Social media is a relatively young tool born out of the rapid development of telecommunications technology. The contemporary world greatly relies on social media for communication purposes due to its numerous advantages compared to traditional communication media. Modern organizations, companies, and celebrities such as athletes and musicians rely on their social media accounts to communicate with fans, clients and the general public. Social media, though quite advantageous in modern corporate communication and as a public relations tool, has its disadvantages which the average celebrity and organization should be wary of.
Although relatively a new phenomenon social media has taken the world of communication and public relation with an unprecedented storm. Social media has swept aside the traditional media of communication such as the use of radio and print media thereby reducing their dominance over both corporate and individual communication. Social media refers to a collection of numerous forms of communication including texts, videos, podcasts, and others which are shared on web-based applications and rely on the internet for their operation (Dahlgren, 2012). Social media is based on numerous types of applications such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter among others. Currently, a large percentage of the total world population has access to smartphones and the internet making social media a pertinent tool for public relations. Social media has numerous advantages compared to the traditional media of communication giving it an edge with regard to public relations.
Social media provides faster and widespread coverage and dissemination of information compared to the traditional forms of communication. Social media is based on web-based applications that are easily accessible via smartphones and laptops. Therefore, it enables quick dissemination of information compared to the traditional forms of communication. When compared to social media, most traditional forms of communication such as print media will require the writing, editing, and printing of any information before it is disseminated. In the modern world, individuals and organizations need to act quickly with regard to the dissemination of relevant information to the public and this is where social media comes into play. Billions of people access the internet daily and the number of internet users continues to rise daily. This perspective makes social media the most important tool for public communication. Moreover, most social media applications enable their users to share information thus increasing the possibility of a story being picked up by many people within a short period. A good example is the “Me Too Movement” that started as a single story of sexual harassment and ended up raising a global storm thanks to social media.
The use of social media as a tool for public relations is cost-effective compared to any other tool. All social media applications simply require access to a steady internet connection making the utilization of social media as a tool for public communication quite cheap. The traditional means of communication such as television and print media require a huge amount of money which makes it difficult for small businesses to actively engage in public relations. Hutchison & Pauly (2016) argues that since most of the social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are free the only cost individuals and organizations spend while utilizing social media is the time spent on the various social media applications. Moreover, social media enables its users to integrate more compared to other forms of communication, therefore, strengthening the connection between social media users. Social media is based on the sharing of information among different recipients and users as every social media platform is built around communities of social media users. The use of social media enables more interaction, connection, and networking within the social media community which is a feature not possessed by any other media of communication. Through the use of social media an individual or an organization can interact with the public through question and answer sessions. Integration and connection are quite important in public relations as it enables the public to understand fully the purpose of an organization, therefore, inculcating brand loyalty.
Social media has its limitations that make its use a nightmare in public relations. Social media is time-consuming and addictive. The average American spends more than four hours each day staring at his or her phone (Hutchison & Pauly, 2016). Most social media applications and platforms are designed in such a way to be addictive therefore making social media users spend most of their time on the applications. This is a massive downturn as an individual or employee of an organization can waste so much time on the social media platforms thus reducing their productivity levels. The addictive nature of social media apps increases the probability of individuals to overdo their social media presence which can also be deleterious to an individual or a company’s public relations credentials. Social media is also subject to security issues and online harassment and trolling that can affect a person’s or an organization’s public image. Social media accounts of both individuals and organizations can be hacked by unscrupulous individuals who may then use the accounts to wreck their original owner’s public image. According to Hutchison & Pauly (2016), social media use is prone to cybercrime stalking, online bullying and harassment, scams, and identity theft that can be used to destroy individuals’ public standing. A good example of online trolling was the massive trolling of the McDonald food chain on twitter in 2017 when the company invited its customers to tweet why they loved the food chain (DeMers, 2017). McDonald’s was heavily trolled forcing the company to pull down their hashtag.
The use of social media also leads to the lack of anonymity and infringes on the privacy of an organization and that of any individual. Most social media platforms require their users’ physical address and locations and other types of information that may be deemed private and personal such as a person’s birthday. On most occasions, the confidential information used in the social media platforms finds themselves in the public domain thus exposing social media users to the glare and inspection of the general public. This can be quite dangerous to one’s public image more so when the information shared is negative or controversial. The use of social media in the public relations activities of a company also exposes an organization’s activities to the public and this information may be used by the company’s competitors for their advantage.
Social media is a powerful tool in the public relations sphere. However, caution has to be taken to ensure that the use of social media as a public relations tool does not backfire and destroy the public image of organization or individual relying om the same.
Dahlgren, P. (2012). Public Intellectuals, Online Media, and Public Spheres: Current Realignments. International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society, 25(4), 95-110. Retrieved from www.jstor.org/stable/23279950
Hutchison, L., & Pauly, J. (2016). Global Corporations, Global Public Relations. In Boyd-Barrett O. (Ed.), Communications Media, Globalization, and Empire (pp. 227-242). Indiana University Press. Retrieved from www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1bmzndf.18
DeMers, J. (2017, May 30). The 7 Biggest Social Media Fails in 2017. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/294925