Social Media: New playing field for PR, where everyone wins

Do you believe social media is a fad? Be honest with yourself.

What if you knew that in the time it takes to read to this sentence, seven new blogs will be created?

Yes, some will be “spam” blogs, conceived of evil intent to steal your time or money. And some will be the stillborn attempt of a person who had a great idea but found a blank composition screen too intimidating or the prospect of criticism unbearable. For the one or two that eventually sport worthwhile content, their chances for surviving more than a month are slim, never mind their chances for making a difference in the world. But still, there is a chance. It’s happening more and more.

In that same small span of time, hundreds of posts went up on other blogs. Tens of thousands of blog posts were commented on and hundreds of thousands of connections were made through some form of social media. The printing press, radio, television and even the web’s first iteration fundamentally changed the world we live in. But each had the weakness of needing gatekeepers … People with specialized training or a lot of money determined what came out of those devices. And nobody likes being fenced in.

As a result, you’ve now read long enough to allow the creation of 203 more blogs. They’re right there, waiting in your web browser. More than 200 soapboxes, each containing the promise of infinite combinations of things to say—for all of humanity, forever. Chances are getting better that one may be a keeper. In far less time than it takes you to finish this chapter, one could even be yours.
What are you still doing here?

Yes, the potential is huge but social media doesn’t begin as some theoretical “Big Bang” event that creates a universe that eventually leads to a sun and an earth and an atmosphere all the way down to you reading this post. It begins with a simple question, or a need. Often the answer is short and sweet and a conversation begins. Two people connecting—maybe from opposite sides of the planet—and drawing inspiration from one another to accomplish their dreams. That’s how it begins. Get to talking with enough of those folks; that’s where your Big Bang happens.

In “The Future of Communications – A Manifesto for Integrating Social Media into Marketing,” Brian Solis, blogger at PR 2.0 and principal of FutureWorks PR, puts it this way: “Social media has created a new layer of influencers. It is the understanding of the role people play in the process of not only reading and disseminating information, but also how they in turn, share and also create content for others to participate. This, and only this, allows us to truly grasp the future of communications.”

The democratization of information transcends national boundaries, giving new meaning to the term “global citizen.” Social media provides a voice. No longer are people powerless when faced with a bad customer service experience. Rate it. Blog about it. Post to a forum. Review it. Only the world will know. Someone, somewhere is sure to relate to your experience and together you will likely be able to rectify the situation.

Social media came a long way in 2007, but it’s still a toddler in terms of potential. Scores of new tools and “mashups” of others arrive each week. So many blog posts and news stories are written about it that it’s virtually impossible for one person to keep up with. You may as well try to come up with a pithy one-liner about how the world works. No field has undergone more fundamental change by social media than Public Relations.

Social media are a group of tools to help people interact online. Social media is about people interacting on a deep level, supported by online tools. Got that?

The distinction is subtle enough that most folks have to ruminate on it for a moment. The first sentence is how you would have stated it a couple of years ago when the I.T. people started with the term Web 2.0. The second sentence is what happened when the communicators moved in and took over.

Social media has a way of bringing big jobs down to size. With a lot of focused effort—evangelization, even—it won’t take much time for social media to ignite within each and every stakeholder group you are trying to reach. Who will they thank for this time-saving, life-changing knowledge? The bringers of the fire, of course.

It starts as a PR game but everyone wins.

So grab your racket, or gloves or bat. You can’t lose with the tools at your disposal: blogs, social networks, wikis, lifestreams, Twitter, video, livecasts, news aggregators, social media releases, videos, and podcasts. Or move your game to Second Life or other virtual worlds.

Social media is about people interacting on a deep level, supported by online tools.


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