Research has revealed that social media is most useful for building up relationships with consumers.
Conducted by Cision and PR News, the survey questioned PR professionals to ascertain the ways in which they found social media beneficial. Their answers confirmed that the primary use of networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter is to develop and maintain relationships with media and influencers.
Building up trust, maintaining transparency, sharing news and soliciting feedback on products and services were also identified as areas in which social media interaction is used regularly. However, just 13 per cent of PRs said that they use the networks to proactively pitch story ideas to journalists and bloggers, with email still identified as the most popular way of doing this.
The preferred social networks were Twitter (with 34.4 per cent), Facebook (29.3 per cent) and LinkedIn (23.2 per cent). Jay Krall, director of product strategy for Cision, commented: "It's no surprise Twitter is emerging as the top choice among PR professionals for interacting with the media and influencers.
"Twitter is immediate, intensely personal and enables communicators to easily build relationships and engage in real time with an enormous network of contacts."
Social networking can help businesses build up an online reputation not only with the media, but also with their consumers directly. For this reason, it is well worth considering when looking at the overall development of a company website.
As an additional benefit, a strong social media profile is likely to boost a website's listing on the search engines, so it will have an indirect impact on search engine optimisation (SEO) when done successfully. The low cost of developing a social media presence might make this a particularly interesting area to explore for smaller businesses who don't have the large marketing or advertising budget or larger firms.