ABSTRACT: The core objective of the research was to examine social media impact on public relations and how professionals are adopting in the 21st century. Basically, the use of social media has increased among consumers around the world, causing an increase in the adoption of social media as tactics and means of sharing information and interactions among many public relations professionals and its publics. The researcher adopts a survey research method coupled with 100 copies of questionnaires that would be administered to one hundred respondents who would be drawn from the Nigeria Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) Lagos office using an accidental sampling technique. The data would be analysed and interpreted using simple statistics of frequency and percentage method with tables. Findings show that lots of PRs practitioners are more aware of the usefulness of social media while many are using social media, especially Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for several PRs activities. It is recommended that PRs practitioners should create a special unit (social media unit) to effectively manage all their social handles while social media should form part of the curriculum for undergraduates in mass communication and public relations, in particular, this will equip them for digital practice.
One of the primary functions of public relations is media relations, i.e ability to effectively and efficiently use and manage press or media. As technology grows, the number of the media available to PRs is increasing everyday from newspaper/magazine, radio, television and to the recent internet and social media in particular. Each of this platform comes with benefits and shortcomings because none of the platforms is 100% effective since publics that PRs are targeting matters and determine the medium to use or the combination of media to adopt in a particular campaign. For instance, newspaper and magazine could be suitable to reach elite and rich publics, television and radio can be used to reach almost every public while the new media (social media) could be adopted in reaching youth and educated publics respectively.
According to Wright & Hinson (2009) the communications world is dramatically moving in a digital direction and those who understand this transformation will communicate much more effectively than those who do not.” Public relations practitioners are in the business of communicating with publics and therefore must understand this transformation in order to communicate effectively.
However, one of the emerging media or channels of communication in public relations is the use of the internet particularly the new media (social media, podcast, streaming, video conferencing, e-releases etc). Kur (2004) posits that the dynamic nature of the 2lst century and more centuries to come rest on technological revolution. Improvement in modern technology has transformed the world into a Global Village (Marshal McLuhan, 1964). This new technological devices have compressed the world into a single electronic room where information about far and near can be exchanged and shared with just a click of the mouse or touch of screen.
Internet being the host of many other media tagged social media such as Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, Youtube, Snapchat, Wechat, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. make information dissemination faster, cheaper and easier. The advent of this information and communication technology has affected the usual shape of every human activity ranging, from education, agriculture, business, mass communication and to the practice of public relations or public communication among others.
However, the practice of Public Relations is not exceptional as social media or new media. ICT has influenced the public relations practice in this century. Nwosu (2007:55) described internet and information technology thus:
‘Imagine a room filled with many spiders, each spinning its own webs.
The webs are so interconnected that the spider can travel freely within the maze’.
Information and communication technology extends to a range of technological application such as computer software and hardware, GSM, Smartphones, the internet and other electronic information resources like the World Wide Web, emails, podcast, webcast, CD ROMs among others.
Today, organizations and clients are making greater demand on public relations professionals that are more ICT oriented, creative and innovative. It is not an overstatement to say that Public relations now use social media to share organisation’s view, opinions, e-releases, seek the opinion of publics, make feedback easier and faster i.e it enhanced effective two ways symmetric communication (Olayinka, 2015).
Other activities that PRs do with the social media is generating opinions, sharing corporate news, information on employment opportunities, programmes on anniversary, launching of new logo, commissioning of new office or branch, birthday of members or top management team etc which could have cost them lots of time, money and energy.
It is against this background that the research examines social media impact on public relations and how professionals are adopting in the 21st century. with the view to know the extent at which the new media particularly social media have influence their operations especially as a platform for effective interaction and quick source of feedback in this emerging technology.
Statement of Problem
There is need to ascertain how social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, Wechat, Youtube and others have enhanced the practice of public relations especially in creating and maintaining mutual understanding for better interaction within internal and external publics. The cost effectiveness, speed of message delivery and public relations can translate the social media into feedback and opinion media.
There is therefore, problem of source credibility of information share via social media and new media which needs to be ascertained because such media is more opinionated and lack established gatekeepers (monitors). Social media problems may include examples such as imitation of web pages and sharing of fake or untrue information to the consumer “you have won 10000 worth of credit in our ongoing company promo pay N2000 to claim your prize. This offer is available only for today and tomorrow”.
The earlier researchers on social media and public relations focused on public relations in the developed nations like US, UK which cannot be replicated in Nigeria due to the level of technological advancement in Nigeria and exposure of the PRs practitioners in Nigeria to adopt to new innovation like social media application to their duties. In view of this, the study sought to find out social media impact on public relations and how professionals are adopting in the 21st century.
Objectives of the Study
The main objective of this study is to examine the effect of social media in the practice of public relations. Specifically, the study sought to:
- To examine whether public relations professionals in Lagos are using social media in communication and sharing of ideas and activities.
- To find out the extent at which social media have helped public relations practitioners in solving problems and complaints from its various publics.
The study was guided by the following questions:
- To what extent are public relations professionals in Lagos state use social media in discharging their professional duties?
- To what extent has social media helped PRs practitioners in solving problems and complaints from its various publics?
Scope of the Study
The study which examines social media impact on public relations and how professionals are adopting in the 21st century shall be narrowed in scope to the Public Relations Practitioners in Lagos particularly those that can be assessed at the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) Secretariat Lagos. NIPR secretariat will be selected since it is the easiest and convenience way to locate many public relations practitioners in the state who are respondents to this research problem.