Social Media’s Place in PR

December 3, 2010

Our reliance on social media is increasing rapidly, drastically changing the way people communicate and receive information. PR practitioners are encouraging organizations to use new social media to promote themselves, and while this is often beneficial, here are five things an organization should consider before implementing social media:

  • What does the organization want to achieve through the use of social media?
    Social media is incredibly popular, but an organization shouldn’t be using it just for the sake of using it. Organizations should outline a specific list of goals before deciding to use social media.
  • What forms of social media are appropriate?
    Using any and all forms of social media to promote a single organization is unsuccessful. All social media serve slightly different purposes, and an organization must determine which one(s) are appropriate.
  • How will the organization determine if its social media implementation was successful?
    The organization must find ways to measure their social media-related success, whether it is by tracking sales, monitoring the number of tweets, reading blog comments, etc.
  • How will the organization incorporate user feedback?
    The organization should know ahead of time how it plans on using the information that social media can deliver to improve its image.
  • Does the organization have staff willing to devote time to social media?
    The organization must consider the amount of time and effort it takes staff to maintain active social media sites and determine whether it is worth the extra commitment.

All of those points considered, an organization that uses social media well is RoadID, which makes identification bracelets and gear for outdoor athletes so that they can be easily identified in the event of an emergency. RoadID uses social media to achieve more than just sales—the RoadID Facebook page has many fans that post on the wall and share their experiences. The maintainer of the Facebook and Twitter pages posts information about sporting events, outdoor sports news, and contests in which RoadID loyalists can win prizes. RoadID also has a Youtube channel that features the stories of athletes whose lives have been saved by wearing RoadIDs during an accident. The success of RoadID’s social media campaign relies on the fact that the organization truly understands their audience and its interests.

However, it is easy for organizations to fall victim to social media. Nestlé recently crumpled under the social media’s pressure when Greenpeace accused it of using palm oil from organizations that support deforestation. In early 2010 Greenpeace released a Youtube video that related the consumption of a KitKat to the death of an orangutan. Nestlé demanded that the video be taken down. When people posted negative comments on the Nestlé Facebook wall and sent insulting tweets, Nestlé attacked them, failing to provide any kind of solution or put a positive spin on the situation. Nestlé also demanded that Greenpeace supporters remove anti-Nestlé images they were posting as profile pictures. While Nestlé eventually overcame the crisis, its improper use of social media only served to hinder its main goals.




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