Why Social Media?

Social Media Map

In the previous blog, we were able to understand that social media users are copious. Having said that, it is important to point out to that fact that organizations need to connect with audience via social media platforms to establish themselves.

Let us look at the “Pin It to Give It for Breast Cancer – Elizabeth Arden” campaign. This social media campaign was launched on Pinterest to help women in the fight against cancer. Pinterest users were asked to keep pinning the image and spread the message. For every image re-pinned from Elizabeth Arden’s ‘Pin It To Give It’ board, the beauty brand would donate one Elizabeth Arden eyeliner to the charity with a total of 10,000 eyeliners. This campaign was a great way to reaching women who use social media and Pinterest in particular. This campaign helped Elizabeth Arden establish their brand image as caring for women. This was an interesting way of connecting with up to 10,000 women while involving them in the campaign.

Pin it to give it

Connecting with public is a very important aspect of handling social media effectively. How Valuable is a Social Media Audience, Really? is an article that explains the importance of having audience on social media sites. Having a huge fan following is not the final step. The purpose of establishing the followers/ fan base is to open up a communication channel that will keep the audient engaged with the organization. However, an organization can keep the audience engaged only by determining the outcome they are trying to achieve. The first step to devising social media strategy is understand the goals.

Let us take a look at Thomas Cook Facebook page. Thomas Cook is an integrated travel and travel related financial services company. They offer a broad spectrum of services that include Foreign Exchange, Corporate Travel, MICE, Leisure Travel, and Travel Insurance. Thomas Cook social media team has kept their Facebook page interactive. They post photos of desirable destinations and ask questions about the destination. This is a good way to keep their audience enticed to their organization webpage. This method compels the user to think of Thomas Cook the next time he is planning a trip. Using social media creatively is the key to being successful.

Thomas Cook FB Page

Being creative is as important as being timely and prompt in responding to social media posts. Simply having social media page is not useful. Neither is being negligent. Using social media platforms comes with a lot of responsibilities. The organization has to stay aware of what they are posting and also about what someone else is posting on their behalf or about them. In spring 2009, Domino’s Pizza found itself in the midst of a crisis when a leaked video of two employees tampering with the food went viral.

The employees, Kristy Hammonds and Michael Setzer, recorded themselves while doing abominable things to the product. Domino’s took immediate action to clean up after the mess but the real challenge was gaining customers trust after the mishap. To overcome this ordeal, Domino’s president, Mr. Patrick Doyle recorded an apology video and posted it on YouTube. The message also included an assurance from Mr. Doyle about how they were dedicated to customer service.

This was a very effective way of utilizing social media to mitigate the crisis. Any person looking for the employee’s video would find the presidents video and would get the message.

These are only two example to demonstrate how social media can be utilized effectively during crisis and at other times also. Another example of how a company utilized social media platform during a predicament to their advantage and thus connect with a multitude of audience is “Oreo’s Snappy Super Bowl Blackout Ad.” During the SuperBowl blackout, Oreo took advantage of the blackout situation to convert it into an opportunity by tweeting an ad real-time using the caption “Power out? No problem” reminding Oreo eaters that “you can still dunk in the dark.” The timeliness and pithiness made this ad extremely popular and was tweeted over 14,000 times. The same ad was also posed on Oreo’s Facebook page which generated more than 20,000 “Likes.” Oreo superbowl ad

To just emphasize further on how social media using YouTube can be beneficial, I would like you to take a look at the Dove Real Beauty Sketches video. This video was Doves latest campaign, launched to connect with millions of women and tell them that they are more beautiful than they think. Since its release, The Dove ad has had more than seven million views on YouTube. This is a very effective way of not only getting you brand name conveyed, but also establishing a relation with you audience with positive and strong messaging.

These case examples show how an organization can use social media to not only connect with their publics but also to manage their image and reputation. This is an era of social media, but what is its future? We shall discuss the future of social media in my next blog.

