How Social Media Has Changed Public Relations For Brands

Social media has no doubt changed the way brands communicate with customers and how they prefer to be seen and heard. In an attempt to increase their visibility and speak to their influencers, every organization engages in active Public Relations, which has naturally been affected by the boom in social media.

In the following post, I will highlight the changes brought about by social media in the field of Public Relations and how PR pros can use it to their advantage.

 

Conversation Versus a Speech

The job of a PR professional just does not end now with a well-written speech with jargons. They have to be eyes, ears and voice of the company in the true sense. Apart from just sending out information, the PR professionals now have to constantly monitor the social media channels and ensure that their company is present on the channels where their customers are active. And it doesn’t end there! With an ongoing monitoring comes real-time conversation and feedback. Therefore, listening, thinking and answering gives them greater responsibility.

Content and Information Sharing

With social media playing an important role in everyone’s life, we may not realize how much information is shared every minute. According to recent data shared by Facebook, there are over 900 million objects that people interact with like groups, events and community pages. An average user is connected to 80 communities and pages while 30 billion pieces of content get shared each month (blog posts, notes, photo albums etc). With this mammoth flow of data and information, it is difficult to be seen and make your customers come to you.

But on the other hand, it provides an open opportunity for brands to connect with their customers. A tool like Twitter makes it possible for brands to connect with their customers on a one to one basis. By engaging proactively with social media, PR teams can create new opportunities for favorable brand impression that can lead to the beginning of a social media relationship leading to a positive customer experience.

 

 

Press Conferences vs. Blogger Outreach

Social media has increased the circle of influencers for brands. When looking for testimonials, reviews and opinions about a brand, the easier and a more prevalent choice now is social media. This includes different social networking sites as well as communities, blogs and forums.

Now, when a new product is launched or an announcement has to be made, it is as important to have a blogger outreach to target online influencers as traditional journalist – if not more! Also, it is also wise to remember a lot of journalists now are social media savvy and are actively present on Twitter and Facebook as well as they follow blogs and communities of their interest to collect information and monitor customer opinions.

With coming in of social media, customers expect that they will not be subjected to mass, non-targeted information and any concerns will be addressed quickly and personally. This can be challenging for PR staff managing social media efforts. One upset customer on a Facebook page or a challenging blog post can send brands into a crisis.

Also with social media, the human side of brands comes into play. Brands can no longer be “dead” both literally and metaphorically. They need to make constant efforts to make their customers come to them and also by engaging them in a conversation. It is good to remember that for this new found life of brands, PR professionals have to act like their senses – help brands see, listen and reply.

So what do the PR professionals feel? We would love to hear 🙂

 

Get Ready for the Bots – on Facebook Messenger

2Facebook Messenger was released 5 years ago and now has over 900 million users. Originally receiving a flood of negativity towards a standalone messaging app, compared to one simple Facebook app, users seem to be warming to it. The decision to make it standalone does make a lot of sense, since messaging is a big part of people’s lives nowadays and Facebook even bought the domain messenger.com to launch a version for web browsers last year. Their 900 million users will more than likely be merged with Whatsapp’s 1 billion users, which means that Facebook will have the personal phone number of every single user – sounds like $19 billion well spent.

 

Open for Business

So that’s humans covered. Where to go next? Facebook is now venturing into their next Messenger-based project: bots. If you haven’t been keeping up, Facebook launched Messenger Platform last month, which holds within it, chatterbots. Luckily, these bots are not machine learning bots, such as the disaster that was Microsoft’s Tay. They do have some humorous replies if provoked but they ultimately steer the conversation back to the subject they’re designed to cater for. Thanks to their highly advanced Send/Receive API, these bots are able to reply with actual structured messages, including links, images, hotel reservations, the weather etc. You may immediately compare this to Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana, Google Now and Amazon Echo, but what sets bots on Messenger apart is the fact that businesses can develop them, which in turn gives them another way to develop customer service. Simply put, bots could end up changing the world by replacing humans in such job sectors. Without the bespoke customer service integration that Messenger bots provide, the above voice-activated services will most likely not be able to solve business-related queries themselves. Having said that, the way bots behave is very reminiscent of the way Siri does. Maybe they’ll talk to each other one day and we’ll get the best of both.

 

Customer Service and Added Value

So how can these bots work for brands? Well, eventually, every major company in the world will have an account, which will be a first port of call when contacting their company. The reason this is almost definite is due to Facebook’s already-mammoth-sized network of users. It doesn’t get any bigger than Facebook when advertising to individual people, so connecting Messenger bots (as customer sales reps, for example) is extremely attractive. Messenger codes, one of many things taken from Snapchat, will also make it easier for businesses to connect with their customers. One industry example is how bots will almost certainly change how banking works for the consumer, replacing an app or web-based system with a dialogue with a machine that is able to understand your every need. The option to send money within Messenger itself is highly likely too, like Snapchat allows. This could also eliminate the hassle of speaking to a bank’s voice recognition system when calling by telephone – no more time (and money) wasted by the dreaded “I didn’t catch that. Please try again.” These voice recognition systems are essentially bots done badly, but they’re based on voice, which is a lot more difficult to translate into zeros and ones. Plus, you cannot autocorrect your voice (yet). I can see this whole system being replaced by bots – it could even connect you to a human advisor with ease, as you’re most likely already using your phone. Even if you’re using the desktop version or Facebook Chat, I’m sure they’ll figure something out. Besides banks, what other markets will benefit from this? Restaurants, travel and possibly supermarkets with online shopping services are big industries for it to thrive. The healthcare industry could also be a large portion – Healthtap have already created their bot, which isn’t surprising considering one of the first ever chatterbots was called DOCTOR and simulated a psychotherapist. In fact, the potential amount of markets are endless for this stream of interaction – just like it is with human customer service.

 

At the end of the day, customers are moving towards messaging as their preferred choice of customer service. And as generations progress, it will no doubt become the standard – a phone call will most likely be reserved for long, meaningful conversations with friends and family, which in turn will add even more meaning to them. The phone call will no longer be taken for granted, but talking to robots will be.