Social media creates a hotbed for sharing articles, posts, and even products. It’s not uncommon to see a company design its own Facebook or Twitter account to advertise and connect with consumers. Since social media has exploded, the public relations industry has sought to use these platforms to its advantage. While they can be used as an excellent branding tool, they can also provide complications and bad publicity when incorrectly used.
Robert Wynne discussed the best uses of Twitter to augment media relations on Forbes. He breaks down the three main reasons PR professionals would use Twitter: announcements, research, and networking. Announcements are important to keep the public informed, whether publicizing a new product or keeping the audience updated during an emergency. Twitter can also be useful to “find out what your competitors, clients, friends, media or influencers are tweeting about.” And of course, building a network is crucial in order to “meet new influencers… competitors or reporters and follow them and get them to follow you.”
Wynne also notes that the number of followers is not necessarily important; it’s the quality that counts. For example, out of the 18.4 million users following Kim Kardashian, seven million or 38% of her followers are fake, and another six million are inactive accounts. Only 5.3 million, or 29%, are authentic. To grow your brand, he recommends advice found on Twiends, like using Twitter’s services to advertise, run a contest, guest blogging or blogging about your twitter account—to give people an incentive to follow you—and include your Twitter handle if you get quoted in the media and the reporters allow it. On whether or not to approach journalists on Twitter, the response is mixed. Some would rather a tweet than the thousands of emails they receive, while others find it unprofessional and see social media as “social places” and not a place to pitch. Its best to do research on the individual you’re pitching to and find their preference.
Because I already went over a not-so-successful use of Twitter when analyzing Uber’s mistake, let’s look at an effective campaign: #Cheesepocalypse. It occurred in 2014, so close to the Super Bowl that it’s actually surprising it wasn’t just a publicity stunt. Kraft’s Velveeta cheese was experiencing a shortage, so they took to social media and dubbed it #Cheesepocalypse, explaining they were working on remedying the situation and thanking “fans” for supporting them in their hard time. Because of their fast and witty response—they even created a website where you could track the shortage, The Washington Post reported—sales actually increased during the Super Bowl.
However, despite its uses, there has been a decline in marketers focusing on Twitter. Digiday reports that whereas companies used to spend equal attention to Facebook and Twitter, there’s now three people working on Facebook to maybe half a person on Twitter. The numbers currently are just not in Twitter’s favor. “As a traffic driver, Twitter is abysmal,” Digiday says, “even topped by Yahoo. The typical publisher gets only 1.5 percent of its traffic from Twitter, compared to about 40 percent each from Facebook and Google, according to Parsely.” Only 16 percent of adults use Twitter compared to Facebook’s engagement of 67 percent. And Twitter’s live video feature was quickly overshadowed by the Facebook counterpart. For visual storytelling, which is rapidly becoming more practiced, it definitely is not the go-to.
Of course, many media outlets do still see it as a priority. Digiday assures, “Newsrooms like Bloomberg Media and CNN still consider it essential, variously, for disseminating news, newsgathering and to engage TV audiences following an event through a second screen.” USA Today Network also told Digiday that it’s much easier to monetize videos on Twitter compared to other social media platforms. Because of the swing in popularity of platforms, the recommendation is to never go all-in on one platform, instead making sure to diversify outreach programs.
Twitter is a great tool for PR professionals when used correctly. It fosters a casual atmosphere that allows you to have what feels like authentic interactions with your audience. It’s a tool for branding and communication, and has the potential to aid in what would be PR crisis, shown through #Cheesepocalypse. In order to make full use of the platform, a watchful eye and savvy tweets are necessary for any public relations personal in the current in the field.