Social media has affected both the journalism and public relations world, but has it been a positive influence, or a negative one? After reading articles and book excerpts backing both sides of the argument, it’s very apparent that there are strong opinions supporting either view. First we’ll begin with the position of those in support of social media in the two fields.
According to David Meerman Scott in his book The New Rules of Marketing & PR, we are in, “The most important communication revolution in human history” (26). He claims that the web, from a marketing and PR perspective, has opened up a big opportunity to reach specific buyers with affordable targeted information. I am in full agreement here. From a public relations perspective, the web is very helpful because it allows you to communicate directly with your buyers. It also means a simple new way of gathering information in order to gauge public opinion.
Social media also gives journalists the opportunity to spread news to a wider audience. Recent studies suggest that most users of reddit, Twitter, and nearly half of Facebook receive their news from those social networking sites. For reporters, this can be worked greatly to their advantage. More attention can be drawn to a story of yours through the new forms of social media. For example, if you write a story and tweet the link in addition to appropriate hashtags, not only will your followers be made aware of your article, but also any person on Twitter that searches for that same hashtag. The same can be said for Facebook. Through retweets and sharing, more and more attention can be drawn to you and your article.
There are also those who take a more cautious stance when it comes to the rapidly expanding social media world. Nicholas D. Kristof is one such critic, noting the alarming possibility of web-based news becoming, “The Daily Me.” There is a strong likelihood that a person with specific beliefs will tend to search only for news that backs up their personal opinions. This is most commonly found with those who keep up with politics, but lean toward liberal or conservative news. Unfortunately, the web and social media certainly can contribute to, “The Daily Me,” consisting of one-sided opinion.
Lastly, social media allows anyone to publish news of any kind. In light of that fact, the term, “democratizing the media,” has been coined in reference to the new voice of the everyday person involved in these new websites. Seth Ashley of PBS, however, refuted that claim, and said there are, “gatekeepers,” for the flow of information. The websites, and more specifically social networking sites, are companies that make their money from both advertising and the public. Unfortunately, sometimes the profits are held at a higher value than the public in the eyes of these websites, which can lead to uneven distribution of news.