An often asked question in developing a digital marketing strategy is whether or not to combine social media and public relations (PR). We’d like to officially address this question with a response of “Abso-friggin-lutely.”
There is really no better way to connect with your audience than using social media. Everywhere you go, you see people with their noses stuck to a phone or tablet, thumbs wildly tapping away at the screen… even during dinner with family and friends or in the middle of business meetings.
In fact, we’d wager that on a daily basis, more interactions happen in the digital world than they do in person. Despite this, the bar for authenticity from the businesses in our digital networks is set pretty high for most people.
So it’s your job as a business to create an environment that blends digital communication with your audience’s desire for authentic, personalized interaction.
While digital PR still remains primarily focused on influencers, social media has become the perfect channel to transport your message to the digital influencers you need in order to build brand recognition and credibility, and maintain trust with your intended audience.
How Has Social Media Changed the PR Landscape?
The first step towards effectively combining social media and PR is to understand exactly how the former has impacted the latter. Social media has heavily influenced a few key changes to the PR landscape:
Differences in communication style
Social media leverages real-time messaging– this allows you to amplify your messages to create more impactful PR efforts.
According to the Center for Social Impact Communication at Georgetown University, typical PR content, such as press releases, emails, and other proven communications can live longer and be spread further with the help of social media’s extended reach.
Enhanced ability to reach a larger audience
Love it or hate it, social media has the unique ability to instantaneously reach a huge audience.
While PR used to target specific individuals, thanks to social media, it can now be used to target larger groups all over the world.
This isn’t to say that PR must lose its traditional focus – just that “niche groups” no longer mean a small handful of individuals, but rather a larger audience that collectively has the ability to increase a brand’s success.
At their core, social media platforms are meant to help people network. Businesses also benefit from social media networking and can leverage it to make PR friendlier and readily available to stakeholders. Remember back in Marketing 101 when you learned the 4 P’s of marketing— one of them, “place,” meaning where you distribute your content, is vitally important in PR. Social media can act as a distribution channel with a wide reach, allowing higher visibility and deeper connections to brands.
This warm and inviting approach has created the era of “relationship marketing,” whereby companies are able to form honest and meaningful relationships and partnerships based on an established emotional connection.
What Does Today’s Digital World Look Like?
It’s no secret that we live in a digital world. However, just because digital communications are often favored over print doesn’t mean that traditional media has gone by the wayside.
With this in mind, we must remember that relationships within both traditional and digital media should be given attention, and both will thrive in different ways. As such, PR is still about building media relationships, which is one of the reasons that social media can and should be leveraged.
Social media has the unparalleled ability to influence the public through all types of publications, posts, and stories. In fact, these stories are part of the reason that social media has grown so quickly over the past few years.
In this new digital world, where stories can be told in real-time courtesy of social media, PR campaigns should be focused on sharing client news via these new and engaging angles.
Stories enable businesses to take a behind-the-scenes and somewhat raw approach to connecting with consumers, enabling the business to be more relatable and give the consumer the honest messaging they crave.
Additionally, the ability to drip-feed a positive story, courtesy of social media, is a PR consultant’s dream as this prolongs the shelf-life of their latest story keeping it current and relevant.
But How Does Social Media + PR = Results?
At it’s best, digital PR should focus on combining traditional PR strategies with social media to create meaningful conversations. Through this strategy, you can not only engage with your audience, but you can influence the market to your business’ advantage.
This ability to single-handedly reach a specific target audience – with an ease that has never before been experienced in the history of PR – is only made possible when you properly align your digital PR and social media efforts.
By successfully leveraging social media to support your digital PR efforts, you will enjoy a few additional benefits.
Increased insights into your target demographic
Did you know that Twitter and Facebook are fantastic demographic researching tools? These two social media platforms can be used to help you uncover trends in user personalities.
You can then use these trends to better shape your digital marketing efforts so that you actually meet the needs of your target audience.
With a bit of finesse, you can even use Twitter and Facebook to search for certain keywords, relevant accounts, interests, likes, and dislikes. This information can then be used to optimize your PR efforts through a social media strategy that focuses on meaningful growth and positive relationships with engaged users.
Improved relationships with influencers and the media
Don’t confuse popularity with influence.— the two are often used interchangeably, however, they do not mean the same thing.
Just because someone has a large social following doesn’t mean that they are influential. Conversely, someone could have a smaller following, but be incredibly influential within their network.
This important difference is vital to understand in order to properly align your social media efforts with PR.
In fact, DowSocial reports a study found that approximately 82 percent of PR professionals use influencers to help their story reach their target audience. In this vein, discovering who is a social media influencer within your industry is an important step that PR consultants must take if they want to improve their media relationships.
By paying attention to what influencers post, building a strategic content marketing plan, and engaging with social media personalities, you can and will be able to create meaningful relationships with social media influencers.
In return, these individuals will help to spread your stories (and, subsequently, your brand) to a larger audience of engaged and active followers.
Enhanced digital reputation
If you want to build a team of loyal brand ambassadors and positive business relationships, you need to carefully manage your reputation.
Fortunately, social media makes it much easier to engage with your intended audience during times of tranquility. It also paves the way for rapid fire communications when the social climate is less forgiving.
Through consistent communications on social media platforms, you are more likely to create brand loyalty with both new and existing customers. Social media provides an instantaneous connection that keeps both you and your audience “in the loop” at all times.
In a world where a single tweet can derail a company, it is vital that you have a pulse on both your industry and your ready-to-pounce audience. In other words, “staying in the loop,” is a must if you want your PR messages to remain relevant and well received.
The Bottom Line: PR and Social Media Can and Should Be Effectively Combined
If social media and PR teach us anything, it is that that consistency is the key to building brand recognition, creating credibility, and reinforcing content marketing messages.
However, in today’s digitally driven world, if you want to consistently communicate with your intended audience, then you need to properly combine PR and social media efforts.
Just as a clean contact list goes hand in hand with a successful email campaign, social media and PR should also be joined at the hip.
By leveraging the power of social media to better understand your audience, while simultaneously engaging with them on deeper levels, PR campaigns can remain focused on delivering those powerful stories that foster brand loyalty and recognition. The flexibility and nimbleness that social media lends to PR is undeniable and pairing the two functions to enhance your communications strategy is a no-brainer.
In short, when you couple your social media efforts with PR, you will discover that reaching, engaging and building meaningful relationships with your intended audience just became a whole lot easier.
Using social media for your PR and digital marketing strategy is no small undertaking. There are so many platforms available, it can be difficult to determine which are the best fit for your business. A marketing agency can help you weed through all of the options and identify the best opportunities that fit your digital marketing strategy. MESH would love to work with you to see how we can help – let’s connect.