The advent of robust, rapidly growing social media landscapes has made the job of determining the appropriate use of social media platforms a very big job for us PR folks. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m finding it tough to keep up.
Recent research indicates that there are already more than 100 million Blogs. FaceBook is expected to have as many as 300 million users by this fall with the fastest growing group the 55+ crowd, http://www.istrategylabs.com/facebook-demographics-and-statistics-
august-2009-55-grows-25-in-one-month/. Twitter, just launched in 2006, now has users from all over the world with 72.5% of all users joining during the first five months of 2009 http://www.sysomos.com/insidetwitter/. Because of the range and astonishing rate of growth of social media platforms, and the unique users and inherent management functions of each platform, social media management programs have recently been developed to help us keep track of it all. Well, that’s cool, but that gives us one more thing to learn how to effectively use! It’s exhausting!
What’s the good news for PR? Well, there is a lot of good news! Every social media platform available today was created to enhance interpersonal communications. After attending several educational webinars and reading every related white paper I can find on the subject (yes, I’m one of those people who read the directions before I build something), I consistently see several major rules relating to effective use of social media for professional communications, and they are consistent with the rules for PR best practice: Do your research, assess the uses of the medium by your primary stakeholders and media sources and their unique needs and goals, communicate with honesty and transparency, provide supportive data, be prepared for opposing opinions but avoid argument, and be prepared to measure and evaluate effectiveness.
Whether we are using social media to communicate with our stakeholders or we are using social media for media relations, the basic rules still apply: Do your research, be a reliable source, be an immediate responder, be a solution provider, and be honest and genuine. Learn as much as you can about the social media platform you are using and the unique needs of its users, and then make a contribution that attempts to meet those needs through ethical, meaningful communications. It is our challenge as public relations professionals to do this with an acute awareness regarding the responsibility we have to our profession, our clients, our company and our brand. By doing so, each social media environment offers a unique communications avenue to enhance awareness and build relationships. The world of social media is here to stay and it’s up to us to find our place in it – not because “everyone’s doing it”, but because we have something of value to offer. Think about it!
Copyright, Tracy Teuscher, 2009.
Tracy Teuscher is a Public Relations Consultant and President of The Buzz Maker™ Public Relations. She maintains active membership in PRSA serving the Board of Directors for the Akron Area Chapter of PRSA. She is also a member of the PRSA Independent Practitioners Alliance, the SBN Select Committee and her local Jackson-Belden Chamber of Commerce. For more information, visit http://www.thebuzzmaker.com