For those of you that have been living under a rock the past 10 years, social media has taken over the internet and beyond. The obsession with “Tweeting,” “Facebooking,” and “Instagramming” has become so vast that if you don’t have one, you are considered an outcast. Not only is this digital age taking over our personal lives, but it is revolutionizing the way businesses communicate with their consumers.
According to the Pew Research Internet Project as of September 2014 (2014), 74% of adults that are online use social networking sites. Pew Research also found that Facebook is the most popular site with 71% of online adults, followed by LinkedIn (28%), Pinterest (28%), Instagram (26%), and Twitter (23%).
A survey done by Altimeter (2013) discusses how the integration of social media will only grow as the years go by, “what was previously a series of initiatives driven by PR is now evolving into a social business movement that looks to scale and integrate social across the organization.”
The Research Journal of the Institute for Public Relations (2014) divides social media research into four categories: engagement and dialogue, transparency, authenticity, and influence.
The first category, engagement and dialogue, is crucial for companies in today’s day and age. By communicating with their consumers, companies can build deeper relationships with their target audience and thus create more loyal customers.
The second category, transparency, is broken down into three areas: “Being open and honest; reporting the bad with the good; and providing information in a timely manner,” (2014). The goal of transparency is to remind the audience that the company is run by humans that sometimes make mistakes. But by reporting both the good and the bad via social media, it allows the consumer to know that the company know they did something wrong, they are taking responsibility for the consequences, and are learning from the experience rather than denying the whole thing and acting like the crisis did not occur.
The third category is authenticity. This area of research is incredibly important and is also evident in areas other than social media. Take for example a large corporations customer service center hotline, such as AT&T. When a customer is having an issue with a service that AT&T provides, the consumer does not call AT&T hoping to speak to a machine, they want to speak to a real life person that can help their specific problem. It is the same way when it comes to social media. As consumers, they want to know that their questions or comments are being heard by a real human and not just going into a computer database never to be answered or taken into account.
The final category is influence. With the increase of different social media platforms, the number of influencers is rapidly increasing as “celebrities” emerge on their respective platforms, thus making what they have to say even more important. Regardless of if what they have to say is positive or negative, if they have a big enough following- their opinion is the only one that matters.
Public relations, businesses, and just communication in general has been forever revolutionized by the introduction of social media. Whether it be communicating with the customers directly, appealing to the consumers with online campaigns, or trying to repair a company after a PR crisis, the distance between the company and the consumer has never been closer and more accessible. Regardless of how social media molds and changes in the years to come, the gap between companies and consumers, in my opinion, will only decrease.
Altimeter. (2013, October 24). The state of social business 2013: The maturing of social media into social business. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/Altimeter/report-the-state-of-social-business-2013-the-maturing-of-social-media-into-social-business
McCorkindale, T., & DiStaso, M. W., (2014). The State of Social Media Research: Where We Are Now, Where We Were and What It Means For Public Relations. Research Journal of the Institute for Public Relations, 1(1). Retrieved from http://www.instituteforpr.org/wp-content/uploads/TinaMarciaWES.pdf