Social media is changing the way companies and brands connect and interact in real time with customers and consumers. Specific social media platforms may be fads, but social media itself is here to stay and any company that wants to attract new customers and build their sphere of influence needs to learn how to use it effectively and responsibly.
Currently, there seems to be a whirlwind of confusion blowing through the marketing world as to who should manage social media initiatives and develop the strategies that drive a company’s participation in the Groundswell. What’s more, the recent rise of social media marketing in a struggling economy has created a mad dash for dwindling marketing dollars among PR, interactive, Web marketing and traditional advertising agencies. With traditional ad spending projected to drop considerably over the coming year, the competition to manage a client’s social media marketing initiatives is starting to heat up. Here are three reasons why the public relations industry is best positioned to spearhead and manage social media marketing efforts.
- Social Media is a long-term commitment to listening, conversing, and understanding customers and consumers – which will cultivate brand advocates. Only with a clear sense of internal purpose should a company enter into this online/real time conversation. Thus, social media marketing should start with and revolve around positioning and messaging – both cornerstones of the public relations industry and its strategic planning process. If there was ever a time for a company to step back and understand who they are, what they believe, and what they can deliver – this is it.
- Strong branding has always been about influence rather than control. The way to achieve influence is not through one-way advertising channels, but through observing and participating in two-way conversations with key audiences – something PR professionals practice daily. Social media should be used to help shape influence and opinion rather than attempting to control it, and its the storytelling element of Public Relations – making a company’s vision and values come to life through powerful stories – that translates most effectively in this area.
- Although many view social media as technology-driven, it is unmistakably communications-driven. Social media is still “media,” and PR professionals specialize in working with those that create content or “editorial,” – and the opportunities or issues (crises) that may arise from such content. Interactive agencies may have a strong handle on the technology that drive the individual platforms, but at the end of the day it’s the conversation, message or call to action that matters – technology is only the vehicle that enables such. Like writing, pitching, client counsel or crisis management, social media is another important communication tool. Without competent communication skills, the tool becomes useless and the social media marketing initiative will fail. In many ways social media is simply public relations in an online setting.
As blogging is a form of social media, and social media is about information sharing and community dialogue, I’d like to end each NST blog post with a musical recommendation. Spevak’s “Hot Pick” for June is The Felice Brothers. If you like Dylan, The Band or just plain darn good songwriting – check these guys out!