Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Social media – underestimating its use in PR is an automatic “fail”

Recent research showed that people using social media to contact friends was more popular than email, a finding that is not surprising for those watching their friends’ 10 daily Facebook updates and more regular ‘tweets’.

People get excited when a politician such as Barack Obama or celebrity like Stephen Fry are shown using and expressing their enthusiasm for new technology.

Web nerds may enjoy it because it validates their many years of dedication to the internet and social networking, through older bulletin board, ICQ and other social media outlets.

PR people have been jumping for joy over it for many reasons, including the ability to track who is saying what about their clients, build fan pages to further expose those clients and tap into the general zeitgeist of popular culture.

Now that Twitter has been recognised for that potential – it offers unrivalled access compared to Facebook as anyone can quickly and easily read anyone else’s tweets and follow them – PR companies are assigning staff specifically to handle social media profiles on their clients.

It still strikes me as odd when I read about a scandal involving a film, reality TV or sporting celebrity’s misplaced comments, photos or videos on those social networking sites. Gossip magazines and websites must also be rubbing their hands with glee at this previously untapped source of dirt. So it’s a positive forum one hand for PROs and a potential minefield, filled with poorly-chosen words and drunken photos on the other.

An example recently from Australia was a storm of controversy over a group of football players who put a bizzare sex video, involving a rubber chicken and a frozen chicken, on Youtube. Two players were forced to pay fines of AU$5000 for their involvement. Pundits even suggested the incident could have caused the team to lose its next game, such was the fallout.

*Apologies for the use of “fail” in this headline – I’m not a fan of ‘fail’ as a noun but it does lend itself to showing new uses of the internet. Some say internet speak is killing the English language, others would argue its adding new terminology to an ever-evolving dialect. Both sides have merit.


  1. I'm sorry but I am on the side of internet speak 'killing the English language'. I have found myself becomming increasingly frustrated at the standard of writing coming through in Tweets, facebook updates and sms's. I know i'm now one of the few who have an issue with this but I fear for what the English language will digress to over the next few decades.
    Reading this though has given me an idea to put my company on Twitter and provide daily 'health tweets' to enhance our profile.
    Thanks for the tip.
    Lee Polychronopoulos

  2. I'm encouraging companies I do contract work at to do the same - get a Twitter and Facebook presence so you can have more interaction with customers/clients etc. Yes internet speak has changed the language but it's also true that English has changed a lot over the past 200 or so years - looked at Shakespeare prose and newspapers from the 19th century compared to modern writing. The style reflects much about the way people spoke in those times. I'm not a huge fan of SMS word crunching but it takes me much longer to write full sentences than to txt spk.