Technology advancements within an industry and social trend changes can alter the way a company conducts business. Many businesses and brands have put tremendous time and effort into social media marketing online and are active on many social media platforms. The results of this new trend for public relations is visible everywhere. Think about what companies, brands, and celebrities you follow on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Robert Wynne, author of the article “Is Social Media a Waste of Time?” Seems to think social media is no place for public relations activities. This article praises traditional PR practices and using media relations. I would like to point out several clear reasons why social media is not only helpful for public relations, but is a necessary platform all professionals should be using.
Traditional media is slowing being outpaced by social media. Some popular publications are only published electronically now. Breaking news is at the consumers’ finger tips online. As a part of a younger generation, I know firsthand my peers do not read or consume traditional media. We do not have the time for that, but do have the time to check our social media networks. Young professionals and college students especially cannot separate from their phones and social media networks. You are more likely to have your content viewed whether it be an article, video or image if it is somehow connected to a social media platform. The new social norm is to read through social media feeds each morning instead of the newspaper.
With so many users on social media platforms, it is easy for things to spread fast and go viral. Wynne states in his article that seeking out media contacts is a more valuable way to spend time than on social media. Yes traditional media is still an important source of news for a company or brand to be recognized by a large audience. However, content shared on social media, especially audio and visual content, may spread like wildfire and reach an even larger audience than ever expected. In David Meerman Scott’s book, The New Rules of Marketing & PR, he explains how different tools when used correctly online successfully promote the company or product. “Many organizations create video to showcase their expertise and provide valuable information to buyers in an easy-to-understand medium… Other forms of online video include humor-based approaches (frequently used to try to garner many views and go viral)” (98). Social media networks are becoming the new place to locate news and information. I look on my news feed on Facebook and Twitter and all I see are links to articles, local news stories and pictures of the latest trending product. Social media is becoming the new medium for news and it is essential for public relations professionals to promote their clients online.
Wynne’s article calls for “More face time, less Facebook.” He claims social media does not allow for professionals to “meet reporters in person, go to events, participate in seminars, pick up the phone. ” Yes those are all essential tasks to network and form professional connections, but many connections can be created just as easy on social media. David Scott gave an analogy in his book about social media being like a town. You can go to the bars and make friends with gatekeepers and other important contacts. After making friends with them you can ask for favors and become comfortable working with someone you know and have formed a connection with. Online communities or bars would be discussion boards, groups on Facebook and such. As a public relations professional you must go where the people in your field are, and right now they are online.
Social media differs from traditional PR outreach because the message may be read by everyone online instead of sent out to specific target markets. Wynne says “The public and universal nature of social media means all audiences can read communications intended for any one audience. One can no longer categorize audiences and messages.” This is not something public relations professionals should be upset about. Instead of spending time altering a message for a specific audience, sending out one message online is enough. You may still have an intended audience for your message and seek out those groups by following them or inviting them on social media.
Social media may also allow your message and client to be broadcast in a medium you didn’t think about before. Traditional media requires gatekeepers to approve of whether or not the information you send out in press releases and pitches is worthy enough for their audience. If you share information on social media platforms, bloggers may pick up on the information and write about it. The public who follows you on social media may share it and all of their followers will see it and so forth. As you can see it is not a waste of time to publish or share information online.
Many consumers do not trust what they read in traditional media these days. Journalists are not experts of one specific topic nor speak in ever industry’s language nor understand every concept in that field. The public looks to social media to find specific information when they follow blogs, join groups or follow their favorite company or brand on social media. John Beveridge wrote on Social Media Today about how valuable an expert source is. “The second part of my question had to do with how social media and the ability for thought leaders to self-publish would change their jobs. As an example, I said that I would rather read Rand Fishkin talk about SEO than a journalist.” It is also important to connect with the leading bloggers and social media leaders in the field. “Seek out thought leaders, customers, partners and vendors to share your content. Most importantly, make sure to reciprocate the favors they do for you.”
Another point Wynne discussed in his article was that social media is a place to conduct research. Social media is more than a means of research. Social media is a place for professionals to interact with the public and their customers. Good PR practice is not to sit back and listen to what the consumers are saying about the company or product, but to create two-way communication and respond. When a company interacts with their customers and fans on social media who are discussing their products and services, it boosts customer service. David Scott made an excellent point at how it is important to interact on social media. “…you must ignore the old rules. Public relation is not just about speaking through the media, although the media remain an important component. Marketing is not just about one-way broadcast advertising, although advertising can be part of an overall strategy” (23). The old rules are out, and social media has taken over.