If your experience with PR comes primarily from TV and movies, your first thought to the title question might be, “definitely not!” However, when you look at the situation a little closer, you see that social media marketing is merely public relations in an updated and improved form. First you must realize that public relations is not necessarily what you’ve seen on TV. It always seems like PR firms and reps are sweeping into action only when there’s a crisis, but this is far from the truth.
Instead, a good public relations company operates in the background, when they’re really good people might not even know they exist at all. So let’s talk more about the close ties between social media and PR. The core of public relations is all about managing the relationships between your company or agency and the public that are directly interested in it, your target audience. There are a number of ways PR firms approach this relationship, including (but not limited to), finding earned media, direct communication with existing and potential customers, addressing concerns with products and services, new product promotion, new service promotion, and new market promotion. When you put all of this together, it creates a strategy that established positive relationships with long term customers.
Social Media as a Tool for Communication
The reason that PR and social media marketing are intrinsically tied is because a lot of public relations can be managed via social media these days. Think about it for a minute, where is most of the discussion about products, services, and brands taking place these days? If you answered “online” then you’re correct. Never before have companies like yours had an opportunity to reach customers in a space like this, you’ve got to make the most of it. Still, I see all sorts of companies, large and small, constantly pitch sales and products on their social media. Some of them have a never-ending stream of ads, and they may have followers but I can assure you they aren’t getting all that much value out of this.
Instead, you should be using social media to start a conversation, to share content that your audience will find useful and interesting, and to address any concerns your general public might have. Social media management and marketing is simply another form of public relations.
Finding the Right Partner
Social media tends to be one of those things that a lot of companies think they can handle on their own. Perhaps you already have a PR firm working for you, and they don’t handle social media. Does it seem like hiring a social media company would just be an added expense? Well – it would be, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hire them. If you’re working with a PR agency that isn’t active on social media, you should reconsider your partnership. You need a team that is up to date and ready to work it today’s market, not one that existed 30 years ago.
Search around your area for social media marketers and see what you find. Chances are, these companies will address PR straightaway. They know what they’re doing and they do it well – as long as you go with the right firm. Look out for huge promises and unrealistic plans though, there are plenty of folks out there just looking to make a buck off the social media boom.
One of the biggest things I tell companies to look into is a social media agency’s track record and history. You absolutely must look at examples of their prior work before jumping on board. You’ve got to be sure that they can really improve things for you and make a difference to your business.
Doing it Yourself
Theoretically, it’s possible to manage your social media and public relations on your own. If you’re a one-man or woman shop, then it might be necessary. But if you’re running a larger operation, it can be tough to find the time. Remember, it’s more than just posting quick updates here and there, you need to be creating quality content and sharing on a regular basis. In other words, you need a plan, it can’t be just an afterthought. Now, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t participate in content creation. You and your team are experts in your field, and it’s a good idea to bring contributions when you can. Still, it’s a good idea to have a partner that oversees the whole process.
Social media marketing success is an achievable goal if you find the right partners and concentrate on making it happen.