There are many benefits to using social media, many of them evident in the companies who are taking the time and making the effort. (For companies who may not be giving social media the attention it needs, benefits may not be seen as often.) So while the success of social media in your PR plans relies heavily on your output, it also depends on how well it fits into your PR mix.
What is social media? It is the new media that PR and other business professionals now deal with in order to reach their buyers and target markets. Instead of needing to go through other media, like newspapers and TV, companies can create that relationship with the public themselves. Social media can include things like blogs, forums, wikis, & social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and foursquare.
There are a few things to consider when thinking of implementing social media. You can ask yourself the following questions:
- Will your target market and current and future buyers benefit from your use of social media? If the answer to this is “no”, it may not be worth your time to implement one or more aspects of social media. Your use of the tools mentioned above needs to benefit the buyer just as much as it should benefit you, the company. However the industry we are in (proprietary education) focuses on a target demographic of men and women age 18-34. This happens to be the largest demographic represented on social media platforms.
- Will you reach your target market and current and future buyers with your social media efforts? Again, if the answer is “no”, your time might be better spent on other PR activities. This question addresses where your target market and buyers get their information. If they are predominantly offline, social media may not benefit or reach the bulk of your market, and small, marginal results may be seen. Evaluate where your time should be spent.
- Will you use the medium consistently and frequently? Social media is not something that can really be done “half-time”; your results will only be half as good as you would like them to be. To really feel the benefits or social media and to see a return on your investment (of time and resources), you need to ensure that your output equals the input you hope to see.
- Why are you thinking of using social media? If your answer here is to advertise your brand, product, and services, social media is not for you. It is meant to be a tool to engage your audience, target market, and buyers, not to sell to them. (That’s what advertising is for…) Instead, use these tools to share with them things of value like information on your industry, answers to questions, etc.
Be sure that you’re also aware of the results you may see if you do use social media, but do so improperly (as it pertains to your company). You can not only lose out on potential buyers (or donations, votes, whatever you’re trying to get), but you can even tarnish your brand. Customers may not remember you if you do everything the same as everyone else, but doing it poorly usually stands out in their minds. While social media is easy to use, implement, and cost effective, know the reasons you want to use them, the sort of commitment you can make, and the results you hope to see.