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PR and social media trends for 2012

As PR and social media agencies such as Gullan&Gullan work with our clients to plan for 2012, we're finding some interesting trends coming through, both from our local initiatives and from our global ICOM partners. Here are some of our findings...
PR and social media trends for 2012
1. Engagement over likes
When it comes to social media (a key PR function) the focus will be on engagement-not merely likes, fans or followers. There are a lot of brands with heavy fan bases but low engagement-consumers who click to 'like' something but never go back. Brand social pages that have millions of fans that never engage are pretty pointless. What you should be interrogating about your social media is how do you engage with consumers?

2. Your brand needs to be available 24/7
People are engaging with their social communities at all hours - not just when your agency team is at the office. In fact, research proves that a large majority of Facebook users in South Africa are online after 8pm. The conversation is happening, whether your brand is involved or not. While fans do find it acceptable for reverts within a day, be sure you are at least monitoring your brand pages a couple of times a day.

3. Harness the power of consumer influencers
Media personalities, celebrity tweeters and professional bloggers used to be the most important online influencers, but your key consumers who engage with your brand and have influence in their communities should not be ignored either. Those average people who tweet or post regularly about a topic and are seen as experts carry a lot of clout in their circles. For example, Gullan&Gullan recently launched a Facebook integrated web2 campaign for VO5, called www.artofstylin.co.za. We had a fan who rallied her community to vote for her, to the extent that she made sure she had the most votes for the week. She literally demanded the prize in the public space - and she deserved it. A good reminder that consumers have a lot of power.

4. Synchronise web PR with social media
While more and more consumers discover new products and services by relying on their social networks for referrals, recommendations and reviews, the additional support of third party endorsement via web PR and online influencers can often be the tipping point that is the difference between engagement and purchase. Gullan&Gullan cannot emphasise this important channel as a supporting function to any social media campaign.

5. Quality content worth sharing
For a while, social media content was coming from everyone. Many brands had some internal secretary managing their pages, or worse their teenage kids. The landscape is totally different now. With so many brands competing for mindshare in the social space, only good content is being passed along. Brand teams and their social media agencies should have content creation plans in place as part of their social media strategies.

6. Paid, earned or shared
There is a similar blurring between paid and unpaid content in digital media. There are paid opportunities on most social platforms, including Twitter. For marketers, it's important to be in all streams - paid, earned, shared and owned - so the message is heard. It's no longer enough to launch a social media campaign without the support of paid ads on those platforms. Add to that, above the line support and your results will be even better. Even brands with first-mover advantage cannot compete in the social space without additional support, as the novelty of social media has vanished.

7. Look for opportunities in the now
PR and social media agencies that identify real-time marketing and engagement opportunities will get results. While it's excellent to have conversation calendars and content plans, brands that leverage trends and create content in the moment will get share of conversation. For example, the latest petrol price increase was a hot topic for a couple of days, which we leveraged for our client Vespa that offers a safe, fuel-saving commuting solution.

8. Don't ignore mobile
As smartphone penetration hits over 100% in SA the use of mobile Internet will become as important as desktop Internet usage. That means social media strategies and criteria need to be adjusted to include mobile, such as brand apps, QR codes and instant messaging. Brand teams need to re-evaluate how to engage consumers on the go.

9. It's all in the metrics
Clients increasingly want to measure their ROI. The challenge for agencies is to be clear about what the important measurement criteria are. For example, the South African Facebook page for Axe has nearly 2 900 000 likes, but did it move product? And if so, how do the brand team attribute the growth to social media? Those sorts of discussions are vital in 2012.

10. Global brands have to be integrated
Every social media campaign is a global campaign - there are no country boundaries in social media. For this reason, it's important that local websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and blogs look and sound the same from market to market, country to country. Ten years ago global brands worked hard to integrate brand messages across disciplines, now we should be doing the same for social media.

13 Mar 2012 07:32


About the author

Michael Gullan is the Managing Director and founder of Gullan&Gullan Advertising (Pty) Ltd. He has more than two decades experience at creating value for brands on client accounts from food and beverage, to cosmetics, mail order, medical, publishing and financial services. Gullan&Gullan's propriety brand-centric™ methodology forms the basis of every communication service Gullan&Gullan offer their clients, ensuring that the brand's core values are expressed in a congruent, consistent manner at every touch point. Visit www.gullanandgullan.com or contact Michael directly on or 011 887 6591.