The world of public relations is changing, and we must change with it.

Since the birth of social media, people have used various platforms to build communities, keep in contact with distant family members, share personal life updates and more. But over the past decade, businesses have made use of platforms like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn to further their goals of connecting directly with the public.

According to a recent ING survey, 81% of PR pros feel they can no longer do their job without social media. Read that again. Now, let it sink in. But how much has social media changed your role in the past year? The past five years? Even ten?

As social media continues to evolve and new opportunities come to life, we as PR pros should be aware of the effect social media has on traditional public relations in order to create effective strategies for our clients. Here are just a few ways social media is impacting PR:

More data-driven initiatives.
Who doesn’t love more data? With more than 3.48 billion users on social media platforms, it’s no surprise that companies leveraging these platforms have more data than ever to help them make decisions. When looking at your company’s overarching goals, determine which key performance indicators (KPIs) will be most beneficial to your business. If you’re running an educational campaign, you’ll want to measure reach and impressions. If your goal is to increase sales, you’ll want to track engagements and click-throughs. And with platforms like Sprout Social, it’s easy! Then leverage these KPIs during the decision-making process to create better campaigns and earn better results.

Making use of the abundance of data will not only empower your team to create better social content, but it can also help identify which topics are “media-worthy.” By leveraging the social proof found on your channels, you can show members of the media that the storyline in question really will generate more readership.

More visual storytelling content.
Similar to PR, businesses can use social media to tell the story of their brand. Instead of searching strictly for earned media opportunities, businesses using social media platforms can reach their target audiences directly and engage with them on a deeper level. Consider creating video content to tell the story of a customers’ success with your brand and using your social media channels to share that story with your most loyal followers.

But don’t flood every social media channel with the same content at the same time. Strategize on which platform the content will perform best, test it out and alter your strategy for other channels. Once you find out which content best tells the story of your brand, you can further leverage that content to visually tell your story to members of the media.

More opportunities to work with “celebrities.”
Almost any brand would be thankful to be endorsed by a celebrity. And now, thanks to social media, you can! It might not be a movie star, but nano-, micro-, and macro-influencers are taking the social media world by storm.

Nano-influencers are defined as niche social media profiles with less than 10,000 followers. Micro-influencers are considered “mid-tier” and typically have between 10,000 and 200,000 followers, while macro-influencers are defined as having more than 200,000 followers.

Like trade publications, social influencers are a great way to reach a specific type of social media user. These users likely overlap with the target audience(s) you’re trying to reach with your traditional PR efforts. If you’re selling a product that makes people’s lives easier, consider partnering with lifestyle influencers to promote your brand. For example, Massage Heights Indy partners with nano- and micro-influencers around the city of Indianapolis to demonstrate the benefits of continued massage therapy through a 6-month journey. They invite influencers in for monthly complimentary massages and sit back while the social pros do the rest.

This tactic works for a number of industries and, in addition to storytelling, provides brands with user-generated content that can be leveraged as marketing collateral. It also lends a great deal of authenticity to your brand because it is real people telling real stories in a relatable way.

More affordable for small businesses.
Like earned media, social media is “free.” But, also like earned media, getting results takes time and effort. For brands who don’t have a large advertising budget, social media is a great way to share your brand story in an affordable way.

From exchanging products or services with influencers in exchange for content, to low-budget social media advertisements targeted to users in specific locations or with specific interests, social media is a great way to share content with your audience while maximizing your budget and providing stellar results.

More direct conversations.
Traditional public relations efforts are now vastly different, thanks to social media. Rather than drafting a press release and circulating to reputable media outlets under embargo, you can update your most loyal followers directly using social media, generating a buzz, and let the media members come to you. You can also tap into your brand ambassadors and leverage your social influencer partnerships to build an even bigger buzz about a product launch or an exciting company update.

When you do connect with media and secure coverage for your brand, make sure to promote it on social media – but be strategic about it! Connect with the writer on any and all available platforms so you can tag them in your posts. You should also tag the publication itself and consider engaging with both the publication and the writers’ content on a regular basis. If you show them some social love, they’re bound to return the favor at some point!

Don’t just think of social media as a sales tool, think of it as a way to connect with your audience on a deeper level and create a community of people with like-minds and similar interests. You never know when you may need to leverage this audience down the line to brainstorm new content ideas, campaigns and products by tapping into existing conversations or simply listening to what customers want and need.

Need help getting your social media strategy up and running? Check out our services page or contact Lauryn Gray to find out how we can help!