Social Media: Introduction

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Social Media: Introduction

Social media, as referred to by some is known as social networking sites by others. These days, the term social media is tossed around very frequently. Social media is a two-way communication channel which enables the users to respond as well. Social media sites are not simply sources of information, but these are websites where the user can interact with other users and with different organizations.  Communication is essential to every organization and individuals. No organization can function in vacuum. Social media is the platform which can be used by business to communicate and prevent vacuum. In this blog I will emphasize on the importance of social media to any organization. The subsequent blogs will include my opinion about how organizations can use social media effectively.

Social media has changed the environment in which any business operates. Public relations and social media go hand in hand. In addition to traditional media and other media outlets, social media is an essential tool which public relation professionals use to communicate with their public and also hear back from the public. Before the social media era, it was a B2B and B2C setting, but now it has evolved to B2P, with P being people. With the rise in social media platforms, public demands an instant response from any organization.

Before we delve deeper into the importance of social media, we shall understand why it is essential to utilize social media to an organizations benefit. With the advancement in technology, receivers were exposed to the platform known as social media. Social media became the platform where people express themselves. They not only discuss and share information on social media pages, but they also provide feedback, reviews, comments and criticism on these pages. All this has become exceedingly easy with the increase in use of mobile technology. Mobile web has made it possible for users to provide instant response on social media pages. People post queries on social media pages to ask for other people’s opinions before shopping. The response they get from others is an important factor that effects decision making. Studies have indicated that Mobile web usage has gone up by 82% in 2012 over 2011 and mobile app usage has grown by 85%. This increase in mobile web and social media tells us something. It indicates that social media is the next web simply because people spend a vast majority of their time on social media sites. As mentioned earlier, it is important to understand that people are no longer passive receivers. The people known as audience are active social media user who have an effect on the organization’s reputation and business.

A recent article posted on PR Daily indicates that social media users can be profiled into 12 categories based on their social media usage. The article categorized people into groups ranging from “ultras” to “virgins.” Image

Through this point, I am only trying to emphasize on the point that social media users are ardent and abundant. They are so abundant that researchers have been able to profile them. Utilizing social media platform to convey the right message to all the users can be very beneficial to any organization.For example, videos like Kony 2012, Harlem Shake and Gangam Style and Gangam Style have over one billion views and are extremely popular viral videos. This rate at which the videos gained popularity explains how fast information travels on social media platforms. This aspect of social media can be utilized by an organization to make or break their brand and business.

Details about how can an organization use social media can be read in my next blog.

Social Media & Public Relations: Impact on Publics and Analysis of the Impact

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Public Relations Society of America defines Public Relations as: “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

A PR professional is responsible for establishing mutually beneficial relationship between an organization and its publics. Social media, on the other hand, is a means to communicate with your publics using various platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest etc. Social media allows organizations to have conversation in a two-way symmetrical manner instead of simply relaying information using news and other mass media outlets.

Social media is very effective but can be dangerous to the organization, if not handled correctly. Not utilizing social media is ineffective, but not responding strategically while being active on social media page can be potentially damaging to a company’s reputation. When people decide to post negative comments on forums about an organization, the comment may seem insignificant. However, due to the intrinsic web of social media, the insignificant comment may become explosive and catch up like a wild fire, one which requires serious attention. Public relations understand the importance of having controlled conversation on social media platforms, which makes social media very effective.

Tom Malcolm, head of consumer, Diffusion, believes that social media is a big part of public relations. With the rise of various social media platforms, public relations have an added responsibility of coming up with creative concepts and ideas, those will attract people to the companies’ webpages. Public relations has to be the source of providing engaging content to media. A successful PR campaign involves feeding media’s hunger for interesting news, while engaging people by providing them with interesting stuff to talk and share about the company.

To engage media and publics, many PR agencies and firms have integrated PR and digital marketing mix. According to Andy Heaps, operations director, Epiphany, and Pete Goold, managing director, Punch Communications, their team creates content that is strategic while promoting online visibility by being engaged and thus builds brand engagement through social media channels. With the rise of social media, public relations professionals are becoming accountable and transparent. They are coming up with robust thinking that addresses a demographic sect instead of only an individual.

