Looking at Facebook as a competitive option for professional social media users. Will Facebook be able to keep up with competitors without this change?
‘Inspire a generation’ has been the idea that have encapsulated the Olympic Games in London, and so far it has really come to life. London and Great Britain as a whole have really come together to celebrate the Olympics, cheer on the competitors and join in the euphoria. No matter what sport or wheather conditions have met them, the crowds have been there to carry their athletes on. This is also the first real social media Olympics. Back at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, few knew the thrill of the hashtag, the “Twittersphere” had just three million “tweeps” and social-networking monolith Facebook had a “modest” 100 million users. In contrast, the opening ceremony of London 2012 generated more tweets than the entire 2008 Games, while Facebook’s world wide 900 million users shared photos and comments about the event.Tim Berners-Lee was even tweeting live while participating in the Danny Boyle-directed opening ceremony. In four years, social media has taken over the Olympics!
However, there have been examples of how social media has shown its ugly side, none more clear than when British diver Tom Daley became subject to insults via Twitter. Perhaps the public is not yet quite aware just how in touch they are with the athletes through social media channels. But athletes have also experienced the wrath of social media. Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou was kicked out of her country’s Olympic squad before the Games began for a tweet which was judged to have mocked African immigrants into the European nation.
But, hiccups aside social media has in fact connected the world in real time and fostered a constant conversation about sports. People are now watching the events with a ‘second screen’, constantly interacting and sharing updates, emotions and experiences with each other. Athletes can now talk directely to their fans and thus also promote mage of themselves they most want to project. Hopefully the interactions created and the experiences shared during the London Olympics 2012 can truly inspire a generation to follow in the footsteps of some of the amazing athletes that we have been priveledged to follow both through Twitter, television and live here in London.
As part of my Master’s course at London College of Communication, we had a section called “Cultural Studies”. Now, in a class full of practically orientated aspiring communications professionals, the course flew over our head. It was just a Thursday afternoon spent in a freezing lecture with little purpose and minute use for our future profession. Most of us failed to understand why an understanding of culture and society is such an important part of working with communication, no matter in what field you are active. We all wanted to focus on media relations, event management, issues management, strategic planning and all of the other components of public relations practice and theory. We wanted to learn all the tips and tricks of the business and go out there and conquer.
What we failed to realise, in spite being a class of many different cultures and educational background trying to communicate with each other, was how culture and societal structure completely rules how you should and in fact are communicating. However, surprisingly little research has been done taking these components into account within the field of public relations and strategic communication. The field within public relations that is most concerned with culture is internal communication, where organisational culture is a factor well known in theories. But what about external communication? Even with Grunig’s systems theory at hand, few scholars have looked more closely on how communication and culture interact. How are they related and what effect do they have on each other? If we live in a society of different systems interacting with each other, developing alongside each other in an evolution not far from Darwinism, why are we not more keen on knowing more about it?
With this question in mind, I am slowly building further on my own dissertation. I really want to try to add more to the issue of communication (or public relations) in relation to its surroundings and what kind of effect they have on each other. My dissertation will leap off from the light of reflexive modernity as a basis of where we might be today and where communication fits in. Now more than ever is there a need for communication professionals to try to understand the society and culture in which it is meant to function. With more movement, less institutionalism, more volatility among voters and a media landscape that makes mass communication possible in ways never experienced before, we truly need to have an understanding of how everything is connected and how they effect each other. My dissertation will not answer all questions, far from it, but hopefully it will spark an interest for knowing more.
When I started out as a junior consultant at a PR agency my first assignment was to compile a media evaluation. It was a huge task and it wasn’t until the end I found out it was one of the biggest campaigns ever created by the agency. The campaign went on to win numerous trade awards. However, even as a very green and inexperienced beginner I had a hard time accepting the use of AVEs as a measuring standard. What does it really tell us? Advertising Value Equivalency is the most common way to measure the success or failure of a public relations campaign, but to be frank it really has nothing to do with PR. Sure AVE measures output, how much attention the campaign got, but what about outcome? Using AVE as a measurement you still know nothing about how the receiver interpreted the information communicated, or even if they received it.
The biggest current issue plaguing the PR industry is measurement, or the lack thereof. Constantly competing with marketing about the communications budget, public relations has a disadvantage in the fact that its function it so much harder to budget. The answer to that has so far been AVEs. It is sad since what it does is to reduce PR to a media management function, when really it could and should be so much more. At its best, PR can be a money saving function through effective issues and crisis management for example. However, how do you measure money that you never spent?
Continuing to measure PR in AVEs will inevitably keep PR tied down as a media relations function, when to be effective it has to reach management level. PR professionals need to become aware of the situation if they do not want to lose their jobs to the marketing department. PR efforts has to start being measured through for example SMART-objectives, which instantaneously will have PR lifted to management level. Paul Noble (http://www.cipr.co.uk/content/evaluating-public-relations) has written extensively on the subject of PR and evaluation techniques. Objectives has to be clear, measurable, include outputs as well as outcomes and align with the overall corporate strategy. If PR practitioners start thinking SMART, AVEs will soon be a thing of the past and the profession will gain its well earned place in management where it belongs.
As one of the most anticipated public offerings in history, Facebook made its debut on Friday. The public interest was huge, but voices are already being heard warning consumers to be weary of the hype. With little tangible assets, Facebook’s net worth is to a large extent relying on the sales of advertisement on the social media site. However, just this week General Motors announced they are going to stop advertising on Facebook, since “it’s simply not working”. General Motors has spent around $40 million per year on maintaining a Facebook profile and around a quarter of that has gone into paid advertising. Losing such a high profile client the same week as the stock market launch has spurred on the critics in their lamentation.
It is now time for Facebook to show the world and its critics that it is here to stay. Some say Facebook could be a serious contender to Google. Although, in order to compete with the search engine giant, Facebook needs to become more than just a social media site. Facebook needs to become the new gateway to internet. It has the potential. Through adverts on the site, users are already able to discover new sites, products and offers. Through customers sharing information with each other, rating and commenting on products, sites and services Facebook has a potential to actually become the passage that Google is today. However, this was up for discussion already in 2010 (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/facebook/8037491/Facebook-the-gateway-onto-the-internet.html) and we have still to see the full potential of the strategy. Maybe GM jumped ship too early, or they have possibly seen the future? It is up to Mr Zuckerberg and Facebook to prove them wrong.
As someone who is just about to enter the world of communication and public realations, it can often present itself as quite daunting. What really constitutes public relations? Not even the scholars agree on this very basic question. What is clear however, is that public relations is having trouble managing its own relations at the moment. Many practitioners have retorted to this by re-branding themselves as ‘communications officers’, ‘reputation managers’ or other less tainted titles. The question is whether this in effect eradicates the issues public relations struggles with or if it is just putting make-up on a bleeding wound. Maybe it is a reaction of a profession not yet ready to deal with its real challenge; what is PR?
As a student about to face this world of misconception, uncertainty and marvels I will try to use this blog as a tool to get closer to public relations. My main interest will circle around how public reations interact with society and what effects it has on us as a public and democracy. If public relations is practiced in its purest form, can it be an aid to the democratic process, or is it doomed to remain in the hands of spin-doctors and media gurus? I have a huge challenge ahead of me, but so does PR.