If you are asking this question, take a little time thinking about the current state of the Internet. Social media is a major element of Public Relations (PR) that will continue growing for years to come. While there is much to cover on this subject, I want to put my thoughts together into a little summary of the basics. Just enough to explain the possibilities.
The main goal, of course, is to establish an Internet presence. Whether you choose to do so through Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or some other service (although a combination of the three listed is preferable, at a minimum), being able to connect to your customers is a priceless advantage for many reasons. Keep them updated, advertise specials and sales, post pictures, and advertise to potential new customers. Again, these are just the basics. It only gets better from here.
Think about how much you can share through traditional advertising, such as a newspaper ad or billboard. Consumers who happen to read your ad will see the name of your business, the logo, where it is located, what you do, and a slogan. Plain and simple, this ad will likely be seen by many people depending on how well it is placed.
Now think about the advertising done through, for example, a Twitter account for your business. All of the same information from the newspaper ad or billboard will still be included. On top of that, a Twitter account can be updated at any time with the click of a button. News relevant to your business can be seen by a majority of your customers within minutes. You can also post pictures, either directly through Twitter or with a photo-sharing service such as Instagram. Even more importantly, all of this information that you post can be shared. If I see a Twitter account for a local restaurant, I can send it to my friends instantly. I can come back to it at any time without having to find that newspaper or drive by that sign. I can follow it and receive updates reminding me to go there.
Because social media allows business a voice, interactivity becomes an incredibly unique aspect of advertising. Customers can post on your Facebook wall with comments, suggestions, or questions that you can answer and all of your customers – old, new, and potential – can read. Similarly, with Twitter, customers can tweet at you. You can also tweet at them, responding to tweets relevant to your business. This has limits, of course; harassment and annoyance will not bring you new customers. This mutual communication brings us to the most important aspect of social media: with a voice, a business is no longer a business. It’s a personality. As consumers, your customers will connect more closely with a person than a business. The art of personifying through social media is a huge topic in itself, something I will likely cover in a later post.
Also important to remember is that you pay for newspaper ads. You pay for billboards. Advertising in itself is a business, and an expensive one at that. Twitter is free. Facebook is free. And think of how many people drive by a billboard compared to how many people use Twitter and Facebook. Hiring a PR agent for your business will give you the resources and knowledge you need to reach countless Internet users who you can constantly keep updated and form an actual connection with.
This is only the beginning. I plan on expanding upon this subject with a more in-depth look at various aspects of social media in the hands of businesses.