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Social (Media) Butterflies

Posted At: January 1, 2008 9:59 AM
PR is going online…along with everybody else

by Christine Palma and Alexandra Weaver

“I friended him on Facebook.”
“She blogged about it last week.”
“Did you check out that podcast?”
“Yeah, it’s on YouTube.”
“I MySpaced her.”
“We were Twittering.”

Five years ago, these phrases may have seemed like a foreign language. Today, however, the social media revolution is pervading our lives and even our vocabulary.

As people living in a digital world, we are trying to figure out what the hype is all about. As PR practitioners, we must learn how to communicate via these new channels.

Social media, at its core, is online content generated by the public, not just experts, journalists or communications officers. Social media allows the reader to become the publisher. This definition comprises many forms of social media.

Social networks are webs of participants that communicate and converse in an online arena. Facebook™, MySpace™ and LinkedIn™ are examples. Between July 2006 and July 2007, Facebook™ experienced a 129 percent increase in active users, according to comScore. Today, they boast of 54 million active users.

Blogs are online web logs produced by people from around the world – expert or not. In 2006, the blogosphere had grown 100 times in three years, and accounted for 50 million blogs, reported Technorati.

Wikis are sites where users can collaborate to develop content, like the infamous Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia featuring content generated and edited by various users. The Pew Internet & American Life Project reported that 36 percent of adult Americans consult Wikipedia for information.

Technological innovations have also revolutionized digital content. Users can now access streaming video content 24/7. Can’t make it the concert or lecture next week? Listen to the live podcast from your home. According to those who are online media savvy, “the world is flat,” simply meaning that individuals interested in participating in a conversation are no longer tied to their geographic limitations.

Obviously, social media is big…and it’s getting bigger. But what does this mean for the PR field?

Social media provides transparency and immediacy for PR practitioners. An organization can’t “hide out” in the online world. Also because the public is demanding news and information every second of the day, timeliness is critical. Act fast or you miss your opportunity.

In addition to transparency, social media has transformed the traditional one-way, one-to-many communication model. Social media enables two-way, many-to-many communication. PR practitioners aren’t merely looking to conventional newspapers and print publications anymore, they are also reaching out to bloggers and online citizen-journalists.

People are setting aside their newspapers and opting for customized RSS news feeds. PR practitioners must tap into these online forums and networks in order to reach the targeted market.

The social media revolution has even birthed a new staple for the PR practitioner’s toolbox: the interactive press release. But PR professionals aren’t the only ones adapting. Traditional mainstream media are changing their models as well. And the PR-editor relationship is evolving right along with these groups.

Platform Magazine seeks to create an online community through an innovative medium and to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and information. Understanding the relationship of social media to public relations is integral to achieving this mission.

So we went to the experts. Meet our outstanding “Who’s Who of Social Media”: John Bell, Paul Gillin, Josh Hallett and Paull Young. These are the professionals who are leading the way. Listen to them. Learn from them.

John Bell: The Man Who Knows the Next Big Thing

Paul Gillin: The New Influencer

Josh Hallett: The Corporate Consultant

Paull Young: Young PR

Also experience watching Kansas State University’s Digital Ethnography video projects with “Social Media in Motion.”

Social Media in Motion


How do you learn more about social media news and innovations? What are your favorite online resources?

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