It’s easy to view social media as a separate entity, rather than an extension of the existing PR effort. It can even be seen as an inconvenience, a drain on time when there are more important things to be getting on with.
However, to take this approach is to miss out on all the opportunities social media can bring, like finding out how your product or brand is really perceived and being able to keep an eye on your competitors’ activities. Coverage in the press can be pushed out on social channels too, raising awareness of the brand to a whole new audience – who will hopefully share the content among their own networks in turn, leading to the information being spread far and wide.
Getting to grips with analytics tools means you can gain valuable insights into consumer behaviour, and this helps to develop future PR campaigns.
But which social networks to go for? There are so many to choose from, such as image and video-sharing platforms: Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube, or new kid on the block, Google+. But let’s look at the big two – Facebook and Twitter – and how being active on these channels can benefit your brand building PR campaigns.
Twitter offers a continual stream of posts of up to 140 characters from any one of the 500+ million registered users. Unless you opt for a private account, anyone can read what you write, so it’s an excellent way of finding out what people are really thinking about a personality, brand, product or campaign.
A good way to do this is to look for hashtags, a symbol like this # which people use as a shorthand for their content. So it might be on a brand like #Heinz, or maybe it’ll be an acronym for a conference like #IWE2013. Integrating these hashtags into your print, radio and TV campaigns will enable people to quickly find your messages and encourage them to tweet about your product.
Using a social media management tool like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck allows you to set up monitoring systems on your desktop or tablet. Tweets are then automatically loaded into neat columns that are easy to track, post and engage with followers. You can track hashtags and keywords relating to your brand so you can see the context in which they’re being mentioned. Hopefully positive!
In the event of a negative tweet about your brand or a crisis, avoid a hasty response. Think about your reputation and craft a helpful response. If you post a ‘bad’ tweet, you can delete it afterwards but by the time you take that decision to do so, the story will be all over the internet and you have no control over the situation, as La Fitness and Burger King have found in recent PR crises. Taking time to pause and think through an issue will help you avoid big problems further down the line!
With over 1 billion users, Facebook dwarfs all other social media channels. Being such a great platform for sharing image and video content as well as text means that there are lots of opportunities to get potential customers to interact with your brand
Coca-Cola are masters of this – asking fans to send in pictures of them with an iconic bottle of Coke wherever they are in the world. Or making cover photos available to download so they can get their branding right at the top of their fans’ pages.
For real viral effect you want people to like, comment and share the content you post. This makes it visible in the newsfeed of everyone they’re connected to. So think about “teasing” with your content, asking questions, and going for really strong images which grab attention.
Like any social network, Facebook offers a platform for valuable feedback about your brand – but sometimes this feedback can be critical or plain offensive. Keep a close eye out for this, but don’t be too quick to leap in if there is a problem.
As with Twitter, it can be best to pause and think it through before deleting comments or writing a huffy riposte, which can quickly escalate into something much worse. A well-managed page where people enjoy interacting with you as a brand will mean there are plenty of advocates out there who will stick up for you and shout down the naysayers!