of the news release service has gotten 77 views in 11 months. The same exact video in my account? Over 7,000 views in the same time period. I would much rather have people interacting with the videos on my company account, not the wire service's account.
How to Correctly Use the Social Media News Release
This section could also be called "what Mike should have been doing for the past year" or "what HubSpot will start doing now" or "do as I say, not as I do."
1) Build a cool SMNR.
This news release can have as many features of the template as you want. Videos, links, images, sound, threaded discussions, voting, rating, throwing sheep, whatever you want. Bring it on.
2) Post on your website. Only.
Take that really cool version of the news release and post that version on your own company website. After all, don't you want the coolest stuff on the web to be on your website? It's also a good idea to use a blog software to post your news releases, it is simple and easy and produces an RSS feed automatically. Copy the URL where your cool SMNR lives, you'll need it later.
3) Build a simple (text) version of the release.
Build another, simple version of the release for the wire service(s). This version should be all text, maybe 250 words as a summary to get people's interest, it should also have 2-4 optimized links, including a prominent link back to the full, original release on your company website. The goal of this version is (a) to get people to click through to your website and interact there, and (b) build links for SEO purposes.
4) Use Press Release Grader.
Take that short version of the release you are going to send out over the wire and run it through the free press release analysis tool. This will make sure you don't use any Gobbeldygook and your links are set up correctly, as well as some other basic checks. Fix all the big errors, and also check the word cloud to make sure the search engines will look at the release the way you want.
5) Use the wire service.
Send that simple, text based news release over the wire. No pictures, no videos, just text and links (using keywords with anchor text). Using only text will save you some money, and you will be sending people back to your own website to interact with each other to have a much richer experience. They get to leave comments (and see all the other comments from everyone else), view multimedia (posted under your own account) and vote for and promote (in other forms of social media) the one main version of the news release.
What do you think? Have you been using the SMNR incorrectly? Do you agree or disagree with me? Let's discuss. Leave a comment below or reply to me on Twitter.
Note, Todd Defren (the originator of the SMNR) mentioned to me in a comment that he came to many of the same conclusions - Right on Todd! Sorry I am a bit slow... :)