In this guest post, Russ Horell (main photo), Isentia’s chief commercial officer, says social media has changed news gathering and it has become the number one pulse check on the public’s view and opinions…
The flow of information never sleeps. Now, more than ever, this has created a myriad of new challenges – but also opportunities.
Information is crucial for all parts of an organisation, but it is particularly true for the communications and marketing areas, where reputation and audience behaviour are important currency.
With the continued convergence of marketing and communications functions this has the potential to create uncertainty. The idea that ‘the digital team takes care of that’ increasingly means that organisations miss valuable cues and opportunities.
In my almost two decades at Isentia, working closely with Australia and New Zealand’s leading Communications and PR professionals, I have heard social media grow from a background noise you could choose to ignore, to a never ending, dance party in your ear.
No longer does social media just contribute to the news media. It is the news media.
Regardless of industry, the sphere of influence has been expanding and people are more likely to interact with organisations, views and ideas online. It is fast becoming the primary source of news, especially in a crisis.
When monitored and analysed correctly, social media provides a pulse check on public opinion and important context as to why some ideas or messages are not resonating, and where mainstream media and more traditional forms of communication might be misunderstood.
For instance, insights from traditional media coverage might only reveal a portion of the actionable trends. Isentia’s recent research for Sport New Zealand on media and gender found that there was a disparity between gender sentiment on traditional media with 83% of total sports coverage in NZ focused on men’s sport. On social media, however, this is split almost evenly across the sporting sector social media accounts. Social channels have therefore become a powerful sense check tool.
Knowing your news:
Small problems certainly become big problems when they are amplified on social media. Understanding how information travels, how mainstream media outlets position themselves online, and how their content is shared and understood, is an important element in any organisation’s reputational toolkit.
Paying attention to the conversations as a whole, what they say and how people circulate and redirect information is a critical part of identifying influencers and advocates, but also misinformation, and where a lack of understanding could start to turn into misinformation
We know from the reputation and media consumption studies that we conduct, that social media and word of mouth are the most impactful sources of information for an individual, and that these two sources are converging rapidly.
While it is well known that communicating with your audience online and keeping across mentions of your organisation on social media is important, it’s not as often that organisations look up from their own channels and mentions to explore audience sentiment online more generally.
What is more, the wealth of information available online means that new trends, products and categories can be seen in their infancy, but only if you’re listening properly.
Sentiment analysis can show how critical movements are gaining momentum online and how they are being understood, shared or self-regulated. If used correctly this can help organisations stay ahead.
Never before has the industry had the capability to understand their audiences in this way. This is not just for the digital team. The leading Communications and PR professionals have the opportunity too and success awaits those who are able to seize it.