Top Social Media PR Trends Bringing PR into the Future: Part One
In today’s world of constant news bombardment, happening 24/7 on our social media feeds — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and so on — it has become the norm that social media plays an ever-constant and major role in it and this is true for us in PR, too. (Can you think of anyone who has not been touched by social media?) We can say that social media is to blame for having us constantly checking our phones, tablets, and even our watches now for the “latest.” For no one is this more apparent than the millennials or Gen Y’ers among us. For PR pros this has meant the birth of those new social media trends that are driving engagement and which are becoming parts of our everyday lives in our practice, to reach out to the upcoming generation. So what main trends do we have to thank for this “new” mode in which PR functions? We’ll call it Social Media PR. We will be exploring this in a two-part series: Which social media trends are the “new normal” in our PR world today and how can they benefit us in serving our clients and building our own brands?
One of the major social media PR trends we see is that of the customers as brand advocates, some would call them fans or superfans. We know that these followers on Twitter and Facebook love to share those posts that are relevant and intriguing to them. (With some we wish we could bottle their enthusiasm!) They help spread our clients’ or brands’ word for them. And for this we must thank, re-tweet and show them love whenever we can. “Love your fans right back,” says Mack Collier, founder of #BlogChat and author of Think Like a Rock Star:How to Create Social Media and Marketing Strategies that Turn Customers into Fans. He also notes that we should be constantly connecting with them and giving them the tools they need (i.e. fodder for posting) to help them best promote the brand. If they want to give us free PR, who are we to stop them! This is a social media trend that is a win for everyone.
Speaking of re-tweeting your followers, another trend is one that is commonly called the art of “social listening.” Another word for this is engagement whereby we are interacting with our followers as well as monitoring our posts to see what resonates with them most. This can include audience research (taking their tweets into consideration when reviewing data on what content of yours has been re-tweeted or replied to), hashtag usage (using #hashtags to either attract or join in conversations related to your company or brand), and customer support (where some brands receive questions or complaints from customers via social media and so are then committed to responding to each and every one, timely). — It’s just good PR! (As an example, here’s what social listening looked like during the World Cup.) By having our “ear to the ground” and being present online and “available” to engage with our followers, they see us as approachable and likeable, and they will be more likely to readily engage with us. These are the benefits of social listening.
Another heavy hitter as far as social media PR trends go is somewhat more of a tactic and that is infographics. You know, those cool and colorful eye-catching diagrams that explain everything about everything. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. So I would venture to say that infographics rank in the hundreds of thousands, considering that they are generated by and often include huge amounts of very useful data too. So, we can say that the two trends tend to go hand-in-hand: infographics and the greater use of data or “Big Data.”
So analytics and the insights gained from them – as well as how they are shared via Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc. – are a big part of this trend. Since many people are visual thinkers and learners (yours truly included) it is a great way to reach out in addition to their being more attractive to those aforementioned millennials for whose waning attention spans we are posting to attract. Infographics are appealing because your followers can gather a lot of information from just a glance or snapshot, rather than reading confusing graphs or pages of text on end. (See our post here with the infographic from Inkhouse on PR Then & Now.)
Storytelling is another social media trend that we see being used often in PR. A great example of this is the newer sites and blog platforms like Medium and Ghost that promote the more long-form content rather than “traditional” brief blog posts. Keeping the readers on the page longer for more deep dive, detailed posts which tell a story rather than just being short blurbs, has been much more popular recently. Another example of this is a new micro-site by NewsCred and Getty Images called: The Power of Visual Storytelling. So, we see “visual storytelling” as a new buzzword also being a common part of this trend. This trend is important and rings true for audiences because rather than just being a “sales pitch,” this content is information-rich and adds value for the reader through its knowledge-building aspect (rather than just selling to them).
All this adds to the ability of a company to expand their brand’s reach through Social Media PR and in this way convey themself through a story. “Every business has a story to tell which deserves to be heard. The art of storytelling inspires conversation and builds relationships with your target audience,” according to CP Communications, Sydney (publicrelationssydney.co.au). Everyone likes a good story, right? And our target audiences are no different.
