Social Networking and PR
By Jean Pitzer, Intern, D.C.
Steve Rubel had an interesting post on his blog, Micro Persuasion, about the increasingly popular topic of social networking and its growing role in public relations. His post, “The PR Theater of Operations Will Flee Email for Social Networks,” recently expressed the possible role of Facebook in PR. He argues that Facebook will replace e-mail, help create and maintain relationships between journalists and PR professionals, and provide up-to-date contact information.
At first glance, it is easy to be skeptical. The hardest thing to believe is that Facebook messaging will replace e-mail. As an avid user, the last thing I want is to believe that my beloved Facebook is going to become a main tool for business. However, Rubel makes some good points that force me to take it seriously.
Rubel presents a Facebook group that has recently been created by journalists, for journalists, as proof of these impending realities. At the time of this posting, the group was discussing how journalists can effectively use Facebook for their benefit. One way is that potential story ideas can be posted for discussion to gain knowledge and feedback.
Companies can also use Facebook groups as an open forum to interact with consumers and professionals. This idea is discussed in Tod Defren’s blog post, Public Relations and Facebook.
Private feedback can also be sent as a Facebook message to the author of the post just as easily as they can send an e-mail. Of course, e-mail is still convenient and fast, and at this point more professional. However, if the author’s contact information is unknown, using a Facebook message would make contacting that person easier.
This idea of Facebook as a business application doesn’t come without concerns or road blocks. Credibility is one of these major concerns. As a social networking site, nearly anyone can join Facebook, enter or create groups, and post messages. As with blogging, this fact will make it very hard to tell legitimate sources from any Peter, Paul, or Mary with a soap-box.
As Facebook becomes more popular, it will attract the same kind of attention from advertisers and spammers that MySpace has. One of the things people love about Facebook is how personal it is, but its growing commercialization could make it lose its appeal. This begs the question, is this effort to transform Facebook into a business tool a hex to the service and a wasted effort? Or, is it possible to learn from the mistakes of Facebook’s competitors and effectively break into this space?