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The Social Media Century

Posted At: December 10, 2008 4:11 PM
by Molly McPherson

The world is smaller now as War of the Worlds becomes war of the Web. Social media has created a “media of the masses,” where everyone has the power to make and be the news on a daily basis. With more than 13 to 14 million active blogs (according to BusinessWeek), everyone is more accessible as people all over the world voice their thoughts and opinions to the global audience. The Web is proving to be the final frontier for fields related to communication, such as advertising, telecommunication and, of course, public relations. Who’s keeping up with the trend? What is the effect on public relations? How can you get involved?

Politics & product placement

Social media’s pervasion of society has yielded social media success to groups involved in varying fields, from politics to products.

In the political arena, this past election brought the world into the social media century as candidates used this new media to get their message out. Barack Obama rocked this trend by using Twitter, YouTube, blogs and even Facebook and MySpace to talk to constituents over video, find their concerns with the contacts on networks and send out his message of change by using the changing media trend.

While other candidates like McCain fell behind in social media, other lesser known candidates like Ron Paul used social media as well to get the best coverage for smallest cost. Paul used YouTube and other media to get his message out, but his use of social media took a different approach. Liberty Political Advertising kept Ron Paul on YouTube, Google and blogs by creating the Ron Paul Blimp Web site, where people could donate to keep his message flying. One testimonial from a constituent proves the effect of social media:

“Wow, when I saw the blimp I thought “Ron Who?” I decided I needed to take the advice on the blimp and look him up on Google. So far I am totally amazed. This appears to be the candidate I was waiting for all my life, and a blimp told me about it,” Kristen Henders, a constituent from Maryland said.

The Web has created a new breed of gatekeepers as people read more blogs, so many public relations, marketing and advertising campaigns cater to influential bloggers instead of worrying with costly commercials or press releases that may or may not be used.

For instance, Pepsi’s new design was part of a campaign where the company sent boxes of empty Pepsi cans with older designs and full Pepsi cans with the new design to the top 25 most influential social media users. This campaign was cheap as Pepsi only paid for the cans and postage and got back huge response as the bloggers discussed the new design on their sites, getting instant customer feedback and product buzz.

Social media & the PR process

For the field of public relations, the four-step process of public relations has been updated to include social media to help in public relations campaigns. Social media enables public relations to communicate with accessible priority publics, manage a company’s image, effectively manage crises and more on a much broader scale! Here’s a look at social media’s modification of the four-step public relations process to a practitioner:

1. Research
-Read blogs related to your priority publics to know their thoughts and opinions.
-Establish relationships with leaders in your publics’ fields by commenting on blogs, tweeting with them on Twitter and following their online identity.

2. Planning
-Look at your company’s online image through its Web site and check the information’s timeliness.
-Create ways for people to interact with your company online through Twitter, YouTube and social networks and manage these accounts to let your publics know they can reach you.
-Consistently follow blogs of influential social media users so you have a personal connection if you want to do a social media release with their help.

3. Implementation
-Create a social media release or Twitpitch to influential social media users.
-Let your publics know of your new campaign from your different accounts and be accessible and responsive for their feedback.

4. Evaluation
-Conduct online surveys that are easier for your publics to respond to.
-React quickly when they respond; Immediate feedback is a blessing and a curse, so be prepared.

Tips of the trade

Social media provides great opportunity to public relations practitioners as everyone is on the World Wide Web. The best thing for people to do to keep up is get involved and test it for themselves. Read blogs, Twitter feeds and online magazines and newspapers to keep up with the latest information on the Internet for the news and for social media tips. Attend Webinars or Web conferences about social media to help with any gray areas. Learn from the best by looking at how top companies are using social media. Finally, get out there and create your own online identity on Twitter and blog sites to become a part of the social media century for yourself.


For a more in-depth perspective of social media’s impact on the practice of public relations and specific tools, be sure to read “Social Media in Our Changing World: The Tools.”

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