Whether you are a fan of social media and think it’s the best thing since sliced bread, or you preferred life before the plethora of instant online news, gossip and interaction, social media is here to stay.
It’s testament to the sheer power of social media platforms that key ‘brands’ and global announcements now prefer to break their news via these online platforms. You only have to recall the decision by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to ‘go public’ on their pending new arrival (and third in line to the British throne) before news leaked out of Kate’s pregnancy via the internet. Subsequently they took the decision to simultaneously announce the arrival of ‘The Prince of Cambridge’ via social channels alongside the traditional notice on the gates of Buckingham Palace. At its peak, Twitter reported over 25,000 tweets per minute following the royal baby’s birth!
There was also the breaking news of the tragedy surrounding this years’ Boston Marathon, which broke worldwide on Twitter, with marathon organisers and even the police department providing constant updates via their social media channels. And when Andy Murray finally converted his fourth heart-stopping championship point to win Wimbledon this month, it seemed like the whole nation took to Twitter to send messages of congratulations….and relief!
Gone are the days when news can be carefully controlled and timed to perfection. No matter how precisely planned any communication announcement may be, once the news hits the social network sites, news not only becomes public, but there can also be an immediate loss of control. Carefully orchestrated corporate messages and communications objectives can be instantly overridden by a barrage of public interaction and comments that can hinder your communications objectives.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. While some communicators may see social media as a potential threat, if you are well prepared, and have a strategy for reacting to the various scenarios that could present themselves, you can really exploit social media to your advantage, spreading your messages much further than was ever possible before, to generate maximum exposure in the least amount of time.
Add to this the opportunity to interact with your audience and you can really achieve some outstanding results. There are now many examples of how a strong, clever response can turn the opinions of even the most hard-nosed critic into a supporter.
Speed really is of the essence in this online digital age with response times shrinking to a matter of minutes. However, there are some principles that don’t change and the old adage of ‘be prepared’ has never been so relevant. Key messages are still vital, as is the need to brief spokespeople and have a clear communications procedure. With so many outlets now available, it is essential that everyone in the chain knows their place, understands their responsibilities and are well versed on the corporate messages.
It is therefore more important than ever before that business are prepared and have their communications strategy in place before it is needed, because when the time comes, time is something you won’t have a lot of.