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Using social media as a powerful PR channel

Over 4.6 billion people now use social media platforms globally, with the average person spending 2h 27m on social media every day.

It therefore follows that your audience is highly likely to find out about your business via social media. It’s where they will go to find out who you are, what you do, what others think of you, and make decisions about whether they want to buy from you, partner with you, work for you etc.

With this in mind, it’s crucial that PR teams take an active role in establishing and managing all social media channels - they need to be optimized for customer acquisition, but it’s equally important that they are keenly aligned to your key messages and branding.

PR professionals have to approach social media as an equally important channel as the traditional media - in this article we will outline how social media can be used as a powerful asset.

1. Don’t be put off by ‘cancel culture’

Many new startups are worried into inaction by saying the ‘wrong thing’ on social media. They are so concerned they will post something that might offend their potential customers that they would rather say nothing. This is madness.

As long as you implement social media standards in your company, social media is a great place to engage with customers and build the brand. It will be up to you to decide if your brand is funny, expert, thoughtful, etc. Your tone of voice on social media should reflect the tone you use elsewhere, and you should follow the same standards you do in all other communications.

The easiest social media policy is to imagine the customer or respondent is a parent or good friend. In any exchange you would always want to be polite and respectful and most of all, be kind. Kindness is often underrated but can have a big impact.

2. Make social media the friendly face of your business

Fintechs often invest large portions of their marketing budgets into social media advertising - it’s a very effective way to gain customers and increase brand awareness.

However, you’ll struggle to attract followers and increase engagement (which is crucial to growing your audience), if all you’re posting is adverts, marketing and promotions. As with many other aspects of PR, you need to be adding value to your audience to get the desired results.

Social media is the best channel to convey your business’s purpose and personality. Fintechs such as Monzo provide a masterclass in showcasing personality and humour via their social channels. By being human and authentic they build a direct relationship with their audience, bringing potential customers into conversations and encouraging direct engagement with the brand.

A mix of organic and paid content can help give your brand a friendly face, maximise engagement, and consequently, aid marketing campaigns in being seen by larger and more interested audiences.

There’s a lot of pressure to be witty on social media, but the key is to be authentic and share organic content that demonstrates the business’s key purpose.

3. Jumping on relevant hashtags and getting involved in conversations #

As discussed in a previous article about getting your voice heard on issues that matter to your customers, being involved in relevant conversations is a great way to boost brand awareness, credibility and engagement.

There’s no better place to do this than on social media. Be sure to follow the hashtags and influencers relevant to the conversations you want to get involved in, and don’t be afraid to get stuck in.

When jumping into existing conversations, consider whether to interact under the business’s profile, or from your spokesperson’s personal profile. This will be down to your judgement, but think about whether it feels more appropriate to have a personal or corporate touch.

When publishing news or campaigns, inserting relevant hashtags indicate which conversations you are weighing in on and help the algorithm place your content in front of relevant audiences. The aim is to stimulate conversation with your posts, so make sure it’s a two-way street and you are responding to people sharing their views.

4. Real-time crisis management

More often than not, reputational crises now begin on social media. There are numerous causes - backlash from badly judged posts, escalating customer complaints, disgruntled employees, etc.

By constantly monitoring social channels it's possible to get ahead of potential crises and nip them in the bud before they become an issue. Investing in advanced social listening tools, as well as using the free tools, such as Tweet Deck, will help you to keep across everything efficiently.

A traditional crisis management strategy can be applied to social media, however you have to be prepared to work at a greater speed - you will get responses immediately and additional parties can be brought into the fray instantly.

Similarly to dealing with a crisis in the traditional press, make sure you get the right balance between strong public messages, and having private, direct conversations with an unhappy customer or employee to solve the issue efficiently.

In addition to direct monitoring and immediate intervention, being proactive in working with customer support teams can be hugely important. Providing training on dealing with issues on social media, as well as having a direct line of communication will provide you with allies in dealing with crises.

5. Interacting with the media

Like the rest of us, journalists spend a lot of time on social media - it’s where they scout for stories, find and speak to experts and spokespeople etc.

There are a few ways for PR teams to use this to their advantage:

● Identifying comment/story opportunities - journalists often post on social media if they are looking for help with a story. Make sure you’re following journalists relevant to your industry, and keep an eye on #journorequest for tips.

● Contacting journalists - social media is an additional channel through which to contact journalists. Sending appropriate, tailored, pitches via Twitter, in particular, can help you cut through the noise.

● Intelligence - keep an eye on what journalists are writing about and the conversations they are involved in. This will help you to tailor pitches.

6. Have a social media policy that all employees are aware of

A social media policy will ensure that all employees know the rules whether, tweeting on behalf of the company or themselves.

The basics can include:

● When using social networking sites you should not, in any way, bring into disrepute or embarrass the company or its employees.

● Employees should remember if they mention the company name on their twitter or facebook pages that they are linking to the company by association and ‘work’ rules firmly apply.

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