The Benefits and Disadvantages of Using Social Media in Public Relations

Balance the risks and the rewards of social media in your planned profession


What is Social Media?

The term Social media describes the different internet platforms and mobile channels of communication that enable users to engage in networking exchanges whilst developing and sharing user-generated content online (Dewing, 2012, page 1). The evolution of  new media and the internet has emerged various social media platforms including  Facebook, Blogs, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube and many others (Rouse & Wigmore, 2015; Dewing, 2012, page 1; Horton, 2009).

What is Web 2.0?

These social networking mediums also known as “Web 2.0” have transformed human interaction processes, changing the way in which information is transmitted between countries. Thus, enabling people to send and receive messages around the globe instantly. The term Web 2.0 is used to describe how individuals have the facility to network, share, tag and post information via social networking sites such as those previously mentioned (Flew, 2014, page 67). Web 2.0 is more interactive than Web 1.0 which only allows individuals to read information without sharing it.

  Industries Affected by Technological Expansions and New Media


The operational aspects of various communication industries have unavoidably been impacted by the emerging cyber changes in many ways. For example, public relations (PR) industries as Horton (2009, page 1) suggests have in recent years been forced to switch from traditional platforms to using social media networks in order to generate content and reach wider publics. These changes in the cyberspace have enabled PR practitioners to send single messages through multiple online channels with the aim for their content to appeal to different audiences.

This Article will Discus how Social Media has Impacted the PR Industry


However, like any emerging trend, people should also consider the risks and benefits involved as both outcomes could positively or negatively impact the functioning and the success of organisations. Therefore, to better explain the advantages and disadvantages of using social media in a planned profession, the following article will outline the risks and benefits of using social media in the PR industry.

PR, Building  and Maintaining Relationships


The area of PR mainly focuses on building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships between organisations and their key publics (PRIA, 2015).  The practice is a correlation of various disciplines including media relations, public affairs, public diplomacy, stakeholder engagement, crisis communication, social media public relations, internal communications and many more (Johnston, & Sheehan, 2014, pages 8-9). Hence, PR industries often generate key messages with their content to build effective organisational   reputation to obtain public attention.

Yes to Social Media in Public Relations!

social-woodbagonProfessionals within the industry constantly work towards increasing the awareness of their organisation. Realistically, sharing information via various platforms in an instant can only be achieved   through the use of rapid and effective channels of communication. From this, it is evident that the use of social media is very much required within the public relation sector.

A Few Social Networking Sites Used In PR


Bivins (2008) supports the previous by suggesting that  technological expansions and new media  have benefited the PR industry in various aspects,  allowing  practitioners to be able to deliver content messages online  using social networks such as blogs,  Facebook, twitter  and YouTube to deliver  their  campaigns whilst also being able to share their content  and participate on online discussions to promote their creative materials.

Good News For PR


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As previously mentioned and as shown in the previous video, ‘Web 2.0’ has allowed industry professionals to interact with their publics, not only through a single social networking platform but through multiple channels at once (Vistis Public Relations, 2011). This most definitely is of great benefit to the PR industry as it revolutionises the way work is generally conducted in PR. Consequently, practitioners have the facility to directly communicate with clients, increase brand awareness, provide organizational insights to their audiences and participate on search engine optimizations due to social media (Rutzou, 2015).

Consider the Risks Involved with Social Media In PR


Although this article mentions the benefits of using social media in public relations practices, it is also important for industry professionals to be aware of the risks involved when using social networking platforms to share their content. Accordingly, the Australian Government (2015) suggests that people’s “Digital reputation [are] defined by [their] behaviours in the online environment and by the content [they] post about [themselves] and others.” It is evident from this statement that people with an online presence need to be aware of their ‘Digital Footprint’ on the cyberspace.

What Does Digital Footprint Mean?

The term ‘Digital Footprint’ is used to describe the trails of information individuals create when using the internet (Christensson, 2014; Internet Society, 2015). This includes various online platforms, websites and emails that people use to share data via Web 2.0 (Christensson, 2014).Hence, in the PR industry practitioners need to be prudent about the content they share online.

Social Media Can Destroy a Good Reputation


When poorly used, social media could become a weapon of mass destruction as it is able to generate issues which may cause the organisation to lose its positive reputation. Some of the risks include legal implications, ethical considerations, confidentiality and misleading information (Robinson, 2015). Since the internet is a Digital Footprint arena, PR practices should avoid defamatory comments or sharing untruthful  and private information on their social networking sites as they may risk facing legal

Overall, web 2.0 has enabled PR practitioners to send their messages through various online networking sites. Although social media is a rewarding tool in the PR industry, it was suggested for professionals within the field to be aware of the risks involved when using social media. 

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Australian Government. (2015). Digital Reputation. Retrieved from

Bivins, T. (2008).Public relations ethics and the “new” media. Retrived from

Christensson, P. (2014). Digital Footprint Definition. Retrieved 2015, Oct 27, from

Dewing, M. (2012). Social media: An introduction. Retrieved from

Flew, T. (2014). New media : An introduction (4th ed.). South Melbourne, Vic.: Oxford University Press.

Horton, J. L. (2009). PR and social media. Retrived from

Internet Society, (2015). Your digital footprint matter. Retrieved from

Johnston, J., & Sheehan, M. (2014). Public relations : Theory and practice (4th ed.). Sydney: Allen & Unwin.

PRIA. (2015). About public relations. Retrieved from

Rutzou, D. (2015). Getting into the social media game: The benefits of online public relations for businesses. Retrieved from

Robinson, G. (2015). The risks associated with social media marketing. Retrieved from

Rouse, M., & Wigmore, I. (2015). Social media. Retrieved from

Vistis Public Relations. (2011). Benefits of social media in public relations. Retrieved from


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