Within the last 5 years, social media has taken off more than anyone could have ever expected. Platforms such as MySpace and Bebo eventually gave way to today’s big 6 – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube and TikTok. Social media was initially created to connect with friends that aren’t nearby and has quickly turned into what us humans spend on average around three hours and 15 minutes of their day glued to, according to The Guardian – that is nothing compared to my social media usage!
For most people, and certainly most millennials, social media and smartphones are almost an addiction, something you can’t be without and regularly need your ‘fix’ of. I read article on the BBC’s website that the endless scroll of social media and the pulling down motion we do with our fingers to refresh an app is designed to give the same feeling as using a slot machine and so we keep scrolling until we find something that gives us that dopamine reward…….scary, isn’t it?
However, from a PR and Marketing perspective, this ‘addiction’ is an opportunity to get a brand out there and guaranteed to reach an audience. Social media budgets are increasing year upon year and this isn’t expected to slow down any time soon. With this in mind, I’ve compiled a list of ways that social media has impacted PR forever.
Slide into my DM’s
In Ye Olden times, if really you weren’t happy with a product you bought, you may have considered writing a letter of complaint to the company. Now, all you have to do is send a brand a tweet and most will bend over backwards to come to a solution. You see, a simple tweet bashing a brand has the potential to reach millions of people. If any Twitter user was to search the brand name, the tweet will appear and automatically influence a potential consumer’s decision. Most companies now allow anyone to privately DM (direct message) them in order to solve conflict quickly and privately and many companies now have customer service branches that specifically deal with queries on social media because it is so popular. If your complaint is resolved quickly and the customer is satisfied, you may even tweet to thank the brand, drawing attention to the customer first approach being taken and therefore creating good PR. It’s a win win situation.
Under the influence
Influencers – love them or hate them, they’re here to stay! Whilst this phenomenon is fairly new, it ever growing and now people actually label themselves as ‘influencers’ and make a living from this. Influencers are attractive to PR practitioner’s because they seem more authentic and are perceived to have earned the public’s trust more than a celebrity ever can. Bigger influencers tend to have the stronghold on attractiveness to brands but due to consumers catching on to this mindset, the rise of the ‘micro influencer’ (an individual who labels themselves as an influencer but with a smaller following) is becoming more present. Despite recent laws that have made it compulsory for influencers to put #ad or #gifted in sponsored posts or for products that they have received for free, the influencer is going nowhere and is continuing to evolve.
In the past, communication was a one-way street, where companies put out content and customers had no public avenue to easily interact with or respond to distributed content. Now, for better or worse, customers engage with brands and their content by leaving comments, sharing, and “liking.” This also helps brands know how effective content and ads are in reaching the masses, and boosting visibility, as opposed to the past where the effect of commercials and newspaper ads could only be measured in sales. Setting up business pages allows those controlling them to actually see real statistics on how many people a post has reached and how many of those have further engaged with the page as a result of a post.
PR here, there and everywhere
Traditionally, PR was reserved for highly established brands with plenty of money to spend. Now, social media enables brands to create content every day and constantly monitor their image. It’s easier than ever to reach a wide audience, and can cost next to nothing if a brand decides to do their own PR. However, small brands have a lot to take care of, especially at the beginning, and the world of PR and how to take a professional approach can be a lot for someone to take in who does not have the experience. Therefore, if possible, it is best to bring a PR professional in to ensure there are no hiccups.
These are just some ways that social media has completely revolutionised the world of PR, and there are certainly plenty more. One thing is for sure, when I graduate and (hopefully) gain a graduate PR job, my role and my priorities will be miles apart from those who worked in PR even 10 years ago! For this, we have social media and the modern technology focused world to thank.
Amy Hamilton is a final year Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn: Amy Hamilton or on Twitter @amykatehamilton