Social networks allow casual, comfortable engagement

Because social networks are no longer novel ideas, the way PR practitioners use them has evolved to be more casual and less gimmicky. For one, PR pros are now building their own brands on such sites and helping their clients by association.

Because social networks are no longer novel ideas, the way PR practitioners use them has evolved to be more casual and less gimmicky. For one, PR pros are now building their own brands on such sites and helping their clients by association.

"Today, being a person engaged on a network on behalf of a client is almost something that clients are expecting," says Chris Heuer, a partner at the Conversation Group. Additionally, as long as PR pros adhere to rules of transparency, promoting a client through a personal social network can be closer to word-of-mouth marketing than a traditional campaign.

In the earlier days of social networking, MySpace was considered one of the pioneering networks. But even as it has lost some market share to Facebook, PR pros still consider it to be a viable avenue.

"[MySpace] is still... a significant place to reach a lot of people, especially for consumer, entertainment, and mass market campaigns," says Patrick Di Chiro, founder and CEO of Thunder Factory.

Todd Defren, principal at Shift Communications, says that although social networking requires less planning than when it was a nascent channel, some elements remain constant.

"Although you [might] not have as many meetings up front to plan, you still have to listen to what's being said in these communities as much as before," he says.

While some general interest networks, like Facebook and MySpace, might have matured, specialty networks are constantly emerging and keeping PR pros on the lookout for new opportunities for their clients.

"I don't think there is any question that you're going to see a lot more growth of special interest sites," Di Chiro adds.

Key points:
As PR pros get comfortable with social networks, the engagement is more casual and conversational

PR pros often build their personal brands online to become credible promoters on behalf of clients

As general interest social networks mature, specialty networks offer new opportunities

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