I continue to be amazed by so-called phishing scams. These people have viral marketing down.

Take yesterday’s outbreak from something called ViddyHo. What it is is not important. What they were able to do in a short time frame is. Within hours, VentureBeat, ReadWriteWeb, Mashable and many others had covered it. Posts to Twitter flooded in and for what?

Apparently simply to drive traffic to a site. Viral marketing at its finest sleaziest. Recently, a phishing attempt took Twitter. A simple “Don’t Click” was all that was necessary to drive thousands of people to a site. Again, no idea what was being sold or promoted. Don’t care.

But the social engineering that these social media phishing scams demonstrate intrigues me. What do you think?

I will be speaking at the Public Relations Society’s Seattle Chapter’s Jumpstart event on April 4. I’ll be talking about transitioning from one industry into PR. In my case, I went from being a respectable journalist to tech PR. I wrote for several newspapers around Seattle before taking a role with a company called Etelos.

The event is geared toward students and those that are contemplating a career in public relations. I will be on a panel with Roy Henslee of Boeing, Terry LaBrue from APR and Carolyn Sueno from Wilson PR.

One piece of advice

I haven’t yet decided on my one piece of advice. I’m torn between “be genuine” and “don’t suck.” Kind of obvious choices, I know. But they are essential to the success of any PR person.

What one piece of advice would YOU give somebody considering a career in public relations? If you want to find out what my advice is, come to the conference!

I’m of the opinion that two ways to approach a major conference or tradeshow exists.

All. Or nothing.

During shows such as Web 2.0 Expo or CES or SXSW, so many people are clamoring for attention you either need to completely stand out from the crowd or risk getting passed over. So, if you’re planning on making an announcement at a show, make it worth your while. And, the reporters, analysts and bloggers you’re looking to have cover you.

Otherwise, spend your efforts building relationships and connections. Then, you can reach out to those relationships after the show and make an announcement then.

Do you work for a company that hasn’t yet adopted social media practices? Perhaps you are the one implementing a strategy to stay connected to your audiences. But, what rules are there?

As I mentioned recently, social media and social marketing are in their infancies and we are defining the rules. But defining these rules is especially important for companies. Having clear guidelines makes a social media program versatile and transferable. Plus, it will make the lives of compliance officers a bit less stressful.

Don’t be an idiot

Sounds simple enough, right? If you are acting as a representative of a company anywhere that is visible to the general public, act as if your boss is reading over your shoulder (If you’re the boss, act as if your leading investor is over your shoulder). Having a little conscious whispering in your ear while you type should keep you clear.

Keeping a positive focus on the actions of the company should be a priority for the social media practitioner. It shares the spotlight with fostering discussion of the company’s activities.

Maintain your voice

When you operate as the voice of the company, it will be difficult to keep your voice out of the materials you generate — learn to embrace that. You will create “better” content if you keep true to your personal writing style and voice. Copy will come more naturally and your audiences will be able to better relate to it so long as you are being genuine.

Write what you know; write how you know and you’ll be surprised at the results. Plus, you will avoid the leading, unique tendencies to be a ground-breaking leader in your content vertical i.e. “marketing speak.”

Active or passive

When you are creating a content channel, make an overt decision on whether it will actively participate in any discussions that may or may not occur. Of course, I would recommend being an active voice within the community you are trying to create around your service or product. But it is sometimes necessary to broadcast.

What I would avoid, however, is simply being one or the other. If you only broadcast, no discussion, no community occurs. And that defeats the purpose of social media/marketing as a whole. If you are only responding to comments or external discussions, the audience controls the conversation. And, while it is important to participate, it is necessary that you lead the discussion as it relates to your product or service.

To delete or not to delete

Regardless of how you engage, be it broadcasting or conversing, I would strongly advise to proactively react to negative comments and feedback. Deleting the critical material is ultimately up to you, but I feel that addressing the issues is important. Unless the complaint is patently wrong.

Keep it current

Post, create content and keep it up to date. Not much to say beyond that.

Make it good

Making content that doesn’t suck is generally a good idea. If your job is to blog, make sure you read some of the popular blogs and see what makes them popular. Are they funny? Do they use lots of word play? How many links do they use? And so on. The point is to provide value to the people that pay your company money and the people you want to pay your company money.

Your tweets, blog posts etc… should be checked for grammar/spelling/typos. Your videos should have decent sound quality. Your podcasts should have a quick edit done to kill dead air or pregnant pauses. Posting solid content makes for a happy audience. It is frustrating to read through a post that is rife with errors.

Setting up social media rules is a difficult challenge to say the least. The problems compound when you add in the layers that are natural in a company. But I think that perhaps the most important rule should be “Don’t be afraid of change.”

What has worked in your company? How do you participate? What rules do you have? Share them in the comments.