Social media has played a transformative role in our culture. It has changed the way we receive news, the way we connect with our friends, the way we meet new people, the way we spend our time, the way we plan events – pretty much everything in our lives is touched by the influence of social media. It’s impossible to escape from, and it’s impossible to ignore if you’re in marketing or public relations.
Social media has already irreversibly changed the PR game. We have direct contact with our customers. Loyal customers can opt in for constant updates from our companies and about our products. It also makes public relations so much more “public.” If someone complains about your company on the internet, people will be able to see it forever.
Methods of marketing have become so much more ingrained with the content that people consume. Marketing pieces are braided in with content pieces to a point where sometimes they are indistinguishable. Any random article you see could also be an ad for a mentioned product. Posts on Facebook and Twitter can be sponsored so they are more likely to be seen in feeds for relevant users. Data analysis offered by the use of social media can help you target users. Plus, ads can even be personalized for individual users.
Social media also makes the public relations game harder to keep up with. Options made available by Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are constantly updating. For example, on Facebook, recently the embedded videos that users had become used to started to be able to insert ads into the middle of the video at key moments. A recent update on Instagram allowed users – including companies – upload multiple photos at once, giving marketers the option of showcasing a broader variety of products than one photo could handle.
The speed of these updates also reflects the speed at which news travels on social media. If anything about your company goes viral, it could change the game at the speed of light – for the better, or for the worse. For example, your Kickstarter might become popular overnight, raising way more money than your ever needed. On the downside, if some news gets out about some poor practices, such as old-fashioned dress code policies towards women or practices that aren’t exactly environmentally progressive, the entire internet could shun you before you’ve had a chance to blink.
Social media is a really useful tool in PR, but it can also be dangerous. It requires alertness and control to keep your company’s reputation and visibility high and higher than ever.