We once had a potential client tell us that they weren’t on social media because ‘I don’t see the point. Why do you need to tell people that you’re standing in Tesco?’
If that was all that Twitter was used for then perhaps our client might have had a point, but social media for businesses is far, far more than just updating followers on where you’re buying your baked beans. Over the last few years we’ve helped clients build online reputations, launch products, make contact with journalists, find business partners, respond to customer feedback professionally, engage with new customers, gather valuable feedback and drive more traffic to their website – all through social media.
75% of consumers say purchasing decisions are influenced by what they read online, and social media is a key element of that. While most businesses these days accept the necessity of a website and an online presence, few are fully capitalising on how social media can be used to build their brand, spread their key PR messages and distribute content.
So, what can social media do for your PR?
Good quality content has always been a key component of any PR campaign but social media has increased this demand dramatically as potential customers crave engaging content to consume, discuss and share online.
A far cry from the staid press releases that used to form the mainstay of a PR campaign 20 years ago, your potential customers want useful, absorbing content. Too savvy to tolerate being forcefully sold at, they want content they enjoy absorbing and information they can use, with your name associated with it to promote your brand.
This is where Thought Leadership PR really comes into play and social media is a great way to get that content to your customer base. Whether you position it through an engrossing blog post which you then tweet, post on facebook and share on LinkedIn, a well produced video or audio message you embed on your website, publish on YouTube or link to on Twitter, or even writing as a guest contributor for any number of high-profile magazine websites who are eager for journalistic quality articles from industry experts, social media is the ideal way to spread your content to a far wider audience than ever before.
Engage directly with customers
Without wanting to get bogged down in buzzwords, people used to talk about B2B and B2C as shorthand for ‘business to business’ interactions and ‘business to consumer’ interactions, but since the take-off of social media there’s a new category – B2P with P being people. Social media is all about engaging with customers as individuals, holding back and forth conversations and interacting directly and proactively with potential or current customers.
In terms of your PR campaign, this is about building your brand and, in some instances, bypassing traditional forms of PR and going directly to your customer. It allows you to communicate your messages directly to your stakeholders and respond appropriately when they want to engage with you in return – you can launch a product or trial an idea, and receive real-time feedback; you can publish some company news and answer any questions stakeholders have immediately; you can demonstrate your credentials as a thought leader in your field and engage in debate or conversation about relevant issues.
Having an active Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc page automatically opens you up to a two-way conversation, so don’t set up more accounts than you can actively monitor and respond to. If you have a social media presence, your customers will expect to be able to interact with you this way and will be frustrated if they don’t get a response. We’ve helped our clients deal appropriately with negative feedback about their service in a constructive and, ultimately, confident way as well as responding graciously – and shouting about it – when the feedback they receive is positive.
Allows you to comment immediately
As industry-related stories break, social media lets you offer your expert, thought leader insight with an immediate impact on your audience. Bypassing the time it takes to write a press release, send it to the journalist and wait for publication, social media gives you immediate access to a platform to make your views known which, in certain circumstances is exactly what your PR needs.
Responding to breaking news lets you demonstrate your expertise and relevance to your audience. Exercise caution to make sure you’re adding value, not just capitalizing on a tragedy, but don’t be afraid to express your views on a topic as long as they correspond with your business’ viewpoint as well. Having an opinion and being willing express it warms customers to you as an authoritative, confident industry expert.
Also, bear in mind that journalists rely heavily on Twitter, Facebook and other platforms to source and research stories so if you are connecting with the right people, you may find your comments mark you out as a potential contributor in wider media.
Far from being a short lived trend, social media is a now a valuable part of the PR landscape and, however daunting it may be to the uninitiated, pretty much every business should consider using it in their public relations campaign.
We come across a lot of business who are intimidated by the fast moving pace of social media and don’t really know where to start with their own social media PR strategy, so if you’d like to talk to us about it contact firstname.lastname@example.org to start the conversation!