Importance of Public Relations for Social Media Posted on October 1, 2018 By Nikki Mendez Social media took the world by a storm and completely transformed the way people communicate in their interpersonal relationships, and how companies market to their target audiences. Today, the average internet user has seven social media accounts, so it’s no mystery why companies have decided to have an active presence on as many social media sites as possible. But while social media have made it easier for businesses to keep in constant contact with their consumers, they also make it easier for said companies to be bombarded by an onslaught of customer complaints and internet backlash, some of which have the possibility to go viral. Studies show that 46% of consumers have used social media to "call out" brands. These complaints can do damage to your brand or business if not handled properly.Public relations (PR) is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics. Social media help PR fulfill a more nuanced role by assisting with relationship management, identifying brand threats, and engaging influencers. Maintaining good public relations is important because it keeps the image of your company in a positive light with your target audiences and the general public.The demand and standards of public relations have changed dramatically since the creation of social media. Social media have become a support for PR professionals and changed the way PR campaigns are distributed and measured. Online platforms are revolutionary tools that have become an essential part of many companies. This is why it is always important to have a public relations team, whether in-house or remote, to manage your brand image and relationship with the public. It would also be beneficial for your company if your social media coordinator were seasoned in public relations and/or crisis management, because that person is a direct form of contact with your consumers before and after any sort of negative press. Handling social media accounts during a bad PR incident is an incredibly difficult job and one that requires an expert person or team.A lot of things can cause social media backlash or negative press, including faulty products, offensive ad campaigns, and bad customer service. In the modern digital age, a valid fear for a company is a customer complaint or a situation going viral. Customer complaints may not always reach millions of people like the Twitter furor over Kylie Jenner Cosmetics’ faulty brushes, but bad situations involving your business always have the possibility of bringing negative press. All PR disasters demand a strategic approach for resolution, and it’s best to nail down your PR procedures BEFORE anything bad happens. That’s because bad PR can spread so quickly that there won’t be time for planning or lengthy discussions in the aftermath.Here are some tips on how to handle internet backlash and bad press: Develop a strong brand culture. Many PR disasters are caused by employees. Remember the viral video of a Starbucks employee calling the police on two black men? This is why it’s important to properly train all employees in a manner that will reflect the positive image of your brand. Stay professional. It’s understandable for business owners to be upset when they see someone online trashing their products or services, but lashing out can do much more harm to your image. Not every business can respond savagely to negative comments like the Wendy’s Twitter does, so if you need to publicly respond to a situation or customer complaints (and we recommend you do in almost every situation), do it in a constructive and level-headed manner. Let customers feel heard. Don’t try to cover up unsatisfied customers, especially if your business is at fault. This includes deleting comments or blocking customers, and deleting your company’s social media page entirely is pretty much business suicide. If the consumer’s perception is that a mistake has been made (even if you or your company has done nothing wrong), you should publicly commit to resolve the issue. Then take the conversation out of the public eye to correct the issue (or non-issue). Fix the problem in public whenever possible. There’s no better way to turn a detractor into a loyal fan than to own the mistake and fix it right there for everyone to see. Send coupons or a care package full of your product or swag. Own it. Apologize. Make it right. If a mistake is large enough, consider pausing scheduled posts. If your company schedules social media posts ahead of time, pause them immediately. There is nothing worse than a chirpy or seemingly insensitive scheduled post popping up in the middle of a PR crisis. Never ever lie. If anyone at all discovers you are lying, it will end up backfiring and ruining your reputation. Don’t take that risk.