It pays to know how to use social media for PR. After all, public relations and social media go hand-in-hand. They’re both used to establish and maintain trust in a business or company, brand, or persona and the products they are affiliated with. With almost everyone in each generation, from Boomers to Gen X, in modern society on at least one Social Media platform; be it Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram, the opportunities Social Media presents for Public Relations purposes are endless.
Social Media for PR: What’s the Difference?
The most important differentiation between Social Media and Public Relations is their approach. Social Media is often about influencing sales by being conversational towards their target audience and being relatable on a personal level, whereas Public Relations is a little more corporate. Not that this is a bad thing; a corporate approach is sometimes necessary depending on the task at hand.
Public Relations’ interaction with their content can be passive and one-sided, whereas Social Media’s aim is to engage their target audience and start a conversation. It is Social Media, after all. Social Media content is specifically crafted to evoke a response from both its current followers and a potential new audience.
Another key differentiation is that Social Media is measurable. In the days of Public Relations, a company’s Public Relations representative or team would liaise with journalists, encourage positive press releases, and appear at public events to represent the company in a good light. But they had no way of actively measuring how many people saw their message or engaged with it on any level. You can track newspaper sales, but you cannot track which articles a buyer reads.
Social Media changed all this. Most Social Media platforms have some sort of interaction and engagement measurement system that enables companies to track clicks, views, shares, retweets, comments, you name it.
What’s this got to do with PR?
Public Relations professionals nowadays are missing a fantastic opportunity if they ignore the significant influence Social Media has in our contemporary world.
Social Media breaks down the corporate wall between a business or company and consumer, making for a more human connection. Those who say Social Media has negatively impacted on human interaction could not be further from the truth: we are more connected than ever, and Public Relations professionals are beginning to see this.
A good Public Relations professional acknowledges and understands the role Social Media has in modern consumer culture. A great Public Relations professional utilises this to enhance their business or company’s brand and connect with their target audience on an emotional level. Social Media makes Public Relations more approachable, and emphasises a warm and inviting space to engage with people regardless of a business or company’s serious nature.
How to Use Social Media for PR
Sproutsocial found that people are 57.5% more likely to buy from a brand they follow on Social Media, so its significance cannot be understated.
There three elements of Social Media, regardless of platform, that can be utilised at almost any opportunity, be it product promotion, brand awareness, or events.
Firstly, share share share. Incorporate your Social Media Platforms into your press releases. Share new content on all your platforms. You can also adapt your press release depending on the style of each platform: for example, longer blog posts are great for LinkedIn, whereas an easily digestible infographic or illustration is best for Instagram (you can also provide a linked in the caption to the longer post so your audience has a choice of how they want to engage with your content).
Secondly, instant real-time messaging. This allows Public Relations to be more active and present. It encourages relationship marketing and breaks down the barrier between the everyday consumer and the scary corporate world.
Thirdly, Live Streaming is a fantastic way to engage both established and new audiences. It reinforces the down-to-earth human connection corporations can lack, and it allows spectators watching to send in questions and queries that can be answered live! You can also set up Live Streaming to notify audience members that you are going live so they don’t miss a thing.
Social Media platforms vary in style and there are a multitude of ways you can use this to enhance a company’s PR. Here are the top four:
Facebook & LinkedIn
Creating a Facebook or LinkedIn page for a business or company is a great start. It will enable you to post regular content crafted specifically for Facebook or LinkedIn and share links to a business or company’s website, or even relevant causes your company aligns itself with.
Say you’re a book publisher keen to incorporate authors from under-represented groups such as the LGBTQ+ community or authors of colour. You can share journal articles celebrating up-and-coming authors you support, and share content from other Social Media platforms, such as tweets or Instagram photographs or infographs, which are easy to consume and share.
Facebook and LinkedIn are also full of groups, both private and public, where consumers can openly discuss products from and experiences of a particular business or company. This is a good way to monitor how consumers view the business or company as it is a first-hand account of their experience.
Facebook and LinkedIn also have Professional Services that companies can utilise for maximum optimisation, including calls to action for donations and pledges. These platforms are also great for blogging, and LinkedIn provides unique industry insights and connections may not otherwise achieve through old-fashioned Public Relations.
With its 140-character tweet limit, Twitter is a great place for short announcements, promotions, and updates. Keep this in mind when writing longer texts – write in quotable or ‘tweetable’ sentences that leaves your target audience wanting to know more.
Its hashtag feature is a key way of reaching target audiences and tracking how a company is perceived in the public eye. It can also be a useful tool in Crisis Management. A hashtag can spread quicker than you could imagine, and by monitoring and measuring whether a hashtag related to your business or company is trending, you can quickly establish whether it is for a positive or negative reason, and resolve the issue quickly and efficiently if negative.
