“It’s what my teenage kids use”, or “It’s a waste of time”, is how some in the property industry have responded to the introduction of social media of social networking in a business context. Perhaps this is because this communication innovation is – ironically –badly branded.
It belittles the capabilities of Twitter Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn to describe them simply (as ‘media’ or ‘networking’ with the word ‘social’ stuck in front as if off-line networking wasn’t social!). They offer many more means by which companies can communicate both effectively and efficiently with precisely targeted audience; and in a way which can be easily evaluated therefore informing and enriching a communications strategy.
So-called social media sites, alongside blogs, news and company websites, enable communication directly with industry bodies, potential development partners, politicians and other corporate audiences. Communication can be one-to-one, one-to-many or many-to-many. Without the filter of traditional media, there is the opportunity to present your company’s image as you wish, while at the same time being seen to embrace the ever-relevant values of openess and transparency. Involve staff, customers and other contacts and you immediately create a range of ambassadors.
Many of PNPR’s clients are now using Twitter and in doing so, gain a better understanding of corporate audiences and greatly benefit relationships. Re-tweeting positive messages, such as offering congratulations, support and initiative and sharing news can also help build followers. Additionally, Twitter can direct audiences to online booklets, brochures and reports.
Online communication is instant. This may initially sound alarming but ultimately it’s better to be aware of what’s being said and to act immediately than to allow an inaccurate message to build up; just as it is to engage with objectors before issues reach crisis point.
What company doesn’t want to know about subtle changes to the market, or find out how it is viewed by its target audience? We all do, and many invest substantially in doing so. With social media, both formal and informal research is relatively cost-free and the opportunities to gain valuable insight into your target audience are endless.
It goes without saying that, being ultimately democratic, the internet offers new opportunities in public consultation. Previously a typical consultation exercise might involve focus groups, surveys, exhibitions, meetings with local groups and newsletters. Not only can each of these tactics be carried out online, but additional online communication tactics can substantially increase the overall effectives. Opportunities include understanding local groups through monitoring their web presence; building up a fan base on Facebook; providing regular news updates via Twitter and encouraging feedback; virtual site visits (past, present and future) on YouTube, and a live discussion forum hosted on your website or blog space. Previously hard-to-target audiences such as those who are young, immobile or simply busy can be reached quickly and effectively. Combine online and off- line consultation techniques, and you can double the reach of and therefore the effectiveness of your campaign.
Ignore on-line media at your peril. Media activity is increasingly taking place through Twitter, blogs and video-sharing or photo-sharing websites, both as a result of increased online opportunities and the post-recessionary economy. The power of traditional media has weakened in relative terms; as a result of fewer publications, there is less space in those that remain due to a fall in advertising and these are fewer journalists to fill the space. Although print media remains powerful, the pendulum has swung towards the internet as a place for journalists to find stories and for consumers to consume.
As for networking, the internet is the biggest network ever to have existed and in the spirit of true networking, you have the opportunity not only to engage with your target audience, but with the audiences with whom they engage.
There isn’t space to touch on the opportunities presented in the fields of sales PR, internal communications and community relations. But I would stress that there is no communication technique which cannot, to an extent, be carried out online. Alongside this, the opportunities for new ways to communicate are considerable and are growing by the day.
Our priority is to ensure that clients are enlightened and informed and that their online strategy follows a clear course based on objectives which can keep the campaign on track, and enable two-way communication.
So my response to anyone who claims that online communication is a waste of time, is that a strategy approach which capitalises on opportunities is an efficient approach which has considerable cost savings.
As for teenagers using social media: of course they do: along with 30 million others within the UK and the vast majority of business.Your choice is whether to ignore social media and hope that the world loses interest in the internet, or positively engage with it to gain a wealth of benefits.