PR professionals like Tom Malcolm and Pete Goold have also tried to answer, “Have social media and PR become synonymous with each other?” They think that social media and PR are integrated but they are not synonymous with each other. Elements like creating and managing engaging content, which is a part of social media profile, support PR function. However, digital creative and paid media teams are essential in handling social media. Social media plays a major role in how companies succeed or fail due to their reputation. Social Media Statistics Compendium reported that, in 2011, 75% of purchase decision were based on reviews available online. These are the reasons why companies can’t ignore social media.

Engaging publics is a PR professional’s responsibility. To achieve that, PR has to stay abreast with innovative technologies. They use various platforms to build relations with publics and social media is one of the platforms. Today, new monitoring and analysis tools are developed which allow a company to track reviews or comments mentioned on social media about themself, thus allowing companies to respond if their reputation is challenged.

Engaging publics, and monitoring social media feeds using analysis tools like Social Sleuth is the basic step to use social media as a useful platform. The next part of handling social media is measuring the impact of social media on any organization’s relationship with audience. Counting mentions and measuring ReTweets and “likes” on Facebook page are ways of observing if the message is reaching the audience but the most important thing for an organization is whether social media is being used to reach the final goal. Social media contributes to PR campaign and ultimately helps in achieving the PR goal. It is essential to understand how to evaluate if the goal is achieved.

Social media has great potential to open up communication channels between an organization and the outside world. If a video or social media post is interesting, it goes viral in no time. Suddenly the organization is thrown into limelight. Organizations like Domino’s pizza and CNN have been in public’s eyes due to social media posts. Domino’s pizza’s reputation got tarnished when two employees posted nasty videos on YouTube. However, Domino’s management posted a video in YouTube in response to the nasty video and conveyed a strong message to public about their plan of action. Actor Ashton Kutcher said and I quote “I think it’s a huge statement about social media for one person to actually have the ability to broadcast to as many people as a major media network.”  It is essential that an organization understands social media’s potential and use it to maintain their reputation and build relations.

It is also essential that an organization understands the impact of a social media post before reacting to it. Social media provides PR with an opportunity to have an impact on the entire organization in the following ways:

–          Penetrate deeper in the demographics with your message

–          Generate sales leads

–          Gauge customer satisfaction

–          Increase Brand Recognition

Using social media is important, but in the end it boils down to determining success. After a PR campaign, the organization wants to get the right results, which means that the results impact the company and that the message conveyed through the campaign has penetrated. The success of this method can be determined using following key markers:

Follow your message: Simply posting a message is insufficient. The organization can determine success by observing where the message appears and analyzing the tone of the message.

Benchmark with caution: While determining the success markers, a company should analyze themselves before simply setting up very high benchmarks, those cannot be achieved.

Learn from success: An organization can learn from its success by tracking and comparing their activity and efforts against results. This helps in understanding activities are most effective in maximizing the message.

Spotlight the Results: After the PR campaign, it is important to translate success and PR success into revenue for the company to understand. Quantifying results is essential to explain the impact social media had on the organizations success.

To conclude, I believe that social media is an integral part of public relations. I would not call them synonymous with each other for the reason that public relations has a multitude of aspects and functions and social media is one of the function of PR. It is a very powerful tool and PR has the ability to utilize it to benefit a company. Social media is influencing PR. The role of PR is to establish transparent communication with audience and social media is a platform to do that. It has become a communication means to interact with media, customers, investors, employees, and other key stakeholders.

I can’t emphasize enough on how important are social media and PR for an organization. Despite being the core communications function for an organization, public relations professionals need to demonstrate tangible results to demonstrate the impact of social media. Social media has the ability to build relations with audience, or sabotage a company’s reputation even with a petty incident. It is essential that a company understands the gravity of a situation on social media platform and think strategically before reacting to it. Every key stakeholder has the power to influence the company’s online reputation. Hence, public relations professionals should have the authority to, and be prepared to control the company’s message and brand.

“Analyzing the Impact of Social Media: From Twitter to Facebook” is a white paper presented by Vocus. Link to article, “The impact of social media on public relations” is: http://www.thedrum.com/news/2012/03/21/impact-social-media-public-relations