Like Facebook and LinkedIn, Twitter is also a great space to connect with businesses and companies who share your attitude and approach. You can show support for them by retweeting or liking their tweets.
Being only ten years old, Instagram is a relatively new Social Media platform, but with 500 million daily active users it is growing fast and showing no signs of stopping.
Like Twitter, Instagram utilises hashtags, allowing for easy audience targeting and engagement measurement. And like Twitter, Instagram is about followers rather than ‘friends’ or ‘connections’. How many followers an Instagram page has is often reflective of how well a brand is known and trusted.
Instagram is all about visuals. Humans are visual creatures and our attention is often given to eye-catching and aesthetically pleasing images, be that other people, products, or easily digestible illustrations or infographs. There are dozens of things a company can share: professional or amateur photographs, screenshots, inspirational quotations, educational videos with tips and tricks relevant to the business, or conversational posts that foster engagement such as ‘Caption this!’ or ‘We love this product for this reason, why do you love it?’
Instagram (and Facebook too) also has daily stories that last for 24 hours. This is a great way to share sneak peaks or promotional material. It is also a fantastic way to share podcast episodes either from the business or company itself (think of The Guardian’s Today in Focus and Football Weekly podcasts) or businesses or companies with attitudes and values aligned with yours.
A great thing for a company to get behind is an Instagram Influencer. Influencers are active Instagram users who have built and maintained an audience through their credibility and authenticity. And they significantly influence consumer behaviour of their followers. An influencer can ruin a business or company by rallying their followers to ‘cancel’ them if they feel they are negative in any way.
Having an Instagram Influencer as a brand representative for your business could drastically increase not only your sales, but the trust your target audience has in you. If your values align with your influencer, then that influencer’s followers are more likely to engage with and buy from you.
A brilliant example of a brand that has employed this tactic is Gymshark, who have brand ambassadors galore on Instagram and have enhanced their image because of it.
Rather than just posting on the company’s official page too, ask your company’s CEO or Co-Founder to share things too! It’s all about breaking down that corporate wall and fostering genuine human interaction and connection.
Go that Extra Mile: The Human Touch
Unlike traditional Public Relations which relied mostly on trusted journalists to enhance their credibility, Social Media enables businesses or companies to go that extra mile by showing how their brand helps humanity on a larger scale beyond their direct consumers.
Fairtrade is a good example. Fairtrade’s goal is to provide better working conditions and improved quality of life for farmers in lower-income and less developed parts of the world. They explain that ‘with Fairtrade you have the power to change the world every day. With simple shopping choices you can get farmers a better deal. And that means they can make their own decisions, control their future and lead the dignified life everyone deserves’.
Businesses and companies who buy ethically from Fairtrade farmers, including Starbucks, the Co-Op, and Ben and Jerry’s, promote Fairtrade Fortnight every year by sharing the positive impact consumers have on these people’s lives by purchasing Fairtrade products on their Social Media platforms. This can be in the form of photography, camera testimonials, graphics, or in-depth interviews.
Emphasising the importance of positively impacting humanity through ethically sourced products is a remarkably powerful way to promote your business or company.
What to Avoid When Using Social Media for PR
While social media might seem awash with opportunities to enhance your public relations, there are also some trappings to avoid.
Spam, spam, spam: Posting too often can be off-putting to followers. If their feed becomes swamped by your content, they aren’t going to see content from other people they follow so they are more likely to unfollow you to resolve the problem. This isn’t what you want! While non-followers can still see targeted sponsored content, they don’t see and engage with your other posts, and it will bring your follower count down, decreasing your brand awareness and credibility. Be aware of how often you are posting, and if you are posting the same type of content over and over again. Audiences are more inclined to scroll past your brand if they’re seeing similar photos all the time or big chunks of text. Mix it up with different content types.
Language: Are you using corporate or intellectual terms your target audience would perhaps find difficult to understand? Slang and jargon can put followers off instantly. The key is to really get to know your audience and adapt your language and writing style to what suits them.
Not being Active enough: While there is a danger of being too active, not being active enough is also a problem. Rarely posting content will not be engaging enough to gain followers and enhance your business’s image. Another danger is not replying to instant messaging. Nowadays users are more comfortable with instant messaging as it takes way the pressure of a fancy, well-written email but if you do not reply to messages from your followers they may think you are either not active at all, or worse, blatantly ignoring their query which could result in a negative outlook on your attitude towards your consumers.
We hope you enjoyed our blog on how to use social media for PR. Check out this animation for more insights!
ProfileTree is a content marketing agency based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. To find out more about PR and how it can transform your business, get in touch with our expert team or subscribe to our blog for more insights.