June 14, 2011 3 Comments
“Who owns social media? Who should own social media? Should it be PR? No, it should be marketing.” The debate has been going on since prehistoric times (that’s 2004 and onwards).
Marketing should, obviously, since social media is all about collecting consumer information from a captive community. Right? Wrong, says Andrew Bloch in “Why Social Media should control the conversation”: “PR should be at the forefront of managing and shaping brand presences on social media for the reason our business is about seeking third-party endorsement and conversation“.
In “Who Owns the Social Conversation. And Does it Actually Even Matter” Digigen argues that ownership doesn’t really matter: “there is no need for one person, one agency type to own the conversation. [...] There are so many different elements of social that each agency can find its own field and adapt. There are some great modern PR exponents of this [...] But then there are some great creatives who understand what can drive social conversation.”
And, in their excellent post “Why PR Should Always Be Part of the Social Media Conversation“, Epic PR write that “PR does not have to control all aspects of social media, but a communications professional should always at least be involved in the conversation.” And this for three reasons: “PR people know how to answer the tough questions [...] The Media are connecting more on social media than ever and [...] (Social media are) still about communications and should never be thinly disguised marketing”.
The many uses of social media
A large part of the problem of ownership is due to the overlapping goals of a presence on social network such as Facebook or Twitter:
- On the one side, marketing, has evolved to a real-time interaction with community members and extracting precious focus-group like information from the interaction.
- On the other, PR teams are able to spread information and corporate messages, starting conversations around them, being at the source of all information about their companies and clients, and increasing the likelihood of articles being published on these topics.
Naturally, the two cannot and should not be separated. But, as Epic PR state, PR should always be involved in social media and particularly for online reputation management.
3 ways social engagement will help your online reputation
Spreading your news on social media and answering questions from your community will help in three major ways:
- It prevents rumour. Rumour is worse than bad news and gets amplified rather than simply spread. By being at the source of all information for your company or clients, you make sure this does not happen. Once your message gets out, it will be commented upon, perhaps very negatively, but you can then engage in conversation to share your side of the story. This is far more difficult if you are trying to stop something that didn’t emanate from you in the first place.
- It makes you a worthwhile source of information. If all important information on your business and products comes from you, people will come back for more. Not only that, but any out of line messaging by detractors will more likely happen on your ground (your Facebook page, for instance) than somewhere else much more difficult to monitor and catch very early. The earlier you intercept bad news, the more likely you are to stop it and at a much lower cost.
- It increases the chances of journalists writing about you. This is a double bonus. First of all, articles that contain correct messaging have been shown to be far less negative in tone than those where the corporate message has not been understood. Secondly, online articles containing links to your website increase your visibility in search engines, thereby making your side of the story more visible than your detractor’s.
The key successful use of social media is to provide engaging content. As Andrew Bloch puts it “Bolt-on content created to show, not to share, is never going to work”. It is also key to include social media in a broader communication plan aiming at traditional media : while it is true that some stories are picked up on social media (particularly on Twitter), then published in traditional media it is more often the case that social media is tweeting & updating about news published traditionally.
What are your thoughts? Is your PR team having its fair share of social media time?
Creative commons image by martin.canchola.