The mainline for hype in the PR industry for some time now has been “social media”. Whether or not this is actually achieving the sort of results which would qualify for the glowing endorsements of social sites as the “future of media” is another matter. The PR industry has in fact been pretty slow to pick up on the social sites, and actually it was market research, not PR, which really opened up the subject to debate. Like SEO, the PR industry was pretty lethargic about seeing the potential for development of social sites, and it’s only recently that social sites have been getting serious attention.
PR, issues and social media
Slothful or not, PR has now latched on to Twitter as a meaningful source of information. The fact that client interests can literally be tracked second by second, and any feedback, controversy or other issues properly monitored has been the main factor. A belated revelation, perhaps, but it’s becoming clear that PR is getting value out of the Twitterings of the world.
Admittedly, Twitter has one problem: what is Tweeted, by definition, isn’t necessarily the whole story in any continuum of events. However, as a live sampling mechanism, it’s a perfectly valid market information source, and has the advantage that it’s usually only core client issues that get Tweeted.
The other advantage is that Tweets are instantaneous, unlike press and other media, which are on average anything up to a day behind the play in terms of PR issues. That’s a major advantage. Major corporations have also latched on to this valuable source of raw data. Tweets and other social site information have undeniably provided valuable feedback, which could otherwise quite literally take months to go through normal corporate channels.
There are practical applications- For example, if Toyota management had been able to access commentary online about its recent brakes disaster, it’s more than likely that action would have been taken a lot faster than it was. There are already several cases of customers complaining about products online, and their complaints being picked up by PR or market monitors, and dealt with in record time.
The real time effect and social media
Real time responses have quite a few things going for them. They’re infinitely more efficient, and the response time is far more cost-effective than the usual complaints channels. This real time response is also more efficient for PR firms, which in many cases may be only called in when the client becomes aware of a market problem or issue. That can be days or weeks after a PR debacle has hit the fan, using traditional methods, and in many cases the problems escalate during the time lag, making PR operations that much more difficult, often having to be literally done on the run, in developing situations.
It’s likely that PR and market research between them will adapt some form of customizable search engine optimization for social media, isolating key market issues in the same way search-based keywords are developed for SEO. These could be weighted keywords, or combinations of elements.
This is perhaps the biggest development in PR since the 1950s. Whatever happens next, it’s not likely to be dull.
Neel is an Australian freelance writer and journalist. He writes extensively in Australia, Canada, Europe, and the US. He’s published more than 500 articles about various topics, including SEO.