Recent years, social networking websites have become more and more popular all over the world. Those websites are not only used by individuals for the purpose of keeping in touch with friends, but also by companies for marketing/PR purposes. According to Harvard Business Review Analytic Services Report, social networking sites are the most popular form of social media among all orgnizations, with the majority (87%) using sites like Facebook and twitter. The reason why social network sites are so popular is becausen practitioners can directly reach their target audiences in a cost effective way. There are four major uses of social networking websites when engaging in public relations.
1. Build your brand awareness
Social networking sites provide opportunities for both big companies and medium/small companies to publicize themselves in a cost effective way. Big companies with already popular brands could make the brands even popular; Medium/small companies could become more well –known by using those social networking websites through online PR campaigns. Moreover, a key feature of social network sites is its viral nature – because people like to share information which they find interesting and useful. When a company is carrying out an online PR campaign, someone mentions this campaign and your brand on a social network site, it is more likely other people pay attention on it and share it to their friends. It is much easier for companies to spread the messages and reach a much larger audiences.
It is essential for companies to build up good relationships with their target audiences. According to Grunig, two-way symmetric communication practices are a keystone for excellent PR. It is social networking websites that provide a platform for companies and their target audiences to communicate in an easier and more effective way.
3. Find the right channel
Different social network sites have different focuses, such as LinkedIn is a business oriented network websites; MySpace and Last.fm are connecting music lovers, etc.. Also the use of social network websites varies from different countries and culture. For example, Mixi is the most popular social network sites in Japan, Facebook and Twitter can’t be used in China and so forth. Therefore, PR practitioners are able to carry out different PR campaigns with various focuses on the right networking websites all depending on who/where their target audiences are.
4. Monitor and analysis tool
PR practitioners could monitor the progress by social network sites and react/respond at once. For example, just simply by monitoring the feedback, PR practitioners are able to know what people like or don't like about your product/service or how they feel about your campaign etc; also PR practitioners could monitor the number of people's participation and the number of groups or fan pages have been created.
Tench, R. & Yeomans, L (2009) Exploring Public Relations. 2nd ed. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.