Why is social media the new “it” girl?

You know those movies where the nerd girl/woman gets a total makeover transformation (e.g. Miss Congeniality, She’s All That, Grease), and then the guy/friends/crown she’s lusting after are suddenly interested in her? But really, she’s still the same person – just with some nicer clothes and a little bit of makeup.

Social media is like that girl that got a makeover. Sure, she’s the latest and greatest PR and communications tool out there, but she’s still just a tactic, a weapon in your arsenal – albeit a very important one – to communicate with your publics. And that two-way dialogue is something that the practice of public relations was founded on many years ago.

Relationship-building and the art of public relations isn’t new, nor are any of its core principles. It just got a makeover in the form of sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more that give companies a new medium to communicate their message.

Before social media, companies were communicating with their audience via press releases, direct mail, newspapers, television, radio, billboards, annual reports, face-to-face networking and more. Social media can be a critical part of communicating to your publics – offering a new vehicle for disseminating information, monitoring the conversation and engaging with your customers. But social media is just a publisher. It’s up to you to create valuable content worth sharing.

Don’t get me wrong. Social media is a fantastic tool that can bring about huge success. After all, it offers companies a window into something that no PR tactic has really ever been able to accomplish before on the cheap: instantaneous insight into the minds of what their customers are really thinking and talking about, and the opportunity to give and solicit immediate feedback. It puts the process of two-way communication and relationship-building on overdrive.

However, social media is not something you should just jump into. How do you know if it’s for your company?

Your company SHOULD join social media if:

  • Your customers are already on social media, especially if they’re talking about you, your company or your service. You want to be a part of the conversation, not ignore it.
  • You want to obtain a candid view as to what your customers are thinking, what they value, what they want, what they dislike, etc.
  • You need to be able to monitor what your competitors are doing so you can stay ahead of the game and seize opportunities they’re not seizing.
  • You want to be able to quickly ask questions, post content and receive feedback about your company, product or service.
  • You want to network with others in your industry. Follow your customers and network contacts, engage with them and share/curate their content. Become an online thought leader by establishing a solid social media footprint.
  • You have a need for being able to quickly report and respond to breaking news within your company or industry. Newspapers are daily, TV is hourly at best, but social media is instant.

Your company SHOULD NOT join social media if:

  • You do not have the time or resources to devote to constantly maintaining each of your social networks, engaging with customers in a timely manner and responding to comments.
  • You cannot offer value-added information that is catered specifically to each of your social networks. It’s okay to repurpose content you’ve already created on other mediums for social media, but make it different and be lively.
  • You can’t turn off the robot speak. Customers want to communicate with human(s). Use “us” and “we” in your social media communications as much as possible to establish a “we are all in this together” connection with your followers.
  • You’re joining just because it is the newest thing, or you have no idea if any of your customers are even on social media. If your target market is not using Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Twitter, etc., you shouldn’t either.
  • You cannot take public ridicule or complaints being seen on your public pages, or you don’t think you will be able to respond to them.
  • You don’t have the ability to put your corporate hat aside and put your customer hat on. Think like a customer. What would you want to hear/read? What would you respond to? Ask questions, don’t be self-serving, provide useful information, offer contests and giveaways, and in general – be a little fun.

Social media is not a replacement for public relations, but it is an important addition. Just as with any other communications element in your public relations toolbox, you should have a plan in place if you decide to engage in social media. If you need help, contact S&A Cherokee and we can help you get started.

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