The Role of Social Media in Public Relations

While PR teams used to rely on press releases and media outlets to connect with their target audiences, social media’s integration into people’s daily lives has made the public more accessible than ever before.

Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication notes that “as both PR and social media are used to build and maintain trust in the company and their products, it is only natural that the two must be in sync.” Unsurprisingly, social platforms have become valuable tools that are essential to communications teams’ ability to increase brand awareness and perceived authenticity with their target audience.

Why is Social Media Important for Public Relations?

Social media is an important tool for PR because it allows you to reach audiences that previously may have been difficult to interact with. With social media, the world is quite literally at your fingertips. Among this population, industry influencers are an indispensable resource that can help your team communicate key messages and lend weight to them, whether via reach or credibility. In addition, social measurement tools can help you assess the impact of your campaigns and fine-tune your strategy.

How to Use Social Media to Support Your PR Strategy

To effectively use social media to support your PR strategy, you must define your goals. Start broad by first determining your overarching objective. Then develop questions such as:

  • What niche do you occupy in your industry?
  • How can you distinguish yourself from your peers and competitors?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • Which platforms does your target audience engage with most?
  • What kinds of content does your target audience interact with most?

Delving into these questions and defining clear answers will help you to build a solid foundation to work from. The answers to these questions provide a guideline that you can use to ensure you are working towards your overarching goals as you explore the minutiae of how to do so.

Understand Your Target Audience

While having a large target audience may seem beneficial, it’s more effective to have a narrow and specific description of your target audience. Creating a buyer persona – a detailed profile of your ideal consumer – is one way to do this. Referring to a buyer persona helps to map out the platforms and content that will be most effective in attracting your desired audience. The best way to collect this information is with reliable data and social media analytics. As Business News Daily suggests, “use data to learn about and target your customers based on characteristics such as location, language, and interests.”

Having a focused understanding of your target audience prevents the potential pitfall of spreading your resources too thin or having juxtaposed messaging intending to appeal to various groups of people. The latter of which can appear inconsistent to audiences and confuse your brand messages.

Engage with Influencers

Before the rise of social media, communications teams would have to call media outlets to pitch a story. Now, social media influencers have become a driving force in transmitting messages to target audiences, with research showing that 63% of consumers trust influencers over a brand’s in-house advertisers. In addition to the benefit of effectively reaching audiences that would otherwise be difficult to reach, they also lend authority to messages. Third-party influencers add to message credibility because they are often deemed as subject matter experts by the media.  

Engage with Journalists

Regularly engaging with influencers, especially journalists, can help create genuine relationships that will continue to aid you over time. As Michelle Mekky of Mekky Media Relations explains, Twitter is an excellent tool to use for reaching out to journalists because they “are online for the sole purpose of interacting with the public.”

When identifying journalists, dig into specifics that will help you increase your chances of a beneficial partnership. Decide which outlets fit best with your brand and the journalists from those outlets who regularly write about topics relevant to your industry. You can also scan their Twitter feeds for an indication of the types of stories they engage with to gauge whether you are on the right path.

With this information, you can cater to their interests when reaching out. If your goals and interests appear to align, write a concise message to grab their attention. As Twitter consists of short, fast-paced Tweets, it’s best to comply with those expectations even when messaging someone.

Create a Brand Guideline

Consistency when building brand awareness is the key to establishing familiarity with your audience. Posting social content on a regular schedule and communicating in ways that encapsulate your brand are crucial steps for increasing that brand awareness. Create a brand guideline to help define your brand and establish a point of reference to ensure you have a consistent tone of voice across your social media activity, the nuances of which may differ depending on which platform you are posting. Remember that consistency is what ultimately reinforces your brand. 

Fine-Tuning Your Strategy

Social media is an ever-changing landscape, and you can expect trial-and-error as you find your footing. Knowing what doesn’t work can be just as helpful as knowing what does, and so it’s important to be objectively aware of every failure and success. Using reliable data is essential to assess the impact of your strategy and can help you achieve objectivity. 

At PublicRelay, we can help PR teams assess the impact of their strategy for improving brand sentiment and awareness. With our unique human-AI hybrid approach, we analyze your social, traditional, and broadcast media coverage and provide you with actionable insights to inform your PR strategy. In addition to pinpointing key industry influencers and highlighting the discussions circling your brand, PublicRelay can provide you with both a bird’s-eye-view and an up-close examination of the details. Click here to learn more. 

ARTICLE AUTHOR
Farhana Chowdhoury

Farhana Chowdhoury

Media Analytics Account Manager
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