Don’t Be a Tool – The Correct Use of Social Media in PR


Today it’s so easy to say “I’m a social media expert!” but are these people helping you use social media correctly for your company?

By Karla Jo Helms

Social media is a great form of communication but the problem is there are a lot of people who do not use it as such.  When it comes to successful PR in business it is important to know how to use social media for strategic communication instead of simply creating noise with random social media messages.  I cover this more in other articles I have written, but in this article, I am going to go over the very purpose of Social Media itself so you understand how to use it effectively in PR.

To begin with, technology is a science which is an organized body of knowledge that is applied to a purpose.  This means that social media when referred to as a technology is actually the technology.  The technology is the vehicle that works behind scenes to deliver your message. The message in social media is NOT the technology. So, we conclude that social media is a tool for communication and instead of using a bullhorn to get your message out you are using a vehicle like social media.

When you relate this to using a blog (which is a form of social media), a blog can be whatever you want it to be.  It can be strategically planned articles on a specific topic; it can be pictures, or it can be information on a person or company and much more.  There is no set rule on what it can be and you can make it look like whatever you want it to look like.  It allows you a lot of freedom and it is a vehicle and a tool to get your message out.  This is just one sample of how you can get your PR message out by being informative on a blog (via social media).  You aren’t selling anything, but you are establishing yourself as an expert, which can, in turn, gain you credibility as well as online exposure.

Elements of Successful PR in Social Media

 Social media is a tool and is not the end all, be all.  Instead, it is like a boat that is used to get across the river.  You then have to ask yourself why do you want to get across the river?  Who else is in the boat?  Do you need provisions? What about the water?  How many life vests?  What is necessary once you cross the river?  In other words, “what’s the plan, Stan?”

This is exactly what you need to do with social media as “part” of your PR campaign. This means deciding on the role social media will play in your overall campaign strategy. If you are only relying on social media for PR, this is the equivalent to putting all of your eggs in one basket. If you lose this stream of PR for some reason, then what are you going to do?

Social media can make a certain amount of impact when it comes to PR and has a certain amount of power, ability to communicate and deliver a message, but by itself that is all it has.  However, if you pair it with a full-blown PR campaign that is carefully planned the power of social media will grow phenomenally because it is part of a plethora of other things in a PR campaign that ends up hitting the target market from all angles.

Social Media as an Integral Part of PR

People are bombarded with messages on a daily basis through TV and radio sources, digital signage on the street, stores, and even in the restroom; websites, social media sites, and they are even toying with the idea of placing messages on car license plates.  There are messages all over the place which can make people immune to messages after a while.  For this, reason social media is more effective when it is used as just one of the elements for reaching your target audience.

If you have a really good PR strategy in place that uses offline publicity in magazines, in trade publications, in newspapers; online article PR in blogs, newsletters and article marketing sites; in specific strategic news outlets, press releases, social media, and a variety of other vehicles, the campaign will hit people at all angles.  If they are immune to messages, something is bound to hit them through this strategy.  They may not remember where they saw it, but the fact that it hits them from all angles gets them to automatically start thinking the way you want them to think.  With enough visibility, most people will not even realize that something made them change their viewpoint.

So, this is why social media is one part of an entire PR campaign and the purpose of PR is to get people to think the way you want them to think. It takes a thought or an idea, it gets it communicated, then understood and as a result encourages people to believe in a certain way.  A great PR campaign is all about a perfect team that knows exactly what to do when, which tools to use, and does not use one tool (such as social media) as the end-all-be-all factor. 



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