The Social Media Iceberg

Social Media is a huge part of public relations, and it’s becoming more relevant as technology interweaves itself into everybody’s day to day lives. Nicole Matejic compares social media to an iceberg (2015). The comparison between the two seemingly unrelated things, is that there is a small amount of them available for viewing to the public. An iceberg is significantly larger underwater than it is above. This is true for social media in regard to public relations as well.

Above water, or what’s easily accessible to the public, is the organizational social media channels. This includes all public social media, your Facebook, your Twitter, etc. All of the magic behind crisis communications, along with analytics, which are infinitely important, is what lies below the surface (Matejic, 2015). An analogy made in the book, says “Much like those onboard the Titanic that fateful night in 1912, crisis communicators looking at the social media landscape without the information that lies beneath the surface of all social networks — their data — are steaming toward disaster” (Matejic, 2015, pg. 6).

The data that they’re referring to includes, “the geographical locations of your audience, peak post-engagement times, age and gender aggregated data, externally referring sites (such as your blog or website), how many clicks per URL in a post (further broken down into geographical regions), your audience’s aggregated interests (both professional and personal), and which type of post they are more likely to interact with (picture, video, text and so on)” (Matejic, 2015, pg. 6). Without this very important data, a company would have no clue which types of content are succeeding, and which are sinking (pardon my pun), both during a crisis, and day to day.

This type of data didn’t always exist though, in fact, the channels that we receive this data from is fairly new as well. In the past, someone in public relations would spend more of their time writing press releases, to give on air, release in print or publish online (Boitnott, 2017). Nowadays, social media is the primary channel for a company to release official information, but this isn’t the only thing it’s used for.

Public Relations specialists also use social media to find influencers, to identify brand threads, to influence journalists stories, to swiftly react to negative press, and to make announcements (Boitnott, 2017). With a world as digital as ours is today, it’s hard to imagine how a company ever interacted with their customers as much as they can today, considering all they have to do now to show they’re seeing what someone is saying is ‘like’ their tweet.

In addition to all of the ways that PR can use social media, it’s important to realize that the goal of the two are nearly identical: to create a two-way conversation between an organization and the people it wants to influence. When a company uses social media, it becomes a lot easier for them to interact with their audience, and also to tell their story. Posting on facebook is free, whereas a commercial can cost thousands of dollars, but the one thing to remember is that “Storytelling is a constant effort. Be strategic and plan your stories and the mediums you will use to tell them” (Pollard, 2016, para 9).

As a person working in public relations, it is essential to remember the iceberg analogy. Some things are going to work better than others, and it’s all going to depend on what you’re promoting, and who you’re promoting it to. In order to figure out what is going to work the best for your specific situation, it’s necessary to be checking the analytics of your social media, and adjusting your plans accordingly.

Boitnott, J. (2017). 5 Ways You Should Be Using Social Media as Your Top PR Platform. Inc., Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/john-boitnott/bhow-social-media-is-now-your-primary-public-rel.html

Pollard, C. (2016). Why You Should Combine Your PR And Social Media. Huffpost. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/catriona-pollard/why-pr-and-social-media-i_b_12568802.html

Matejic, N. (2015). Social media rules of engagement: Why your online narrative is the best weapon during a crisis. Milton, Qld: John Wiley & Sons Australia.

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