Most PR professionals swear by their Smartphone, Tablet, and PC, all so they can continuously access their social media network. A network, which, in most cases, includes a considerable amount of contacts. And there is no doubt in my mind, that the social media networks exploited by PR practitioners, are of the upmost importance in today’s society. One needs to be constantly available, everywhere, anytime, and always up-to-speed with current events.
Today, with social media, we not only learn about events when they are happening, we also live them, as we share images, video’s and feelings in real-time. A fact which is used as an advantage in many PR campaigns, but is also the a living nightmare for a PR professional during a crisis, as it is incredibly hard to control or even guide these social media outputs, especially considering the amount of sources there are out there. But it’s not only PR professionals who have to deal with the perk AND the pitfalls of social media and the internet.
Your everyday consumer, client, costumer, public, has problems coping with the speed and the amount of information they get poured over them daily. And sometimes, ever so often, a twinge of nostalgia sprouts from your average Joe. Of course, there are those who consider social media, and sometimes PR, as the devil’s fiery pit, where, once you get trapped here by its lure, you’ll stay to be burned crisply for eternity.
And, I have to admit, social media and PR are quite enticing. Once you start using it, it’s hard to stop, if not impossible.
Now, what happens then, when you, the public, are sitting in your corner, on a rainy day, wanting some peace and quiet, and PING, your Smartphone shows you yet another Tweet, or Facebook Message, you just HAVE to look at? You. Start. Longing. For. The. Good. Old. Days. The days, where you had time to get your information from your morning newspaper. The days, where you didn’t feel like a total moron if you hadn’t seen the latest sensation on YouTube.
But please, don’t hate the medium. It’s not the medium which posts too much, sometimes useless, information on the web. It’s not the medium which threatens to diminish the quality of creations out there. It’s not the medium which decides to direct all of its time to absorbing as much information about as many subject there are. It’s you. And your neighbour. And your friends. Your many, many, Twitter friends. So why do we do it?
Because we want to feel CONNECTED. We want to belong. Nothing more, nothing less. And we have to admit, social media is the ideal method to do this (next to going to a pub and having a chat of course, which you just CAN’T do all day long). For example, on foursquare, you can become a part of groups of people who visit the same places you do, like a cinema or pub. On Spotify, you can learn which people have the same taste in Music as you do. And so on.
In a nutshell, social media expands borders, broadens horizons, and allows us the option of choice. We can choose who to BEFRIEND, choose who to SHARE our lives with, and because we can choose, from a global pool of people and identities, we feel CONNECTED. Even better, we are connected with people JUST. LIKE. US. People who have the same interests, the same preferences, and make the same choices. So we like ’em, and we trust ’em. Subsequently, we trust the recommendations they make, which again, is to the benefit of all, not in the least the PR professional. That is why it is so essential in PR to build sustainable relationships with your publics.
So let’s be honest, if you don’t want to experience social media overload and possible meltdown, just use what you want, when you want, and don’t let a beautiful medium control you. YOU CONTROL THE MEDIUM.
Of course, for the PR professionals out there, it’s just as important for you to not get controlled by social media. There are some tools out there, which can help you select the essential information you need and want, such as: 48ers, a REALTIME social search engine that acquires its results from Twitter, Facebook, Google Buzz, Digg and Delicious. With paper.li you can create your own online newspaper (updated daily) from Twitter and Facebook updates based on any topic or user group.
And the beauty of it all is, you can help your public, by helping them decide what it is THEY want. Target the right public, in the right way, and they’ll love you all the more for it. Honestly, nobody likes it if you bomb them with crap that doesn’t concern them. Remember, it’s hard for the public too, to decipher quality and essential information from the oozing pool of uselessness out there.
And perhaps, as a PR professional, you might consider using your public’s nostalgic twinge in your benefit. Coca cola has, as always it seems, been on the ball with their reinvention of the Break Man advert. The new and improved Coca-Cola Light man from the 90’s can be admired here. But, don’ t forget, before you can use nostalgia to your own benefit as a PR professional, first you need to have created a bond with your public, and have a history you can fall back on.
To conclude, one of my all time favourite, nostalgic, Belgian, advertisements: T-man, my sweet hero from Tienen.