Over the past decade, the field of public relations has undergone a lot of changes. Many different aspects of technology and communication advancements led to this, but perhaps none more than the growth and popularity of social media. Social media changed how people communicate, as well as when they communicate, where they communicate, and even who they communicate with.

So here are five ways social media changed the field of public relations forever.

Encouraged Customer Focus

Social media compelled many brands to start focusing more on their customers, and building positive relationships. Customers can always go on Twitter and Facebook to sound off about bad customer experiences.

This forces companies to resolve issues speedily to avoid a PR crisis. Companies also use interactions on social media to improve their business as a whole, especially where complaints and kudos are concerned.

Created the 24/7 News Cycle

The current all-day-every-day news cycle has its ups and downs. On the upside, brands can deliver good news at any time and know someone is listening and ready to respond. Social media also provides the opportunity to give play-by-play updates as part of a crisis management plan, when things go wrong.

However, the 24/7 news cycle becomes a curse when bad news travels through the social media platforms, and creates a PR crisis making it more difficult to recover from, clean up, and contain.

Makes PR Affordable for Small Businesses

In the past, public relations firms and specialists mostly worked with politicians and large organizations with the funds to spend for brand management and crisis communications.

Today, even small businesses can afford to hire a college student studying communications, journalism or public relations to manage their online presence. This makes PR affordable to the businesses that need it, and who cannot afford more professional and experienced PR assistance.

Led to Integrated PR

Marketing experts jumped on the social media bandwagon before PR experts caught up and incorporated it into a good PR strategy. As a result, to work with social media marketing, public relations experts must integrate marketing concepts and practices with PR strategy to achieve results.

This integration can also cause a company with separate PR and marketing teams to butt heads over control for social media.

Greater Engagement

In the past, communication was a one-way street, where companies put out content and customers had no public avenue to easily interact with or respond to distributed content.

Now, for better or worse, customers engage with brands and their content by leaving comments, sharing, and “liking.”

This also helps brands know how effective content and ads are in reaching the masses, and boosting visibility, as opposed to the past where the effect of commercials and newspaper ads could only be measured in sales.

Social media continues to have a strong impact on public relations, and may continue to influence the ever-changing field.