3 Tips for Using Social Media as a Public Relations Tool

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You may have been in the PR field long enough to remember pre-digital PR, when it was a more straightforward discipline. Now, social media has found its way into nearly all corporate communications, seemingly turning traditional media into a thing of the past. Although traditional media is still important, when the two are paired together, something even more powerful is created.

Getting started with social media

Having an understanding of social media, SEO and digital content creation is essential for maximizing the success of PR campaigns. However, the 2016 Digital PR and Communications report by the Public Relations and Communications Association found that 53 percent of agency staff said they required more training in digital/social media.

In contrast, their 2016 annual report found that digital and social media was one of the top five duties amongst PR professionals. Having basic digital skills is no longer simply an asset in PR, but is increasingly a requirement.

Social media is changing the future of PR whether we like it or not. This is why having the skills required to meet new challenges the medium provides has never been more important.  The following three tips will help you maximize your social media strategy and integrate the medium with your traditional PR practices

Fully integrate social media with traditional PR
In an increasingly social world, social media is inextricably intertwined with nearly everything, public relations included. Amy Howell, PR expert and author of Women in High Gear, warns against thinking that PR and social media are separate entities. “Social media does not replace traditional media,” she says, “traditional media is still very important when paired with social media, it’s even more powerful.”

Nearly 65 percent of all PR departments are responsible for the social media presence of their companies. This means that the integration of traditional and digital media is not just a philosophical debate, it is a reality for much of the PR world.

Sebastian Meyer, Social Media Manager for the BYU Universe, says that keeping up to date on social media technologies and frequently measuring the effectiveness of digital and traditional tactics to communicate your message can give you the best control of your PR message. Using this method, you can leverage social media into something profitable.

Hyper-localized PR messaging
When targeting an audience on Facebook, you can use multiple parameters to define your audience, like behavior, education, interests and connections. However, Facebook also allows you to target by zip code area, along with other traditional parameters, like gender and age. Twitter and Google offer similar targeting options as well.

Before the mass-adoption of social media, targeting with such precision was not possible. This level of precision allows for more sophisticated and efficient PR campaigns. You can now leverage segmentation tools on social media platforms as a tactic within a PR campaign. Facebook makes it especially easy to understand your audience through their audience profile analytics, which is available to anyone with a Facebook Ads account. The feature allows you to search a demographic, and Facebook will produce specific features of your public to help you better reach them.

Hyper-localized PR messaging can be especially helpful when planning an event for a client. Advertisements can be made through social media to target people directly in the area or other audiences who could have an interest in attending.

Utilize social media analytics.
By nature, social media platforms lend themselves well to data analytics. Not only do most platforms come with their own analytical tools, such as Twitter Analytics and Facebook Analytics, but there is also a wide range of third-party tools available, such as Sproutsocial and Hootsuite. These are ideal for monitoring progress.

The analytic-friendly nature of social media will translate across to PR, which will become even more data-driven, as PR firms use data analytics to inform future campaigns and improve current ones.

By using data analytics tool, PR professionals can create more successful campaigns. During Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, a heavy focus was placed on data analytics. This helped determine how campaign messages were resonating with different audiences.

The use of social media analytics is also heavily linked to hyper-localized messaging. In the Obama campaign, data was successfully gathered through Facebook, which allowed the delivery of messages to micro-targeted audiences.

Put it into practice
While social media is changing the way we practice PR, it doesn’t have to make it more difficult. In fact, social media, when paired with traditional media, opens up new opportunities to reach audiences and disseminate messages.

So, put these tips into practice and see how strategic social media use can become the best complement to traditional PR.

Written by Madison Austin

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