Why social media matters and what you should be doing about it
The topic of social media in PR is discussed daily. The industry continues to learn about the new medium and therefore is still attempting to understand its postition in the PR world. The common lack of understanding around social media means that current students and young graduates have a head start.
You’ve most likely been using social networks and tools for all your teenage years, now all you need to do is become experts.
Why should I become a social media expert?
Firstly, it is a growing sector. Not only are there social media agencies popping up all over the UK, traditional PR companies are making sure they are not left out in the cold by setting up digital practices in-house. All of which creates new jobs, with the expectation of knowledge of social networking – something a University student is more likely to have than your average seasoned PR professional.
While this can be a good way to score your first job, the second reason has far more importance. Social media is going to become part of the daily PR routine. It will no longer be considered a ‘new media’ and will be just another communications tool. This means that if you were not interested in social media, at some point you will have to take part anyway. So educate yourself now to be prepared.
Social media covers a wide variety of networks and tools. These include networks like Facebook, blogs such as this, micro-blogging networks like Twitter, photo hosting sites like Flickr, video sites like YouTube and well, plenty more variations in the long tail of things.
The key indicator is that social element. If you can comment, like, interact or engage then it is most probably part of social media. With Facebook, Twitter and Google+ integration across the web, anything can now be made social. It is all about sharing.
Uses in PR
Since social media is all about sharing (which is a very engaging form of communication) it makes complete sense for PRs to get involved. Our industry is all about communication. For example, when managing a company’s reputation, what do PRs do? They communicate. Press releases are sent out, spokespeople are put in front of journalists and the company’s message is told.
PR at its best also talks directly to stakeholders in two-way conversations – social media is the perfect platform.
With over 800 million people on Facebook and over 100 million on Twitter it is pretty likely your key audience is online. They are already talking about you, they are affecting your reputation and if you do not get involved and engage with them, then they will control the outcome.
How do I learn?
Just using social media is not enough to make you an expert. 800 million people use Facebook but have no idea about ‘GraphRank’. The 100 million people on Twitter are also unlikely to be measuring the reach of their tweets or analysing the optimum time to create the most impressions.
To learn about social media you must explore. Join every network going, try them out, think critically – ask yourself questions like ‘who is on here’, ‘what are people doing’, ‘what is the outcome of their activity’ and most importantly ‘what is the PR potential’.
Next, read blogs – lots of blogs. Don’t just stick to one resource for information. Often being an expert in social media requires speed – the faster you learn about updates and new services, the more time you have to become the expert. Reading multiple blogs can help make sure you are made aware of important news instantly.
Your online presence
A lot of PR is about finding influencers. These are the people that can reach your company’s audience and therefore have a huge value. What they say matters, so your job is to influence the influencer. One of the best ways to do this is to become an influencer yourself.
By becoming an influencer you will become respected, followed, well known and ultimately find approaching other influencers an easier task that someone they may never heard of.
If you are also quite career focused then becoming an influencer will make you very attractive to potetial employers.
To become influential yourself you need to be heard. Start tweeting, set up a blog, guest blog for others, meet up with other influencers in real life – yes, social media can go offline and meeting face to face is about as social as it gets.
Social media cannot be condensed down within one blog post. Why else would people continue to write about the topic as if it were going out of fashion?
This month is the social media feature on Behind The Spin, so keep checking for more insights. In the spirit of social media make sure to comment on the articles, join the debate and even get writing yourself.