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Reaching an audience through social media

Posted by Danny Whatmough on 16th September 2009

Whilst traditional public relations focuses on targeting influencers (traditionally, journalists) to convey key messages to audiences, digital and social media channels allow brands to create and distribute content themselves.

Creating and distributing relevant content can be an extremely effective way to reach a specific audience, enabling brands to interact directly with their customers and prospects.

But these new channels require a new mindset that challenges businesses to re-evaluate their corporate communications strategy.


Traditional corporate communications was tightly controlled, with official spokespeople making carefully worded statements. But this is a misguided approach for social media. Online, brands need to be prepared to be open, honest and transparent with their ‘community’ or risk damaging consequences, as Spinvox recently found out.

While the ‘anonymity’ of the web makes it easy to pretend to be something you are not, this approach can backfire in a big way. Wal-mart came unstuck a few years ago when they started a blog that was supposedly written by a ‘customer’ – the truth soon came out!


In the digital age, marketing and PR no longer needs to be seen as a one-way dialogue (brand to recipient). In fact, social media marketing depends on two-way interactions. Ecnouraging conversation between brand and recipient (and between peers) is key to the effectiveness of any social media or ‘viral’ campaign.

The ‘Motrin Moms‘ fiasco is a great illustration of what can happen if a brand fails to properly consult or engage with its audience. While the company’s ads became the number one discussion trend on Twitter, it was for all the wrong reasons.

Asking your audience for feedback and being willing to take this on board can make any launch more successful – and social media can provide a great platform to begin the discussions.


It’s worth remembering the traditional Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, doesn’t apply online. If a customer or prospect begins a conversation with a brand on a social media channel, it’s important to engage quickly and directly.

There are numerous examples of where brands have been slow to respond to backlash only to see the situation spiral out of control very quickly. Habitat is a good example. When the furnishings company let an intern loose on Twitter, there was a lot of anger directed towards the ignorant tweets the brand sent out and yet it took the company a long time to respond. The response itself was good, but just far, far too late!

picture credit

Danny Whatmough