HARO, the (free) upstart rival to ProfNet that connects reporters with expert sources, turns one year old today and the results are noteworthy: 10,000 participating journalists, 25,000 posted queries, and 70,000 expert sources. More than anything it’s a testament to the incredible potential of social media to virally spread an idea and create a vibrant community that connects strangers who share a common interest. The outcome is a nimble, Web-based entity capable of challenging an industry leader.
The success of HARO lies in its ability to connect with professionals in a personal way via Twitter, Facebook, blogs, email and more. Reporter queries aren’t emailed out anonymously – each adopts the quirky personality of founder Peter Shankman and engages HARO member with contests, giveaways, and calls to action. Similarly, PR professionals aren’t just using HARO to benefit their clients but also to interact with their fellow peers. As a result, HARO members, by and large, are passionate, outspoken advocates of the service. Want proof? Yesterday, more than 6,000 members pledged to post “Get Sourced. Get Quoted. Get Famous. www.helpareporter.com” on all their social media feeds in response to a challenge from Shankman to grow membership by 10,000 in 24 hours.
HARO is one of the best examples out there of an organization that successfully harnessed the power of social media to launch a small idea into a big success. It remains to be seen, however, whether it is a sustainable practice. What happens when HARO grows too big for itself? Members may not be as favorable towards HARO when they discover that there are suddenly 100,000 experts competing to be sourced in just 75 stories a day. That day is fast approaching and when it comes, members may ultimately turn to the same social media networks to voice their displeasure.