Thanks to social media, businesses have never had a deeper connection with their customers than they do today. But along with all the benefits of those deep connections come a host of PR challenges. Businesses must invest more time and effort than ever into social media to maintain their PR reputations. For many businesses, their social media pages represent the bulk of their interactions with customers and clients. This makes social media a useful–yet complex–tool in the field of PR. Here are three examples of how social media has transformed public relations and what that means to businesses:
A Two Way Street
Social Media has opened the floodgates for direct, unfiltered communication between businesses and consumers in front of an audience of potentially millions. Everyone prefers the feeling of interacting with a real human rather than an automated corporate response. Platforms like Twitter and Facebook allow brands to show some personality and deeper human connection in how they interact with their customers. But this personality must be closely managed and protected. Businesses can effectively market themselves through their social media persona. Previously, the effectiveness of an advertising campaign could be measured through sales, and even then, often only indirectly. Now, customer interactions with a business’s social media – through engagements likes, comments, shares, and website visits – generate immediate data that lets a business know the effectiveness and resonance of their PR strategy.
More Affordable than Ever
Before social media when advertising options were limited to broadcast and print advertising, direct mail, and other high-cost channels, only the largest businesses could afford to pour money into PR campaigns aimed at reaching the entire country or world. But with the advent of super-low-cost and highly targeted social media advertising channels like Google AdWords, boosted Facebook posts, and promoted Tweets, even the smallest company can theoretically get its product or service in front of anyone on social media. Instead of contracting with a full-service advertising agency, a business can choose to hire a communications specialist, social media manager, or outside firm to oversee social media accounts.
The 24/7 News Cycle
Social media does come with its own PR shortcomings. Bad news travels through social media faster than ever. Even when that bad news has about as much validity as a middle-school rumor, businesses must act fast to mitigate damage. Social media offers consumers a way to rant about poor service any time of day or night. Businesses must be wary of how much traction a negative social media review may pick up, so they must act fast in every scenario, sharing what they know, correcting information that is wrong, promising to get and share fuller information, and driving complainers into offline channels to have their complaints addressed personally. Brands that closely monitor social media have a much better chance of staying ahead of and on top of bad news and better manage crises. If they choose, a business can give minute-by-minute updates to their customers in any crisis, mitigating reputational damage.
By Quint Finney