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Those aware of the social media research landscape know that several studies have indicated social media has overtaken pornography as the number one use of the internet. Each year we conduct a study that examines the impact technology is having on public relations. Now in its fourth year, our annual research has tracked the phenomenal impact these technologies have had on many aspects of our field.

We’ve pointed out the development of various new technologies has significantly empowered a wide variety of strategic publics by giving them dynamic new media many are using to communicate effectively with a variety of internal and external audiences.

These new technologies have brought dramatic changes to how people receive and share information. Some recent research claims online information distribution has replaced TV news as the main news source for Americans.

Several studies report traditional newspaper readership is declining rapidly, but readership of online newspapers is making dramatic increases including the youth audience. A 2008 Pew Research Center study found more people in the U.S. got their news online than from traditional news sources such as newspapers, magazines, radio and television. Last month, Time magazine predicted some major cities are in danger of losing their newspapers.

Last year we reported that 61 percent of our respondents believed the emergence of blogs and social media had changed the way their organizations (or their client organizations) communicate. This year the score on that item is 73 percent.

Findings continue to suggest these changes are more prominent in external than internal communications but numbers are up considerably there also. Almost all – 93% — of this year’s respondents spent part of their average workdays working with some aspects of blogs and the social media.

Many (85% in 2009 compared with 72% in 2008) believe social media complement traditional news media, and an even higher number (92% in 2009 compared with 89% in 2008) think blogs and social media influence coverage in traditional news media.

Most (88% in 2009 compared with 84% in 2008) believe blogs and social media have made communications more instantaneous because they encourage organizations to respond more quickly to criticism.

Our results continue to show that traditional news media receive higher scores than blogs and social media in terms of accuracy, credibility, telling the truth and being ethical.

Findings also show most (80% this year and 75% last year) expect traditional news media to be honest, tell the truth and be ethical. But fewer than half (41% in 2009 and 44% in 2008) hold these same expectations for blogs and other social media.

This year’s study asked a number of questions for the first time, including some questions about research and measurement.

More than 90% of our respondents encourage the use of research to measure various aspects of how blogs and social media are impacting their organizations, but only about one-third (39%) say their companies actually are conducting this measurement.

Although we found very strong agreement (more than 90%) suggesting that this measurement should focus not only on outputs but also on content analysis and outcomes, in reality we found that most of the research taking place is directed at output measures.

About one-third (31%) of the respondents are aware of situations in which an organization’s legal function has impacted how the company manages blog and social media communication.

Highlights of responses to the study’s open-ended questions include a recurring suggestion that blogs and social media have had a huge impact moving public relations into the direction of facilitating more two-way communication by opening up direct channels of communications between organizations and their publics.

For the first time this year we also explored which organizational function is charged with monitoring and managing blog and social media communication. Results show 68 percent of the time this is the responsibility of the public relations function, but 94 percent of the study’s respondents think it should be the responsibility of that department.

To view this article, please click here.

Michelle Hinson, M.A.
Institute for Public Relations

Dr. Donald K. Wright, Ph.D.
Boston University

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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One thought on “Hinson & Wright: Social Media Overtakes Porn

  1. It makes me curious as to how future PR practitioners can ensure credibility in social media in the workforce when anyone can add their two cents worth? It would be a losing battle, in my mind, to try and combat the vastness that social media encompasses to create that credibility and accuracy so an organization will effectively be able to use it in their everyday operations.

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