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Thanks for everything, social media

6/10/2016

Do you remember what community management looked like in the past, before the advent of social media? How about direct marketing? And while we’re at it: audience/market targeting, competitor tracking, increasing traffic to your websites, sharing content with your customers, or even creating and maintaining meaningful relationships with your stakeholders? Me neither!

If you, like me, have never worked in a world where we actually managed these things manually, then you have social media to thank. As a millennial (I’m 24), the world of public relations (PR) as I know it is fundamentally different from the roots of the professional practices that formed it. Social media was seen as a fad when it first started, but it’s safe to say that today it is essential to doing business. No, I’m not just saying this to justify my job; social media has turned the digital team or person into a very important asset in any company — and a critical role player in PR.

Just to jog your memory a bit, here’s a list of just four ways that social media has made doing business better, easier and faster for those of us in the business of relationships and reputation:

Creating and maintaining relationships with stakeholders and customers

Seems like a lifetime ago when creating and maintaining a relationship with customers relied on them coming into a client’s premises, engaging with staff in office or on the phone, and filling in long surveys. Today, all that’s needed is for you, the PR practitioner, to remember to be responsive to the inboxes or DMs — to keep the conversation flowing and manage it closely.

Keeping an eye on your competition

Waiting to read about what how your client’s competitors are doing better than you in the business section of a newspaper was tedious — and of no use in terms of finding out how they did it. Today’s method is far more proactive and strategic, and can be done simply, by creating a search stream on analytical tools that will alert you to any mention of your competitor and their product/service.

Driving traffic to your website

Having to wait until your client got a radio or print interview to tell potential customers how to access their website was a slow and inconsistent strategy. If your SEO was up to task, you were on a better footing, but in a crowded market, achieving share of voice is key. Now, your client’s various social media accounts are able to fill the gap, and with minimal effort.

Blanket marketing (spray and pray)

This has nothing to do with marketing bed linen, but rather refers to the practice of sending out your client’s message to anyone and everyone, in the hope that it will somehow reach the audience you’re actually targeting. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have given us the ability to do geo-tagging and location targeting, which allows us to drill down into the demographics of audiences according to age, location, language, education and the like; and help us to reach out to the exact people likely to be interested in your client’s service/product.

I could go on, but it is clear that social media has completely disrupted and transformed both our field and the practices of our clients. It is important then to not only stay on top of developments and new channels, but to become digital-first in our strategies. The one thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the need to be responsive and build relationships, but now our tools for this are turbo-charged.

Oh, and to social media, thanks for the job!

Bongani Masombuka is an account executive at WE South Africa

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