Is Social Media Marketing or Public Relations?

WHAT Is Social Media – Is IT Marketing or Public Relations?

Social Media Agency


It used to be easy to segment different outreach strategies into disciplines. Advertising was paid media on the radio, in print (newspapers and magazines) or on television. Public relations was building goodwill in the community and favourable company and brand awareness. Marketing was numbers focused, ROI minded and sales dependent. Then social media came into the picture. Does this discipline fall under one of the others, or is it a completely independent category of its own? To answer this question, you must take a look at what it touches, and your overall plan for communications outreach.

It’s difficult to classify social media because it incorporates so many different communication aspects. It cannot only fall under marketing or PR, but also customer support, and because of its technical nature, possibly IT. It slices through departments and functions creating a mixed-use purpose. To remind, entertain, engage, help, go viral, sell, make noise, form relationships, fix and support.

Companies are managing social media in a variety of ways. Some have their digital marketing team own it, some their public relations team, and a few have a cross-functional teams all having a hand in it.

Social Media

Social media, like Twitter tweets, Facebook status updates, Pinterest boards, Instagram, Vine, Tumblr, and others are great brand contact points, providing brief messages to consumers in an attention-starved world. Social media is also a fantastic place for a consumer to go if they want an immediate answer to something. The public nature of the question prompts swift, often helpful, replies. This function makes it seem more like a customer service tool.
It’s possible for a marketing team to own social media by default simply because no other department really knows what to do with it. Marketing-owned social media is great for launching products or companies, announcing pricing incentives, repeating messaging and brand story, and getting in front of the appropriate demographics as determined by the numbers analyzing marketing team.

It can be argued, and quite successfully so, that public relations professionals are the experienced storytellers able to take any item and make it engaging and relevant. A great necessary strength of the PR profession is the ability to form relationships. Social media is all about relationships and stories. Due to the immediate nature of social media, it’s great for messaging during a crisis. PR professionals are skilled in relationship and reputation management, able to get a company’s voice out in to the public quickly.

Social media allows companies to get real-time feedback and opinions from people. It lets them form one-on-one relationships. Social media is a way to have engaged people spread your message and have it potentially go viral if it resonates in the right way with enough people.

To answer the question of who should own social media, overall strategy needs to be decided for the company involved. What is their ultimate goal? What kind of outreach will their accounts be used for? As social media evolves, its functionality, practicality and value grows.  Punting this tool around like a hot potato you don’t want to be caught holding is irresponsible.

Social media is instant communication, a way for people to feel more intimately connected to a brand or product. It’s a powerful part of a communications plan, and the truth is that it can’t be classified as either marketing or as PR. If it must be that only one department ultimately owns it, the others whose functionalities it serves should still be at least minimally involved. This ensures appropriate insights are available to make this tool as effective as possible.

Sp, Is Social Media Marketing or Public Relations? I hope this answers that question!

About the author

Digital Marketing Professional with 9 years experience across Search Engine Optimisation, Link Building, Social Media, Blogging, Content Writing, Website Design and Build.

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