Facebook and New Zealand organizations – a PR perspective


I recently had the opportunity to hear a talk by Dr Kane Hopkins (School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing, Massey University) on how New Zealand organisations are using Facebook*.

First up were his 3 takeaways for the session:
1. Facebook is best used as a space to interact with customers (via likes etc) – it is not an easy way to sell or market
2. “Likes”will enthusiastically engage with an organization
3. Much of what happens is meaningless!

Facebook is:
– a communication space – not a marketing space – it’s about people expressing who they are and who they like
– a customer services tool – people like organizations and then post customer services queries – this has created a burden for some organizations

Facebook observations:
– “liking” is easy – but pretty meaningless. For instance people can like something but not necessarily back that up by donating money – the exception is where likers have a strong attachment to causes they support (e.g Paws for Justice)
– because of this, Facebook on its own is not enough. Organizations successful on Facebook – like Paws for Justice – use it as just another communication channel
–  photos are king on social media – people are interested in photos of other people and spend more time looking at them than videos (this is worth keeping in mind!)

The actual research looked at 12 organizations – and posts over 21 days (these could be posts from the organisation themselves, or posts others had put on the organisation’s wall). The four models of PR (Grunig + Hunt, 1984) were applied to the Facebook communications of the organizations studied. On Facebook most for the PR activities of the organizations observed were in the areas of customer service, stakeholder engagement and events.

The challenge!
– organizations need to be smart – a Facebook presence may not be useful – and just because everyone else is on it, doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you
– it is very difficult for a brand to establish itself on Facebook – big brands do well because they are big – so they will get a lot of fans (e.g. Coke)
– Facebook keep changing the rules which is becoming a problem with administering pages
– how does an organization keep people interested so they continue to appear in people’s news feeds?

The good news for organizations:

– people want to engage with you (especially younger people)
– Facebook pages provide venues for fans to voice opinions
– Facebook is a great source of marketing intelligence (e.g. Air NZ asking people where they would like to go)

Kane is undertaking more research in this area – and it will be fascinating to see what comes out of that. It is clear that it is still early days for understanding Facebook – and despite claims to the contrary out there, it is very difficult to be an expert on it!

*Kane’s presentation was base onresearch by a Massey University Master’s student – I’ve yet to get their details.

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