Blurred lines in the communication pattern. A chaotic reality or a challenge for PR professional?
Although the world is getting bigger, with already over 7.3 billion people, we are more interconnected than ever before. Technology has made the world smaller and social media has brought people closer and allowed them to share any type of content, whenever or with whoever they want. Social media users keep growing exponentially and it is estimated that in 2016 social media will reach new heights, with 2.13 billion users worldwide, comparing to the number of 1.4 billion users in 2014.
These figures raise the question of where social media is heading and what´s its future. But, if we leave aside the predictions in terms of numbers, can we really talk about such a thing as a future of social media?
We are currently witnessing a radical change in communication pattern. It all began at the beginning of the XXI century when, due to the massive penetration of the Internet, journalism has suffered a big change: from printed to digital and made the diffusion of the content more “liquid”, that simply just slides over the net. Then, another stage has been introduced with the emergence of mobile apps. Users now have the possibility to have a review of all media they are interested in on their own personalized “cover”, for example Twitter.
That the Internet has led to bidirectional communication has already become an axiom, but social media platforms have gone one step further and have given the opportunity to every individual to become a medium. In that sense, the statement that “the media is by definition social, otherwise it´s not media and if everything is social media then it can’t exist as a separate category” is not far from the truth. Gary Vaynerchuk, founder and owner of Vayner Media, goes a step further, claiming that “social media” is just a term we use today to describe the current stage in the development of the internet, and that in a couple of years we will no longer use it as a term.
Nevertheless, such as it is now, social media has become an essential and well-established tool in PR for building brand awareness, for engaging with customers and reinforcing their loyalty towards brands although there are still some misconceptions over its proper use and the effectiveness of each channel. The volume of content that is generated has been a challenge for public relations professionals who have to struggle to find ways to distil relevant information form that ocean of contents and to stand out with original campaigns.
Another important aspect that has been challenging public relations professionals is the necessity to distinguish between the content and the channel of delivery, and the importance to adjust the content to channel. Before the Digital Age, content was simply pushed into newspapers and nobody thought about the channel of delivery because almost every type of content could have been placed. On the contrary, nowadays, with the hyperproduction of content, each piece of content has to secure its channel. However, it´s not just that we´re facing the excessive content creation, but also the immense number of channels that are emerging because in this omnisocial reality we´re living, every individual has become a medium. And at the same time is a receiver as well. So it all seems that this will lead to an even more scattered and ephemeral diffusion of content that just flows over the Internet.
This switch in the communication pattern has revolutionized PR professionals´ day to day work. That is why social media, as a separate category, is still a growing focus for PR Professionals. However, we have to start considering it as a current stage of the Digital Revolution, as suggested by Gary Vaynerchuk and start thinking of what will be the next one. Still, it doesn´t mean we have to predict the future, because the future is here. We just need to start being open to experience it and grab it, because, if we want to keep playing this game, the main rule is to be willing to catch the future. If not, you´re out. Are you ready?