A piece of statistics is worth a thousand words? It could lead to bias


At the class of PR issues last week, we debated on the following topic:

Social media has helped put the public back into public relations: two way conversations and content sharing have replaced one-way publicity driven communications and media manipulation.

In Szusanna’s blog post a piece of statistics is worth a thousand words, she argued that there is gap between reality and the potential of social media for utilizing the two-way communication. She also provided the evidence that just a small proportion of people use social media, and the response rate of brands on social media platform is low- only about 50% of brands responds on average.

However, statistics could lead to bias. First, not all the publics are of the same importance to a brand, and social media does not necessarily mean Facebook and Twitter. Most of the people in the world are not the target audiences of a brand. In some countries like China where Facebook and Twitter are censored, brands will have their own communication channel with the customers, such as Weibo and WeChat. The communication strategy is tailored to the cultures of different countries.

屏幕快照 2015-03-17 下午11.40.51

Nike China Weibo account, using Li Na, the Chinese tennis player as influencer on the social media page

Second, companies are impossible and do not have to respond every single message that people are posing. When I did my social media report on H&M, I found out there were many malevolent comment on the H&M customer service Twitter page. For example, though H&M has explained several times that the Uniday discount can only be applied on online shopping, which has been written on the terms and conditions, many people still keep criticizing that they cannot enjoy the discount when offline shopping.

The opponent debate team also put forward the argument that there is few continuous dialogue loop happened on social media. In my opinion, two-way communication models do not necessarily include continuous dialogue loop. Based on Grunig’s excellence model, two-way, symmetrical public relations uses research, listening, and dialogue to manage conflict and to cultivate relationships with both internal and external strategic publics more than one-way and asymmetrical communication. (Grunig, 2009) When the company‘s communication team is searching feedback people are posing on social media and make a post referring to those feedbacks, they are actually reacting and practicing on two-way communication model, even if the post does not mention the certain social media users.

When we are doing the social media report for PR and new media class, social engagement is one of the five things to be analysed. This has reflected that two-way communication is what people are demanding on brands. In the competitive markets of today, if the company is not acting on what people are demanding, it is highly probable that they will be dead in the near future. Therefore, PR has to adapt the two-way communication strategy in their social media communication plan.


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