In my most recent post, I introduced the concept of being a "sponge" in regards to social media. Basically, one should absorb as much information as he or she can and squeeze out that which doesn't resonate with personal opinions. I know there is an information-overload when it comes to social media -- everyone wants to have a hand in the revolution and prove their expertise to clients and other professionals.
I do not wish to be considered a front-runner in the movement. First, I am far too humble. Second, I am learning with the rest of you. Still, I have to add my two-cents.
This is the first of a three-part series entitled, "Social Media For PR Purposes." I reiterate that there are more than three practical uses of social media as it relates to the practice of public relations. I simply hold a few above the rest in importance and usefulness.
#1 - Monitoring public opinion / Gaging impact
Simply having a presence in the social media realm does NOT constitute strategy or effective communication. First of all, any kind of marketing requires a high level of observation -- social media is certainly no exception. In fact, social media provides marketers with more observation/research/analysis capabilities and opportunities than anything witnessed in the recent past. The many sites on the Web -- and there are TONS -- afford marketers, especially PR pros, the ability to identify customers and where they choose to acquire information.
Brian Solis is a leader of this school of thought. His blog constantly reminds us of the traditional, PR fundamentals new media offers practitioners. The basic principles of PR are unchanged. In many ways, this new medium just makes it easier to accomplish our objectives. Solis states that we should listen then participate -- good advice many overlook or refuse to acknowledge.
These misguided individuals believe having profiles on Facebook and accounts on Twitter constitutes being "involved" with social media. They are in for a rude awakening. First, you must listen. You must ask yourself numerous questions before engaging with audiences.
Where are relevant conversations taking place? Who's participating? What are they saying? What information are they looking for? What are their behavior patterns? What are their conceptions? These are all questions one must ask before attempting to participate.
Participation comes after interpretation.
The sheer magnitude and volume of these sites requires significant time and examination. But that is not all I mean when I say social media should be used for monitoring purposes. More than anything, PR pros should focus on gaging public opinion, understanding conceptions, realizing concerns, and listening to what their audiences are saying about their company or client.
Social media sites provide us with a wealth of information about those we wish to encounter and influence right at our fingertips. Twitter's existence allows us to actually "listen" to consumers/stakeholders/etc. in real-time. Blogs give our audience an audience. But we must not be scared of this viral revolution. We must embrace it and realize the many benefits it offers the field of communications. Social media is all about communication. It is a medium for people to communicate with each other. PR pros just need to listen to the conversations, define the problem, and then engage in the coveted two-way communication.
Once we understand the monitoring capabilities of social media, we can move further and use the new medium for other basic PR principles/purposes -- which we will discuss in parts 1 and 2 of "Social Media For PR Purposes."