Over the years, social media has dramatically changed the way marketing and traditional PR is utilised. The ubiquity of platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn means that social media has become a basic pillar in brand communication, and it is now easier to use for effective public relations than ever.
As defined by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, effective PR is “about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.”
This, of course, can also be argued to be the purpose of effective social media.
We see evidence of social media overtaking traditional PR methods in successfully managing reputation, creating a brand and attracting a new target audience on a daily basis. As business magnate Richard Branson stated:
“Social media is not only more cost-efficient than advertising, but it also offers great opportunities for innovative engagement with your customers.”
Whilst Branson was referring to how social media is overtaking traditional methods of advertising, it is clear to anyone in the marketing and PR industries that the same can be applied to our business methods.
So how can your business benefit from using its social media accounts to achieve the same as traditional marketing and PR? By following these expert tips developed from years of running social media accounts for businesses.
Understand your social media platforms
Do you know your LinkedIn from your Facebook, or your Snapchat from your Instagram?
If you’re business is new to using social media for effective PR and marketing purposes, then it is crucial that you understand which social media platforms will work best for you, before you even start using them.
Likewise, it’s important to understand that whilst one business works brilliantly on Instagram, a photography-based platform might not be as effective for your business in the sewerage works industry.
By limiting yourself to platforms that will work for your business, for example, LinkedIn and Twitter, you’ll not only have more time to run them effectively, you will also be able to engage with a more specific target-audience.
Know your target audience
Are you an up and coming music streaming app, ready to take over rivals like Spotify and Deezer? Or are you an SME based in Newcastle opening a new café which specialises in making the best chai tea lattes on your side of the Tyne Bridge?
Through understanding your business, business targets and business goals, you can then develop an understanding of your target audience – and social media is a great tool to do so effectively.
By following and engaging with, for example, cafes that are based across the North East region, residents of the Newcastle area and individuals who can’t make it to the office without a cup of coffee, you can build your business’ target audience with ease.
A great way to do this is through using hashtags and geo-location on Twitter. By searching for hashtags, as an example, #Newcastle and #CoffeeLovers together, you’ll be able to find a select few who both live in the region, love coffee and will likely be interested in your business. Likewise, by using the handy geo-location tool on Twitter, you can find similar businesses to yours in the region and people living in an adjustable radius to your business as well as what accounts they are following to become potential customers or clients.
Put the ‘social’ in social media
Despite sounding obvious, you’ll be surprised how many businesses forget the first rule of social media – it is meant to be social. In comparison to traditional PR, social media allows businesses to have a two way conversation, not just one-way story-telling.
Engaging with your business’ target audience through replying to comments, questions and private messages about your products or services not only means that they’re more likely to invest, but it also can provide the key purpose of effective PR – to build reputation.
When responding to an individual comment on social media, it’s likely that hundreds of others will be able to see your response. By being social and using a friendly, non-business-like manner to engage with your target audience, you are easily and effectively building a positive report.
Have a strategy to manage negative social media
Now that you’re using social media to engage with your target audience on platforms that benefit your business, it should be easy, effective PR, right?
Unfortunately, like all methods of marketing and PR, social media does have its downfalls. One of the most obvious is, of course, negative social media.
Surprisingly, up to 23% of businesses do not have a strategy to manage negative social media, but less surprisingly 26% of the same businesses have a tarnished reputation as a result, leading to a loss in business with its target audience.
So how do you manage negative social media? Isn’t it easier to just delete a bad review, a rude comment or an aggressive message? The correct answer is, and it may surprise you, never.
By maintaining the first rule of social media, to be social, and responding to all of your comments, questions and personal messages when possible, you will maintain the positive reputation you have built through using social media. By using a calm, professional and polite manner to respond (yes, even to the rudest and most personal messages) you will automatically have the upper-hand, and your target audience will respect that.
Build your brand
So what have you achieved by using social media for your business, asides from the traditional purposes of PR? You’ve successfully built a brand.
Although your business will have undoubtedly had a brand since your business first opened, by using social media you have communicated your brand to not only a specific target audience, but the rest of the online world.
As there were over 2.34 billion social media users worldwide in 2016, a figure which is expected to rise throughout this year, social media is truly crucial to mastering modern effective marketing and PR strategy, something we practice daily here at our marketing agency Newcastle.
Can you add to our tips of how to use social media effectively for marketing and PR purposes? Let us know @HarveyandHugo!