What is social media and why is it called social media?
Social media is a medium through which people can connect,
access, share and engage. Millions of people are today connected
online and have access to information online. They create and share
content like reviews, ideas, opinions, thoughts, audio, videos,
photos and presentations etc. with each other and engage in online
conversations and discussions on issues and topics which interest
them. Internet is a super express highway through which
organisations can reach its stakeholders around the world on
various common social media platforms like blogs and social
“Social” means interaction of organisms with other organisms and
media can be defined as “means of communication”. Therefore, it is
called social media because it is a means of communication through
which people can interact with each other.
Who is using social media?
ANYONE AND EVERYONE
Research shows that nearly four out of five US Internet users visited
a social networking site in December 2009, there are 150 million
people following Facebook, Twitter has nearly 20 million visitors,
more than 170 million U.S. Internet users watched online video
during November 2009. 70 percent of journalists said they use
social networks to assist in reporting. (Source: ComScore's "The
2009 U.S. Digital Year in Review)
Why use social media?
Here are some of the reasons why social media should be used:
1. Attract traffic: With the help of social media any business can
attract lot of traffic and increase their online visibility.
2. Interact with audience: Businesses can engage in a dialogue
with their stakeholders through social media and hence build
relationships. This further enhances their brand image,
reputation and loyalty.
3. Beat the competition: By using new ways of communicating
with their customers, businesses can gain a competitive edge.
4. Cost effective: Using social media is quite cost effective and
has greater impact in comparison to traditional media.
5. Innovation: Businesses can get useful customer feedback
through social media and can innovate their products and
services as per the needs and demands of consumers.
6. Collective Intelligence: Social media is a platform where
people from various backgrounds collectively contribute to
enhance existing knowledge. Every business can benefit from
this pool of collective intelligence and can find whatever
knowledge they need about any market, products or people.
7. Speed: With the help of social media, any business can now
reach its stakeholders around the world with just a click of a
button. Unlike traditional media, social media provides an
opportunity for business to respond quickly and instantly.
A new study released by enterprise wiki provider Wetpaint and the
Altimeter Group shows that the brands most engaged in social
media saw their revenue grow over the past year by 18% while the
least engaged brands saw losses of negative 6%. Here are two case
studies of Starbucks and Dell.
Starbucks through its website mystarbucksidea.com is trying to
have a dialogue with its customers. Customers can submit their
ideas on how to make the company better and can also see the
most recent ideas submitted by other people and participate in the
question of the day. This has helped Starbucks to engage their
Dell started using Twitter in March 2007. They now have several
accounts on twitter like Dell Outlet, Direct2Dell, Studio Dell, Digital
Nomads etc. Dell started offering special discounts to its twitter
followers which resulted in the revenue generation of nearly
$1million for the company. Hence, Dell found a way to use twitter to
Lesson to remember: Social media has fundamentally shifted the
way business interacts with its stakeholders.
Issues and Concerns
Although there are some issues and concerns associated with using
social media, these issues if looked deeply offers some opportunities
1. Lack of control: It is very hard to control communications in the
digital social world. Since, everyone in the social sphere has a
voice; it is a big challenge to exert control. However, with the help
of effective monitoring and evaluation one can inspire and influence
a conversation. Also, when businesses relinquish their control over
social media, the conversations become more personal and thus, it
gives an opportunity to get some real insights from stakeholders
which can further enhance business value.
2. Lack of credibility: Social media still lags behind traditional
media in terms of credibility but by creating and maintaining
uniform brand identity and by being transparent and open,
businesses can gain trust of their target audiences.
3. Negative publicity: Since businesses have very little control on
the online conversations, businesses can attract some negative
coverage from its stakeholders. However, if spotted and responded
timely, social media can act as a great reputation management tool.
Also, with the help of negative feedback and complaints, businesses
can identify areas where they need to improve.
What are the sociological and cultural concepts behind social
media and what is their relevance to PR?
There are various sociological and cultural concepts behind social
media and it becomes imperative for PR practitioners to develop an
understanding of those concepts in order to create and implement
effective social media plan for their clients. Some of the sociological
concepts behind the popularity and growth of social media are
1. Meet new people: Human beings are social animals, they love
meeting new people and social media fulfils this need. It acts as
a platform to meet new people, connect with global audience
and find people with similar interests and make communities.
This gives users a sense of belonging and helps them to identify
their place in the society.
2. Sense of identity: Social media provides an opportunity for
individuals to create their identity. Social networking websites
like Facebook enable users to create their profile. This profile
helps people to make a statement about their personality.
3. Create, share, discover and participate: Social media is
driven by people’s need to create, share, discover and
participate. People can publish content on blogs, post their
videos and pictures online and can share their story with other
people in real time. Unlike traditional media, social media tools
provide people with the means to participate in the society.
4. Rise of influencers: Opinion leaders and thought leaders have
played a major role in the adoption of new ideas and
technologies in the societies since time immemorial. Similarly,
social media provides an opportunity for people to become
opinion leaders and influencers by having huge number of fans
or followers. Also, established opinion leaders are able to
influence masses to adopt new innovations.
These sociological concepts help public relations practitioners to
first, identify where their target audience would be, second,
understand the social behaviour of their target audience, third, craft
relevant messages for their target audience, fourth, provide their
target audience with the relevant message at the right time and at
the right place and last but not the least evaluate the effectiveness
of the message.
Social media has given birth to a new global culture of convergence.
People who live and breathe in this culture are called “Digital
natives”, they come together from all parts of the world and use
technology to access and share information and publish content in
both audio and video format. This new culture is interactive, well
connected, powerful, dynamic and fast.
Although, social media has given birth to a new global culture but
no business can implement the same social media strategy across
countries. This is because each country has its own specific social
media culture. For this reason, companies need to go deep down
into the roots of social media culture of a country to understand it
better. For example, while Facebook is the most popular social
networking website in U.S. and the UK, majority of the population in
India use Orkut. On the other hand, there are some social
networking websites which are banned in China due to government
censorship. Therefore, it is vital for public relations practitioners to
understand different social media cultures across different countries
to formulate effective social media strategies for their clients. Any
social network is a melting pot of various cultures.
How social media can be used?
1. Identify objectives: Businesses need to know before hand
their objective behind making a social media plan. Is it to
increase brand awareness? Attract more traffic? Get some
insights from consumers? Create buzz and get people talking
about the brand? Also, decide which techniques will be used
to measure the objectives for example, increase in number of
hits on the websites or increase in sales.
2. Listen: Before jumping on to the bandwagon, businesses
need to listen and immerse themselves in conversations. They
need to know who are talking about their brands and what are
they talking about. In order words, identify key influencers.
3. Participate: After listening to the bee’s conversations, John
started participating in their discussion and his story of
producing different varieties of honey, got bees from other
neighbourhood towns interested. Similarly, brands need to
participate by telling their story to attract attention, generate
interest and create brand associations.
4. Engage: By requesting his customers to recommend his
honey to their family and friends, John engaged his customers
with his brand. Similarly, businesses need to push their digital
content, plan and work out to ensure that the story is seen by
the target audience and that they participate. Also, once the
community is formed, businesses need to feed their
communities regularly to keep it active and alive.
5. Measure & Evaluate: At the end, businesses need to take a
look back and see how far the social media plan was
successful in achieving the objectives.
Social media process
MEASURE & PARTICIPATE