With over 3.4 billion people active users around the world, almost half of the global population is using social media.
Social media has impacted nearly every industry, but has had a profound influence on the media and public relations professions. In a ING study on the criticality of social media, 81% of PR professionals and 78% of journalists indicated they can no longer do their job without using social networks.
On average, consumers spend nearly 2.5 hours on social sites every day. With such a focus on this technology, it’s no surprise that 60% of brands expect social budgets to continue to increase year-over-year.
These statistics alone show how much of an impact social media has had on the PR industry, but what about the day-to-day changes that this technology has made for practitioners?
Here are five essential ways that social media is changing PR:
1. New technology offers new experiences.
New apps, tools and technologies are being created each day. Using this innovation, consumers are finding alternative ways to gather and absorb information.
In 2018, video was named the most popular form of multimedia content. In the first few months of 2019, there has been another shift as PR professionals are realizing the extent to which virtual reality (VR) can deliver value and creativity for clients. VR provides a level of realness and excitement that a press release or a short video simply failed to do in the past. VR can create a deeper emotional connection with stakeholders, which is going change the game for digital storytellers.
As social sites begin to offer VR content, there will be no limits for how communicators will use this tool.
2. Conversations now go two ways.
Less than 10 years ago, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) defined the PR profession as “the strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” That definition no longer holds true, as public relations, social media and digital marketing have integrated with the wider communications world.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and other social media channels have transformed the communication between companies and the public. The PR process used to be one-directional. However, in the era of instant Twitter and Instagram feedback, companies now have customer service representatives fielding questions in real time via social media channels.
As the future of PR continues to transform, the line between marketing, customer service and PR will become more and more blurred.
Consumer trust in companies has diminished rapidly over the past decade. In the next five years, there will be a public call for companies to become more transparent, which might lead to 24/7 live video recordings of manufacturing facilities, daily updates from the CEO or even virtual tours of different offices around the world, all communicated directly through social media.
3. Everybody has a platform—and a following.
Social media makes it possible for the average person to create their own platform and cultivate their audience in a way that has never been possible before. The future of PR will use both macro-influencers and micro-influencers. As the pendulum swings towards smaller followings, expect nimble advocates to continue to make a big impact.
4. The news cycle now moves exponentially faster.
Roughly 6,000 tweets are shared every second on Twitter. Though this makes social media a highly effective tool for communicating breaking news coverage, it also means the lifespan of a story is much shorter than it used to be. Journalists are constantly searching for “the next big thing” and PR pros need to keep up with their turnaround time.
In today’s turbulent news cycle, journalists and the public turn to Twitter to get the latest news, making the competition to get attention from media outlets even harder. PR pros will spend less time blanketing news to a wide net of journalists and must instead focus on very targeted media outreach and relationship building.
Journalists are often pressed for time in this continuous news cycle, forcing them to prioritize, capture essential stories first and, perhaps, neglect other leads that have some appeal. To ensure this does not happen, be sure to get to the point in pitches and provide the information as quickly as possible, as a reporter would in his or her lede.
5. Accessing journalists is easier—but still requires finesse.
Social media helps PR pros get the inside scoop on reporters. By following a journalist on social networking sites, PR pros can gain insight into a reporter’s tone of voice, opinions on relevant topics and recent work.
In addition to social media being a great resource for finding reporters, it will continue to morph into a platform to connect and pitch journalists. While some journalists still prefer to be pitched by email, Twitter and LinkedIn are both emerging as platforms where journalists are open to receiving relevant pitches.
Social media is constantly changing so PR professionals must stay atop its many trends and innovations. Social media shows no signs of slowing down and it’s up to PR pros to adapt their strategies or get left behind.
Christina L. Forrest is an Account Manager for Violet PR, a boutique PR firm. A version of this article originally appeared on the Cision blog.