Many people involved in the South African (and global) social media industry will agree that, if anything, these past few years have taught us a lot about web-based content and copywriting, online communities and networks, and marketing and communications on the internet. We have also seen how numerous companies, both locally and abroad, find value in social media initiatives.
However, a problem that is becoming more and more apparent is that many new and traditional professionals are still trying to see how social media, including blogs, can honestly help companies and their bottom line (which, quite frankly, is what it’s all about). And here’s the truth …
Social media is not the most effective advertising mechanic.
*A loud cheer I hear from all the ATL agencies.* Hold your horses!
What I can say is that social media works very well as a public-relations tool. Yes, social media can have an impact on a company’s marketing and sales funnel, but that is not its main, direct strength.
You see, as Lee from TopRankBlog states, social media, amongst other things, is about gaining insight into one’s target market, building brand visibility and improving authority, and influencing and promoting a product and/or service. This pairs well with my own thoughts that social media is an effective channel for companies to create interest and trust, improve brand support and loyalty, and most importantly, communicate clearly, regularly and honestly. This too is probably one of corporate communications’ main tasks within corporate business, and who does PR better than a PR agency?
So, why use social media for PR? Well, let’s agree on one thing — traditional PR isn’t going anywhere. In fact, I personally don’t want it to go anywhere as many of my previous and current successes have been through PR collaborations. That said, social media is also not going anywhere. So, how do the two work hand-in-hand?
The answer, I think, boils down to integrating social media with traditional PR, in an effort to give it ammunition — and, in an almost harmonic manner, feed the offline strategies to bring a new level of life to public relations. This in turn improves reach, business outcomes and, most importantly, successes, which we’re all (at least, we all should be) accountable for.
So, my suggestion is this: social-media marketing needs a new name. It’s called social-media relations. And it’s not about competing with traditional billboards any more. It’s about getting the message across to the right people and harnessing the impact that these people and their influence will have.