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Ayodotun Rotimi-Akinfenwa: Social Media is the new PR Machine

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Ayodotun Rotimi-Akinfenwa

That Social Media is officially a fundamental part of our lives is no longer news. What started as a fun, almost trivial social experiment, even for its creators, has become not just an industry, but a generational revolution.

At the start, the first set of social media platforms i.e Hi 5, My Space and Facebook were used mostly by private individuals but today, even brands have taken on lives of their own on these Social Media “streets”! With advertising features permitting audience targeting and multiple sponsored AD formats, the world is any brand’s oyster.

Almost every business worth its salt, whether it’s a Start up, a Medium Enterprise or a Multinational is represented on the most popular platforms. It’s almost a level playing field.

So what then is new? Everyone is jostling for the consumer’s attention. Daily, each of us is hit by thousands of ADs for one product, service or another. The daily task before each brand, therefore, is to cut through the clutter and truly connect with their audiences in the long term. There are a million fun, entertaining and compelling pages out there and daily, potential followers ask : Why should I follow this page? What’s in it for me? Why should I stick with you? The answer is in Public Relations(PR).

So what does Public Relations have to do with this? You may ask.

Has it occurred to you that more people are spending more time with their Phones, Tablet devices and Laptops than with their TV screens, Newspapers (that is even laughable) and radios? This is the perfect time for businesses to cut their losses and focus on the platforms that give them the most bang for their buck, better known as Return on Investment. Social Media happens to come at the least possible cost and so for many, it is the only channel of communication accessible to them in this economy.

According to Wikipedia, “PR practitioners have always relied on the media such as TV, radio, and magazines, to promote their ideas and messages tailored specifically to a target audience. Social media marketing is not only a new way to achieve that goal, it is also a continuation of a strategy that existed for decades”

I couldn’t agree more.

I’m not even trying to theorize that mass media is dead, that is highly debatable but I will say this, the principles of PR remain the same even on Social media…Honesty in communication, Timeliness, Fact Checking, Fairness and so on.

All that being said, if you carefully prepare what you want to say on those TV, Radio and Print, why not for your Social Media, the New media?

The onus, then, is on these brands to strategically build an online community of fans and supporters via their social media pages. They can only do this by telling compelling stories about their brands on those pages. Most people are on Social Media to catch up on some fun, what’s going on and possibly seek specific information. The only way to truly grab their attention is by selling yourself in such a way that even their Target Audience enjoys. People are not on Social Media to be sold to, they are there to see fun things. Let’s give them a show then! There’s a reason PR has always involved events, showcases and sponsorships and it’s time to host them online.

If there’s any place to get people to fall love with your brands, it’s on Social Media. If there is place to sample public opinion about your brand, it’s Social Media. If there’s any place to answer questions or even present new information on your services in an engaging way, it’s on your social media pages. Are these not the purpose of PR?

These pages are machines that should be fuelled, oiled and maintained regularly to keep dialogue fluid between your brand and your consumers.

In PR, there are really 3 types of media and trust me, they apply 100% to Social Media.

Paid Media which implies Sponsored placements on Blogs, Sponsored Ads on Facebook, Influencer posts etc, Earned Media is organic as people share your stories voluntarily because they actually love them, you’ve earned it. Own Media refers to your own platforms, your pages, website, blog etc. A good Social Media Strategy imbibes all three.

I laugh when people say “Is it not Social Media? Why should I pay so much for it? Can’t I have an undergraduate or an intern handle it for me?” Oh well, social media is so much more than posting pictures, it’s involves a deliberate, strategic process of communicating with the public using carefully crafted messages in pictures, videos, text etc. Would you get an intern as your PR Manager or Director? Enough said.

So what do you need to do?

  • PR is communication, which is a two-way street. Remember to engage your audiences and respond to their questions and concerns as publicly as you can.
  • Learn to tell stories or “storify” (just made that word up) your business and what you do. Instead of just presenting a new product in the usual way, tell a story of how and why you created it to meet their needs. Apple is great at that.

Share behind the scenes of your business, let them get to know you like they would get to know and befriend a person. Hans & Rene is a brand that also does that well.

  • There are so many platforms to choose from and while many think only Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, there’s Pinterest, Tumbr, Snapchat, Youtube, Persicope, even Linkedin depending on how you look at it. Identify the platforms relevant to your business and your audiences and stick with those. You cannot be on every platform.
  • Be strategic, determine your Social Media goals and how they fit into your marketing goals. Those will determine your tactics and approach. For instance, if your goal is to sell more, you can run a Sales Promotion via your page. To create awareness about your Philanthropic causes, share videos, pictures, do live updates of relevant events etc
  • Make sure there’s something in it for them – entertain them, educate them, make them happy. They will keep coming back for more.

More and more people are turning to Social Media for information about pretty much anything. They will “Google” stuff alright, but they will also look for you on Instagram and will come across your posts and hopefully stories, little cues which they do not even know will guide their decision to buy your product, service in the end. Make sure you milk this revolution to your advantage.

Send me an email [email protected] . I will be more than happy to help with this.

Ayodotun Akinfenwa is a Brand/Marketing Consultant with about 14 years of industry experience. Before starting Lifestyle Hues Brand Consulting in 2016, she built her career working on international brands. Today, she consults for companies and trains SME owners on the subjects of Marketing, Brand building, DIY Design and Content Creation. Her firm has trained over 10,000 indivduals and served several businesses. She holds a Masters Degree in Marketing. She is an Associate member of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, (APCON) and Women in Business, Management & Public Service (WIMBIZ), a Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, UK and is a Canva Certified Creative.

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