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How to use social media for PR: A step-by-step guide

Social media has evolved into a prime storytelling tool. With the growing digital landscape, brands are now implementing social media into their PR strategy as a means to connect with larger audiences.

Now, more than ever, customers are using social media to understand and interact with their favorite brands, to generate the buzz that impacts the reach and influence of the brand.

Follow these steps to create a social media strategy that aligns with traditional public relations techniques to connect with your ideal audience.

1. Curate your brand voice and know your audience

The most important aspect of leveraging the impact of your brand awareness and reach through social media and PR is first having a clear message and voice. In order for larger audiences to have a deeper understanding of a brand, their message across all marketing platforms, especially social media, needs to be clear, concise, intriguing, and recognizable.

Some of the most well-known brands reach a level of success because they are able to create an emotional connection with their audience. In conjunction with your brand’s message, it is crucial that you have an understanding of who you want to share that message with.

Before creating your content calendars and/or pitch topics, you must first ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the role of social media in public relations, and how can you use it to achieve your goals?

  • How do you define target audience? Who are they?

  • Where is your ideal target audience located and how will your content speak/resonate with them?

These will be some of the most consistent aspects of your social media and PR strategy. The design and aesthetics of your brand will change, but your message should always emphasize the “why” aspect of your brand and why it’s important to your audience and/or customer.

2. Discover the right hooks on what gives your brand its identity

To avoid promotional burnout for both your brand and your audience, it is important to know the content categories that guide your strategy and outreach efforts. By aligning your content with your key content categories, your audience can have a deeper understanding of the content they can expect from you.

This also impacts the types of pitches you may send on a brand’s behalf, and editors who receive the pitches will appreciate the audience research that you’ve conducted.

Here are examples of content categories that you can target:

  • Inspirational: This category is great for publishing content that gets people thinking positively. Ex. Quotes, flat lays, beautiful images, influencer shout-outs, etc.

  • Educational: Are you an expert in your field? This is for you to put your expertise to use. Create content such as tips and tricks, video trainings, FAQs, free resources, etc. This can be any type of information that your audience can learn from you.

  • Conversational: This is for any type of content that sparks interaction. Ex. Giveaways/contests, polls, “Caption This” posts, fill-in-the-blanks, etc. Think about the content that naturally creates a buzz! The more authentic to your brand, the better.

  • Connection: This is meant for more of the behind-the-scenes approach to your content. Ex. Product reviews, travel photos, lifestyle, events, team, clients, etc. This allows your audience to build a personal connection with you and your brand.

  • Promotional: This is great for pushing any type of promotions or discounts. This is also great for self-promotion, such as webinars, podcasts, upcoming speaking opportunities, etc. Don’t be afraid to shine and highlight your accomplishments!

The most successful brands/businesses are successful in the eyes of public relations because they are laser focused on the content they provide. The clearer you are in your content strategy, the more effective your PR efforts will be in attracting audiences, especially through social media.

3. Put the buzz back in social media: Be conversational

Community engagement is one of the most important aspects when building your brand awareness through public relations outreach. Social media is one of the largest outlets to distribute your message and connect with the audiences who will help create the buzz around you and your brand.

Engage with your target audiences and the content that they create and publish, and then you can use audience targeting to show your ads to interested readers.

First, discover the influencers and/or outlets that are discussing the topics that align with your brand. How can you find these accounts?

Start by searching through things like @mentions, hashtags, geotags, etc. Then, strategize how you plan to comment and/or connect with them.

Are you going to leave them a comment directly on a post? What about sending them a direct message? Are you comfortable with leaving audio messages?

Keep your communications authentic, casual, and concise. The goal is to become their online brand bestie.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to share the news! Do you have something exciting to share with them? Once you have established an online relationship and/or rapport, share away.

However, refrain from any type of outreach that might be classified as spam. And be mindful of using automated tools for direct messages, comments, likes, etc., as some of these tools can and will be flagged.

4. Energize and optimize your content

Utilizing hashtags on social media is a great way to garnish attention around your content and find influencers for your brand by aligning with popular content that they’re already highlighting. Hashtags are often a great way to easily find new accounts to follow who share similar content as you do.

Hashtags are also beneficial when building your brand. Brands and businesses will create their own hashtag campaigns to use in their posts to bring awareness to new product or service launches.

We recommend taking the time to discover what hashtags work best for you. Once you have an idea of the hashtags that correlate with your brand content guidelines, choose 5-10 of them that are brand optimized and have at least 15k or more tags.

Although the competition is high, these tend to bring the most engagement as they are frequently used and monitored.

5. Be your own cream and sugar – video and live streaming

In the digital PR space, it’s important to showcase the faces behind any brand and/or business. Live streaming and video is a great way for brands to make a direct emotional connection with their target audience.

At Brandesso, we rolled out a video series in which we use video as a way to showcase entrepreneurs that have a unique message and story to share with our audience. Public relations is a way to share a story, so why not make the story more captivating with video?

When strategizing video content, don’t overthink it! You can use tools that are already provided to you, such as Facebook and Instagram Live, YouTube stories, Zoom recordings, etc.

6. Be consistent and align content with your audience

Always show up and align with your audience. The power of engagement and following up can make a big impact in the reach and exposure of your content.

When it comes to the frequency of your posts, post up to 5 times a week. Once you grow your presence on social media, look into increasing your frequency based on need and the engagement from your audience.

As for engagement times, check your account insights to see when your audience most engages with your content and then plan your schedule and community engagement around those timeframes. As for stories, post between 3-4 stories on Facebook or Instagram each day for your brand to appear within the timeline.

Community engagement is one way of how to create buzz on social media, so keep this on the top of your list! Spend about an hour each day commenting, liking, and engaging with your top connections.

Whenever possible, respond to comments that come through on your accounts within the first 5 minutes of them being posted; if you can’t respond within that time frame, be sure to respond the moment you can when going through your open queues on your social media management software.

The takeaway

With these 6 steps, you can establish your growing social media presence while elevating your robust PR strategy.

Remember: the key to creating an effective social strategy to align with public relations is to continue to connect with your audience.

From showcasing your brand or content through Instagram Stories to getting chatty on Facebook Live, there are many ways to highlight your brand’s story through social to expand the reach of your PR.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on socialbakers.com. Any statistics or statements included in this article were current at the time of original publication.

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