The differences between marketing, advertising, PR, and branding are now blurred with the adoption of social media. According to the definition of social media found in Wikipedia:
Social Media is the democratization of information, transforming people from content readers into content publishers. It is the shift from a broadcast mechanism to a many-to-many model, rooted in conversations between authors, people, and peers.
Social media uses the “wisdom of crowds” to connect information in a collaborative manner. Social media can take many different forms, including Internet forums, message boards, weblogs,wikis, podcasts,pictures, and video.
So whether your business is engaging in one form or another of the communications mix, each of the vignettes used here to illustrate the various components of the mix could stand some revising.
I could say this is your marketing, this is your marketing on social media, and so on. Each of these activities gives you the opportunity to make your content available in more places not just for distribution alone, but for co-creation as well.
You can share it both on your site, or on other user-driven sites - YouTube (videos); Flickr (photographs and images); Digg (focused on news), Slideshare (presentations); Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, FriendFeed (networking); Delicious (bookmarking).
If I were to add just one button to indicate the addition of social media in each activity as illustrated here, I would label them as follows:
1. Marketing + Social Media >> exclusive special offer to the users of this site button. For example, Dell's exclusive offers on Twitter. Scale comes when you build the network, direct response in all senses for the offer.
2. Public Relations + Social Media >> button for monitoring and building dialogue about you. If you're smart and get to know the people in the room - and they get to know you - this happens when you are not even present. And it can be the more powerful because of it. For example, Micro PR on Twitter serves as a communications bridge for media and bloggers when they need help from PR.
3. Advertising + Social Media >> button for sharing with peers. Now you have recognition and mind share among people in a network and not push down. User recommendations, referral traffic, and community support are the new word of mouth (WOM, or word of mouse). How many of you have shared a clever ad with someone else? How about sharing an actual moment in the ad? How about the incredible T-Mobile flash mob spots?
4. Branding + Social Media >> button for providing impressions from experiences of the customer base. This is more about the action people take because they want to be associated with your purpose. See IKEA Hacker - people are actually asking Jules, the nome de plume for the blog, for advice on products. The great thing about this for IKEA is that he actually drives people to the company's newsletter and catalogue. Not to mention the fact that he is deeply passionate about the brand and its products.
I know you're smiling, given the content of the vignettes. All of the components of this mix are about micro interactions, but I believe that public relations is the discipline that gets to the single interactions, the relationships, more closely.
PR is about the details, the stuff your public cares about. It's about you building and constantly renewing relationships with people (not just the media) to increase the goodwill towards your organization. Ever since the recent Presidential election, many companies have woken up to the fact that yes, it can be done - engagement and relationships can be ignited. Even when scale is a question.
Social media is the latest communication technology, the additional button that allows you to extend and share content further - either by allowing your community to spread it for you, or by inviting it to co-create it with you. But building a dialogue with the community, building relationships have always been part of the work of public relations professionals.
When you ask - what social media sites should I target? The answer is who are you trying to connect with, and where are they? Identify and know your audience and then communicate with them where they are.
If you're looking to begin the conversation, you still need to know that what you're going to say is credible, relevant, and resonant to these audiences. Then there's the part where you stay consistent in every interaction. What is the one impression you'd want everyone to take with them?
Is there someone who can communicate about your product or service with that consistency and knowledge? That is your spokesperson(s). The number of channels through which that conversation happens - directly and indirectly, with you or about you - today has multiplied.
Every time you share a piece of content, which may well be the new way to give your supporters a platform for their use, you have the opportunity to engage in a micro interaction. Because relationships have always been at the root of PR efforts, I believe it is much easier for a company to test these concepts there first. Especially if your organization is in B2B.
The differences between marketing, advertising, PR, and branding are now blurred with the adoption of social media. The democratization of information has injected real people in all of them. You've gone from one-to-many to many-to-many. Enjoy, it can still be all about you, if you make it about them.