Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
September 15, 2009

Who Owns Social Media?

Who should own social media? Public relations professionals are certainly putting a stake into the ground, and not without reason. A huge component of the participatory Internet is seeding information: stories, content and news, and helping to foster dissemination.

Looking on with alarm are the SEOs. Search engine optimization is a form of public relations. Just as there are no guarantees that The New York Times will write a story based on your pitch, much less run it on page one, there’s no guarantee search engines will crawl or rank your Web content. But if you know what you’re doing, you can greatly increase the odds of a favorable outcome.

Left in the hands of public relations professionals, argue the searchies, social media marketing will turn into a tidal wave of spam. We’re the Web professionals — leave it to us!

They have a point. It depends on qualifications.

At one end of the spectrum is an acquaintance (let’s call her “Susan”) whose public relations business failed in the current climate. Susan just joined Facebook and uses it to send reminders that she’s desperately seeking freelance assignments. Beyond Facebook and e-mail, Susan’s knowledge of the Web is near zero. Much as I’d like to help an old friend in need, I can’t in good conscience recommend her to anyone in my network.

The other side of the search vs. public relations equation? While public relations professionals tend to (or
should) excel at communication and creatively generating and disseminating content, search skills are more technical.

Social media marketing skews well off the ad agencies’ core competency, which is creating and placing advertising. Social media is marketing, not advertising.

As online advertising declines, sparked not by economic woes but by the rise of alternatives, everyone must shift their skills to get in on the game. All the players in digital marketing must learn new skills, new business models, and innovate new ways to integrate campaigns into another large and growing subset of channels.

RebeccaLiebRebecca Lieb, vice president, Econsultancy, oversees the company’s U.S. operations. Previously, she was editorial consultant to The ClickZ Network, after serving as its editor-in-chief for more than seven years. She also spent time running the redoubtable Today, she continues to write a regular column for ClickZ., conducts public speaking on topics related to interactive marketing, advertising and digital media, and consults on digital content strategy and search engine optimization. Recently, she completed and released “The Truth About Search Engine Optimization.”  (Pearson Publishing’s Financial Times. February, 2009)

Join Rebecca for her FREE webinar, “Digital Marketing: The Shift of Advertising and the Creative Renaissance — Leverage Digital Trends to Reach Your Audiences.”

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