Twitterbook and YouFace, Tools or Traps?

So far in this three part blog series I have explored both the capacity of Social Media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to increase the scope of a complaint against an organisation, and the range of video sharing sites such as YouTube to increase an organisation’s reach to their consumer base. In this final post I plan to explore the overall threats and benefits to an organisation posed by social media in general.

A four hundred word conclusion if you will.

Initially we focused on the threats to retail if the power of social media is ignored when it comes to customer complaints. We looked into the complaints handing process from corporate giants such as Kmart when an individual customer posts an issue on their page, and indeed the capacity for a business to track complaints even when they are shared privately.

Secondly we focused on the benefits to an organisation when using social media sites such as YouTube when promoting a cause, be it a small and underfunded organisation based around Smokers’ rights, or a larger well established corporation such as AGL Energy.

Now it is time to take a more macro view on Social Media as a tool for both advertisers and PR professionals.

From an Advertising point of view Social Media is an invaluable tool, for all companies alike. It is a well known fact that social media sites track your usage and browsing habits in order to tailor an advertising experience to you as an individual. My newsfeed, for example, is perpetually filled with a curious mixture of advertisements for sales seminars, book sales and Russian Mail order brides. This compilation of advertisements comes about as a result of extensive data mining on behalf of Facebook and my browsing history in general, and the ads are carefully selected through specially built algorithms in order to persuade me to get clicking and start buying.

From a Public Relations viewpoint Social Media poses both a threat and a tool. Social media can be used as a key part of the complaints handling process, as well as providing a valuable ‘face’ for the organisation. A business Facebook page is a face and a personality for a business and also provides a reason for businesses to become more community minded. The capacity for an incriminating photograph to ‘go viral’ via social media is just as much of a threat as the capacity for a well designed campaign to do the same is a tool.

A key example of a company failing to live up to community standards is the following picture, which is currently featuring on hundreds if not thousands of pages and newsfeeds around the world.

Found at: http://www.abc.net.au/reslib/201405/r1274139_17194902.jpg

In an event such as the one featured above a company can have their image damaged almost irreparably. Due to this Social Media is of definite benefit to consumers, who can now easily keep tabs on their favourite organisations. However, due to this Social Media campaigns are also a valuable tool to practitioners, as if the public are watching their every move it is much easier to use narrative to promote a brand, or to appeal to the emotions of their viewers to promote an event.

The future of Public Relations may be uncertain, with new challenges, tools and threats developing continuously, however it is certain that Social Media is not a fad that will vanish with time, and immediate communication around the globe is now considered a necessity by a large number of people. With communication becoming ever more public, and at the same time increasingly efficient, PR practitioners will have to learn to embrace social media and consistently use it to their advantage.

I believe that as companies become more and more aware of the power of social media the days of part-time online PR managers typing an explosive rant to customers are numbered, and the days of 24hour PR teams manning social media sites for instant communication with any customer, anywhere, are beginning.


Matthew Bullers




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