Another way PR is using social media to attract and maintain engagement with users is in the increase in popularity of niche interest networks and groups, and their participation on the various social media sites. As an example, many millennials have migrated away from Facebook and have become more active on platforms like Snapchat and Instagram. (I have not jumped onto the Snapchat bandwagon yet myself, but Instagram is definitely one of my favorite apps to use.) There, they are likely to post personal pictures or more pictures related to a specific hobby such as art, sailing, architecture or fashion. Pinterest is another platform on which brands use very visual often-dynamic content to attract fans with specialized pages or boards. – DIY e-commerce site Etsy (www.etsy.com) has a huge community there for instance. So as you can see, this is one area where “going where the crowds are” is a way PR pros are staying relevant to these social communities. And for fans that are this passionate about their interests, it is a great way to engage them — which in turn gives you repeat or ongoing connections.
Video content is another trend from social media that we are seeing more and more in PR. Specifically, they are now ‘must haves’ for one’s Facebook page, to be included in press releases for more traction and to add multi-media to your blog, (as we have here), whenever possible to attract new eyes. It’s been shown that videos on landing pages increase conversions by 86%, (WebDAM, July 2014). The popularity of video is also seen by the rise of Vine, the addition of video to Instagram and the posting of videos being ever more popular on Twitter. Last, but certainly not least, is the trend of the viral video phenomenon – the goal of every brand and every PR firm for their client. Having a video go viral is like the Holy Grail of a PR/marketing campaign’s success. Once while consulting with a client and asking what their main PR goals were for project scope, one of them was: they wanted a video created and they wanted it to go viral – simple as that. In their eyes, success equaled viral video = check!
(You may remember this very popular “Puppy Love” video from the Super Bowl this year. — It went viral even before the Big Game.)
Speaking of Instagram, it is the newest darling of social media, among the most popular with millennials and teens. In fact, a close friend’s daughter who’s a senior in high school once said that she and all her friends have dumped Facebook entirely and have moved on – they’re now primarily connected 24/7 to their besties on Instagram. It is a platform where people feel they can be themselves and since driven by images, express themselves however they wish. By using hashtags in their descriptions and comments, they can also attract new followers more readily and further express themselves in a particular post even more. It is a way to give followers a snapshot of, either, what you’re up to at the moment or a broader message you wish to convey. One friend of mine frequently posts inspirational quotes that she finds on other sites (prettily dressed up in colorful graphics, of course) and they are not only uplifting but also eye-catching and fun to look at, too. Posts like this add value for your followers by just a glance…instantaneously. This leaves a good impression as well as a reason for them to return to your feed!
By now you can tell there is an overall trend of constant change: in both social platforms and their functionality, and there are ones that will be most popular in any given day/week/month. For example, for a few weeks in January there was much popularity and buzz for an app called Jelly, a question-and-answer app by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone. There was Secret and the slightly less-popular Whisper, which also had their 15 minutes of fame. Others in this category might now (or have in the past) included Snapchat, Vine, Tumblr and Google+. And as you may have guessed they usually have come to the forefront and are most popular first with millennials… those trendsetters at it again! — “We operate in an era that evolves by the hour,” said Adam Vincenzini, Managing Partner at Kamber, Australia. Well put! So we are pretty certain that by the time this post is read, each reader might have his or her own new favorite, too. (Scanning my Twitter feed as we speak to keep up on them, myself.)
You never know what is coming on the horizon for new social media, but you can be sure it will touch PR and how we deliver our services to reach those millennials, early adopters and everyone else in between just where they are “hanging out” at the moment.
When we as PR professionals can follow these changes tightly and participate where the companies’ followers are, we become seen as always extremely current and looked to as a source of knowledge and expertise in the field — those whom they will seek out to help them remain top of mind for their followers. Keep your eye out for our Part 2 on this topic, where we’ll delve into more trends and social media nuggets key to social media PR.
(quote sources: http://www.slideshare.net/AdamVincenzini/social-media-trends-2014 , http://publicrelationssydney.com.au/2014/01/)