Is Social Media Advertising or PR?

Advertising you pay for, PR you pray for; PR excels at messaging, but advertising focuses on results. So where is your social media marketing? The bible for social media marketing is yet to be written, but your thinking of social media as PR or advertising matters as it change the implications of interactions.

Due to the dynamic nature of interactions between brands and consumers, most companies look at their social media efforts as form of PR. But as objectives evolve from “creating buzz” to delivering return, it’s important to look at social media through the lens of what you want to accomplish to determine who on the team should own your social networking efforts.


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The PR argument is simple. Social media can open a discussion between company and customer in real time. It needs a rapid turnaround and message control that PR excels at. PR knows how to be on the message and deliver a message to a diverse group of stakeholders across variety of touch points. Press and media relationship of PR can help spreading the message more organically. And who else other than PR knows to conduct damage control whenever this all goes horribly wrong, which it inevitably does on occasion. Clearly this is the PR function…
Social media is maturing, it is evolving from only a place to communicate to an environment which will help sell and inform. Many people “like” and also follow companies not to participate in community, but to be connected to products, promotions and developments. For occasion, while company may have a massive Facebook audience, only few people “like” Unilever talking about their thoughts on their soaps usage. The real interaction is around sweepstakes and promotions that drive activation. Increasing business investment in social media is coming in conjunction with new capabilities that permit tracking through conversion. That’s definitely advertising metric.

So the argument for advertising: Advertising is more connected to business strategy and the objectives associated with products and services. Advertisers focus more on achieving measurable results and meeting actual gross sales goals. With increase in investment, return on investment will end up as an increasingly important metric. Social media will need to align itself with product news, promotional offers and customer segmentation to push real success. In other words, the expertise needed for success clearly lies using the advertising team.

So what’s the correct answer for your organization? It really comes down to what you’d like to accomplish in social to begin with. The best way to choose is is by looking at how you define success. Are share of conversation, buzz produced or customer service metrics the ideal measures of success? If so, your efforts may be more PR oriented. But when you look ahead and see social playing a better role in generating result, sales and other metrics that you just would typically associate with advertising, and really should be developing plans, metrics and messages as part of your overall marketing communications efforts.

Via Scot Elser