New media refers to content distributed through digital, interactive, computerized communications such as using websites, chat rooms, social media, emails, and the internet in general. Between 2005 and 2015, the number of people on social media went from 7% to about 65% in the US. The numbers now are probably much higher as mobile devices are found commonly even in third-world countries. But near the end of 2015, Facebook reported that over 1 billion people were on Facebook every day.
No one is left guessing that new media is vital to business going forward. At most PR agencies they either have social media as part of every division in their office, or they have a separate division focused on it exclusively. Either way, it’s already impacting public relations, and its practice.
Beyond blogs and websites, there are quite a few different social media platforms that are popular. Each has its own formula and approach. Twitter and its limited number of characters, Instagram and high-quality pictures, Facebook as kind of the generic approach, Linkedin for businesses, Pinterest for crafters and similar ideas, Google+ for articles almost exclusively, and more.
For any given business, they probably don’t want to be on all platforms, but instead, it seems to work best for them to pick two or three platforms and get familiar with what works on each and how to present their story. Copy and pasting the same thing on each platform doesn’t work. It doesn’t even work to use the same hashtags from one platform to another. Each has its own approach that works and learning those is important.
The difficult thing is that new media is also a growing and breathing thing. What worked in amazing ways on Facebook two years ago won’t do much for a company now. Partly because people on the platforms have become more sophisticated in what they expect, and the platforms make changes as well. Never count on Facebook’s algorithms remaining the same from one day to the next, because you’ll lose out if you do.
Your best bet is probably to know what has been working recently on a platform and then keep testing. NEVER stop tweaking and testing your approach. Twitter works great if you want to make a brief announcement about something. You only have 140 keystrokes, including your hashtag comments, so it has to be short and sweet. President Trump used this platform through the campaign — some thought he did it badly, but he won the race, so he’s still a strong presence there. Twitter has expanded though so you can add links for videos, and they are even doing some live streaming of sports and other events as a test.
If you can tell a great story with a picture, then Instagram is the place to go. For PR firms, Instagram, as well as other platforms have influencers that can partner with clients to move brands forward. On Pinterest, you can show how products can be used … and pinning an article is easy from anywhere on the web, and you can even share a pin on Facebook.
On Google+ you create “circles” of friends, associates, those interested in similar issues, etc. Those circles can then start to connect with other circles for similar sites and interests. And Linkedin allows for business connections. It’s not as social, but you can message others, connect with people connected to someone on your list — so it almost becomes a “my cousin’s sister’s’ best friend and her doctor” type of relationships. With both of these, you can distribute articles and other content for people to connect to clients.
And then, there’s always hashtags and how you use them. So much going into working new media for PR — it’s an ongoing learning process.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.