Fifteen years ago, if you had told me that PR and social media were going to work together and that we would use social media for PR, I may have chuckled.
After all, social media was initially created to connect family and friends, not brands. At least, that's how it was in the beginning.
But how things have changed...for the better. Social media has blossomed into an exciting, vibrant tool that can be used across many industries. And over the years, we've seen a variety of social media marketing trends that help us to to adapt. For today's post, we're going to discuss how social media can empower both B2C and B2B PR strategy.
PR for Social Media: An Exciting Opportunity
It's an exciting time to be in PR -- especially with the integration of social media strategy within PR strategy.
As to the impact of social media on the PR industry, public relations people have started to view social media trends as an integral part of their strategy. According to one study, 81% of PR pros and 78% of journalists said they can no longer do their job effectively without social media.
This shows the growing importance of social media strategy for B2B and B2C business.
Just as with any strategy, social media continues to evolve and morph in exciting ways -- and PR along with it. Read on to learn how PR and social media marketing trends are changing and what this means for your public relations strategy.
PR and Social Media: 8 Ways That Social Media is Changing PR
1. Niche Influencers
At one time, PR almost exclusively used big-name outlets and journalists to spread a brand message. But social media has created a new brand of journalist: the influencer.
Influencers continue to be a reliable bridge between brands and their target audience. These influencers have worked hard to build trust with their audiences on social media -- so much trust, in fact, that their recommendations often lead to purchases.
One study found that for every dollar a brand spent on influencer marketing, it had an ROI of $6.50. This shows just how powerful influencers can be for the bottom line.
While some lean toward larger-name influencers with audiences in the 100,000-range, there has also been a movement toward micro-influencers, those considered "niche", with around 10,000 followers. Why? Because these niche influencers, although they have a smaller following, tend to have more loyal and engaged followers.
Social media has created the perfect ecosystem for influencers and is a great place for brands to vet potential influencers. Look at what influencers have posted on social media, how engaged their audience is, and how they interact with their audience. This will tell you whether their method is a good fit for your brand and messaging.
2. New Technologies
Social media is constantly creating new, innovative ways to interact with audiences. A few years ago, live video was the new "it" thing, and in many ways, it still is.
This past year, virtual reality (VR) has stolen some well-deserved limelight as the new technology of choice. This cool technology helps to engage and stimulate audiences, both intellectually and emotionally. Some brands have used VR to give a tour of their facility, immerse audiences in a hands-on product experience, or add an exciting element to their campaign.
Expect to see even more innovations via social media in the future.
The lesson here is not to be afraid to embrace new technologies, especially when you can use them on social media. When you see a new tool, ask yourself how you might use it to better engage your social media audience.
3. Crisis Mode
Social media spreads news like wildfire. While this can be beneficial in some areas, it can also destroy a company's reputation with the same scary speed. And with the ability to post at the click of a button, there have sadly been more than one occasion where a thoughtless post landed a company in a hotbed of trouble.
Such situations make crisis management a growing priority for all industries on social media. Social media teams need to constantly monitor networks for brand mentions that could be detrimental to a company's image. Once found, teams need to extinguish such problems before they become a big deal. This might involve mitigating a customer complaint, issuing a clarification on a topic or even apologizing for a misstep.
The other issue that falls under crisis is "mistake" posts. From accidental tweets to unknowingly offensive campaigns, we've all seen a number of doozies throughout the years. What do you if this happens to your brand? Delete the offending post and issue an apology statement.
Above all, don't assume that this will never happen to you. While you need to be careful, mistakes are inevitable. The key is to have a plan in place for how to react in certain crisis situations. Sit down and create your plan early so that your team knows what to do when it happens.
4. Two-Way Conversations
Public relations has also been known as communications -- and for good reason. PR people often organize campaigns in order to communicate a brand's message to an audience. But now that audience is able to communicate back to the brand as well, through social media.
Through such networks as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, audiences can now share their feedback instantaneously with a brand. This is done with the use of comments or, in some cases, direct messages.
It's exciting to get direct audience feedback, but it also raises some questions. For instance, does this blur the lines between PR and customer service? Should customer service be consulted on such comments and feedback? These are questions that each brand needs to ask and possibly create policies for reference.
5. A Preference for Video
Video continues to surge year after year in popularity, sometimes in surprising ways. It has gone from traditional video posts, to live video streams like Facebook Live, to short, fun videos like those on TikTok.
This is one of the social media marketing trends that can also affect your PR strategy. When you use social media for PR, seek ways to incorporate video. For example, you might use video on social media to...
- Make an announcement
- Launch a product
- Give a demonstration
- Give a behind-the-scenes tour
- Interview your CEO
The possibilities for using video in your PR and social media strategy are endless. Look at your current strategy and investigate strategic ways to weave video into it. And don't be afraid to embrace newer video technology, such as ephemeral video content on such platforms as Instagram Stories. Being among the first to adopt such technologies can set you apart.
6. Faster News Cycle
With so many people getting their news on social media, feeds are constantly refreshing with the newest and latest story. It is estimated that there are some 6,000 tweets every second on Twitter and over 54,000 posts per second on Facebook. These rates are dizzying, to say the least.
Let's think for a moment about the implication for journalists and PR people. For one thing, this information gives us a level of understanding for what journalists are going through -- i.e., the pressure to continually create new stories to engage their audience and fill the social void.
What can PR people do? First of all, recognize the stress that this ever-changing news cycle causes and adapt your story pitches to help journalists. Get to the point quickly and give journalists all the information they need to turn your story around in the fastest time possible.
Is "more work" the only takeaway from this change? Not at all. We also see how social media has opened access to a wider audience. An article by a small-town media outlet is no longer restricted by its original location. Because of social media, that article can go on to be posted and shared to millions, attaining national and even international readership. This shifts our focus away from big name news outlets and gives smaller outlets a more equal footing.
7. Easier Access to Journalists
With so many journalists on social media nowadays, access to them has never been easier. But this doesn't mean that journalists are automatically at your disposal. Even with easier access, brands still need to approach them with respect, skill and forethought.
First, don't just jump in head first. Sit back and observe the journalist for a little while. Ask yourself: What kinds of stories does he or she post? How does the journalist engage with his or her audience? Get to know the person behind the posts a little more before you engage.
When you have a story that falls into a journalist's beat, approach him or her respectfully.
Keep in mind that while some journalists prefer to be approached on social media, there are still those who prefer to be reached through an email pitch. PR databases like Cision will often let you know a journalist's preference. If you don't know, start with email. You can then always ask the journalist's preference.
8. Social Communities
Communities and groups are a strong component of social media. These communities bring together like-minded individuals and provide a space where they can seek advice, share stories and more.
Some brands even create groups in order to get to know their audience better. They might use these groups to get feedback, introduce new products and discuss what interests their audience. For example, after a successful series on women who travel, Condé Nast created a Facebook group specifically for women to talk about the challenges, joys and experiences of traveling.
It's important to remember when interacting in a group -- whether you're the creator of the group or not -- to take off your PR and marketing hat and observe and even facilitate conversations. Consider it a learning opportunity to get to know your audience better.
Social media trends have grown drastically in the past few years and help us to have a robust strategy that all PR pros would do well to use. When you do, you'll quickly find that PR and social media are a powerful combination.
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