Prior to the advent of social media, there were very clear distinctions between Public Relations and advertising.
However, the arrival of Facebook, Instagram and YouTube changed the game. Not only have they blurred the distinctions between these two traditional marketing techniques, but also provided organisations with new ways to connect with their audiences.
Advertising & PR – the Traditional View
Once upon a time, we all knew the differences between advertising and PR.
Advertising involved the placement of your ads on various mainstream platforms such as TV, radio or print to promote your product or service. Your business was in complete control of the message your business wanted to convey.
It also involved certainty about when and where your ad would appear, and never provided your audience with a chance to reply. It was a one-way form of communication with the sole purpose of promoting your products.
PR was something different. Rather than aiming to sell particular products or services, it was more concerned with painting organisations and brands in a good light; and creating a good relationship between them and the public.
Unlike advertising, PR never involved the exchange of money and was therefore less certain. Organisations trying to promote themselves had little control over whether or not their promotional material would be used by anyone. Releasing PR material always involved a bit of luck and plenty of hoping for the best.
Because advertising was paid for, one-sided and controlled by whoever created it, it was viewed as less credible than PR, which was always ‘earned’.
Social Media and Digital Marketing
Things have changed!
Social media has expanded the possibilities for communications and in so doing blurred these distinctions. It has meant once separate and distinct labels – marketing, PR, advertising – have evolved and, in many ways started to look a lot like each other.
Social media hasn’t completely done away with these distinctions but at the very least it has meant that those who work in these roles increasingly need to take notice of what each other are doing.
Social media has empowered businesses to expand their PR capabilities. Businesses previously relied on third party outlets to notice their material to leverage their reputation as a market leader whereas now each business has access to a platform to cultivate a reputation.
Businesses can make use of these platforms to open dialogues with their target market and dictate an agenda if that happens to be the goal.
The line is blurred as businesses can now us PR and advertisement to engage with users at a micro level, to build customer satisfaction and erase any negative sentiment to build a businesses brand and loyalty to a brand.
In other words, social media works as both a PR tool and an advertising tool. It all depends on what businesses are trying to achieve and how they decide to use it.
Here it is important to note that the lines can sometimes be blurred. Social media can simultaneously act as both PR and advertising. And, depending on circumstance, an organisation may use it in different ways for different purposes. This week it may be doing an advertising job, while next week it’s playing a PR role.
However, there’s more to it than just that. Social media has thrown up something new.
Unlike anything that came before it, social media marketing presents an opportunity for businesses to establish relationships with their audience. Also, unlike what came before, it has provided those audiences with a voice. Communication is now two-way.
The audience can now talk back, which means the conversation is as much about them as it is about you. In other words, while it provides you with a path to your audience, it doesn’t give you control over what happens when you get there.
What you can do once you’re there, however, is use your expertise, credibility and experience to guide the conversation; to let your audience know that you have something that’s worth pursuing.
In summary, as a digital marketing tool, social media is not always easy to categorise. Still, its value as one of the best ways to reach your intended audience and improve your business outcomes cannot be overlooked.
There is no right or wrong way to use social media marketing. The best answer to the question of how to approach it is – “On a case by case basis.” Depending on the individual business and the market in which it operates, it is a sound way to improve business performance.
An expert in social media marketing, IMA is well placed to tailor a winning Social Media strategy for your business. Contact us today to find out how.