By Toby Cox

It’s that time of year when people begin to reflect on the past year and look forward to the one approaching. As people start to think about their New Year’s resolutions, business owners should do the same and think about how they can improve their company and strategies in 2019.

One goal every business should consider is using social media as a PR tool.

Social media, and the level of accountability that comes with it, may intimidate businesses, but it can yield more benefits than challenges when used correctly.

Here is a list of 5 actionable things your business can do to start using social media as a PR tool in 2019.

Recognize How Social Media Changes the Consumer-Company Relationship

Social media empowers consumers by giving them instant access to public forums where they can freely voice their comments and be instantly heard.

This has changed the nature of the consumer-company relationship, making communication much easier and changing consumers’ expectations of companies: 76% of people expect companies to respond to comments on social media.

companies comments social media

“The relationship between companies and customers is so much closer now,” said Melina Palmer, a behavioral economist and producer of The Brainy Business podcast. “People are potentially much quicker to feel like they’ve been betrayed if a company does something that they feel is outside of alignment. Social media has shifted power to the consumer.”

Businesses should first recognize the role of social media in today’s new media landscape, acknowledging the power it gives to both consumers and businesses.

“Social media is the place where brands can create a stronger narrative and really put the emotional aspect to their brand and create a personality,” said Matt Kovacs, CEO of Blaze PR firm in LA.

Embrace Criticism

Criticism can be difficult to swallow, especially when posted on public forums like social media. Facing negative comments online can be intimidating to businesses, but embracing these criticisms can help businesses elevate their brand.

Forty-five percent (45%) of people say they would view a company more positively if it responded to negative comments on social media.

negative comments social media

“Being able to show the way that your company responds in a crisis is actually helpful because customers get reassurance that if something goes wrong, your business will take care of them,” Palmer said.

Avoiding criticism on social media is impossible, but responding to these comments can help businesses promote their brand and attract new customers. People don’t expect perfection from companies, but they do expect companies to acknowledge the voices of their customers.

Respond in a Timely Manner

Social media brought down the barriers that once divided companies and consumers and people expect companies to respond to comments on social media and quickly.

“When you have a two-way conversation with someone, you really don’t know exactly what’s going to come across,” said Laura Reagen, CEO of Activate Health PR agency. “You have to be ready to very quickly communicate back.”

83% of people expect companies to respond to comments on social media within a day or less and 38% of people expect companies to respond within an hour or less.

The rise of social media has fostered a culture that values immediacy, instant views, and instant responses. This value on expediency will only become more relevant as younger generations gain more purchasing power.

Ninety percent (90%) of millennials ages 18-34 expect companies to respond within a day or less, versus 78% of Generation Xers ages 35-54 and 75% of baby boomers ages 55 and up. Forty-four percent (44%) of millennials expect companies to respond within an hour or less, versus 38% of Generation Xers and 25% of baby boomers.

response on social media

The majority of all people, regardless of age, expect companies to respond quickly, reflecting a trend in expectations for the future.

Use Social Media as a Customer Service Tool

Social media has already become an avenue for customer service in the minds of consumers and for internet-based companies.

“Social media already has become the form for service and support,” Reagen said. “You can’t call Netflix on the phone and complain. The expectation is you’re going to solve this online.”

Using social media as an extension of customer service is one way businesses can regain control of their online narrative and begin using social media as a PR tool.

Fifty-eight percent (58%) of people say social media makes customer service easier for the consumer.

“Social media is very helpful for consumer advocacy and customer service,” said Jason Sherman, CEO of SHERMAN Communications and Marketing, Inc. “Information is coming in – complaints, compliments, and questions – and you get it right away and can respond to it right away. It’s great for customer service, but if it’s not managed well, it can be a huge problem because it’s so immediate.”

Social media makes customer service easier for consumers, but it can make it easier for businesses, too. By using social media as a customer service tool, they are being proactive and taking advantage of the opportunities social media provides,

Engage with Customers to Humanize Your Brand

Social media provides countless opportunities for businesses to show consumers the people, mission, and values behind the brand. How businesses interact with consumers on social media shows the world that they care about the satisfaction of their customers.

“I encourage companies to look at their social media relationships in the same way they’d look at any other relationship,” Reagen said. “They’re all relationships, just different forms. It goes a long way in making people feel like you respect them and that your brand comes across in the right manner and comes across as compassionate.”

By embracing social media as a PR tool in 2019 and using these tips, your business can get ahead and attract new customers.