Social media marketing across the world has come a long way from being chaotic disruptions of ideas to being integral part of brand management. Organisations now have designated teams of social media experts for designing campaigns to ensure healthy digital brand presence. In India, with the dynamic digital landscape of business communications through innumerable social media marketing strategies, PR is yet to make its mark in the digital communication space.
PR professionals in India may still have newspaper clippings, online stories and client testimonials to their credit. However, this is ceasing to satisfy the appetite of social media stakeholders who would rather keep track of an online thread than read the newspaper article. This is due to its direct impact on business deliverables/objectives of social media communication apart from digital image management. PR professionals have an opportunity to transform their skills and take over the social media space as one of their newly acquired skills eventually adding value to clients.
The effectiveness of a PR campaign can be measured in many ways than one could have imagined a decade ago. Flash back into that era – Business leaders evaluated results/value-add of a PR campaign merely by number of newspaper clippings that were published in various media sources. Today, with online presence, strategically placed blogs, timely tweets, service case studies and testimonials posted on an online-active-industry-forum is set to yield results that make a direct impact to the business and sales targets. Simply put, you have an ocean of opportunities to explore and reach out to your target audience with the right tools. Clearly, PR when integrated with social media tools can improve the efficiency in reaching out to a larger audience or specific localised group depending on the campaign objective.
Enough has been said about the importance of integrating social media into our current marketing plans, however, a mere online presence does not define the efficacy of a plan. Social media engagement, like any other marketing plan needs sustained strategic, periodic placement of credible content that echoes the company’s overall marketing or PR goals. PR professionals particularly have an opportunity to be at the helm of social media campaigns given the content expertise and understanding the marketing nuances of messaging that connects with the audience. Building an effective social media plan designed around SEO driven content with a clear understanding of brand is a battle half won – the client need not look any further to enhance their social media campaign management. PR teams have the content at their disposal at any given time which can be leveraged to get mileage for the client’s recent branding activity including the latest newsworthy pieces. It is imperative for PR professionals to be on top of everyday evolution in the digital PR space by learning new tricks and being more experimental in deriving measurable outcomes. For example, if you are handling a client in travel and tourism, your social media plan could be based on promoting the key features of the brand through travel blogs. Similarly, for the tech space, initiating a discussion on a professional networking site and connecting with the technology experts and journalists can go a long way in getting your brand visibility.
Now that we are convinced about the impact that social media communication can have on PR, let’s look into few ways to tap this space effectively:
Tailor made brand communication
Understanding the brand’s business and reach of social media platform is the key to make an impact through content. A social media presence does not mean posting the same linear message across all the available platforms irrespective of their reach to your audiences. Few platforms are designed for B2B communication where the tone of the message is more formal (E.g. – LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs) whereas other social platforms are designed in B2C set-up for simple and informal messaging paving the way for creative content writing. (E.g. – Facebook, WeChat, Twitter, Blogs)
If your communication objective is to increase client base, business development, recruitment or attract more brand visibility among other players, a B2B platform will help derive results and also influence your brand positioning. On the other hand, if your key result area is to focus on increasing customer base, brand promotion or to drive sales, then your platform of choice will be B2C.
Influencers in social media such as subject matter experts like journalists/writers from various online publications, bloggers and groups that are dedicated to a specific area of discussion play a major role in brand promotion and affirming credibility of messaging. Participating in discussions with them can foster healthy connections thereby paving way for opportunities in brand recognition.
These influencers can either talk about your product or service or mention a note about your next business plans. This is a sure shot way to reach out to your audience with the information you want to disseminate. Identifying influencers and connecting with them with relevant content can result in healthy online discussion. E.g. – Online review platforms like TripAdvisor, Celebrity Bloggers, and Tech-Bloggers etc.
Visuals and images:
It is clichéd but still relevant to say – “A picture says a thousand words”. The digital world has made image sharing easier than what we could have imagined a decade ago. With smartphones, disposable data and the evolution of internet has enabled us to share an image at any given time, date and venue at any given platform. However, a SEO driven content with images will make the message more viewable. Secondly, the image which is tagged with relevant keywords will only drive your message higher up the search results. Videos and podcasts when published along with your blogs and posts will only add value to the content. Videos can also serve as a great learning platform if it is about technology or product demo or simple brand promotion. E.g. –YouTube, Podcasts, webcasts, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+
Finally, with all these ideas in our mind, the first step towards social media PR is to take the leap and experiment! For the ever-changing technology and its impact on communication, concluding with Darwin’s quote on evolution only seems apt: “It is not the strongest of species that survive, not the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”