The answer to this questions begins probably somewhere in the mid-1990s when finance, marketing communicationsandmedia technology merged to create the phenomena of the self-made millionaire.
More than annoying pop-ups, spam and other advertisements, the Internet became a vital research sensation enabling millions of people globally with the ability to independently transact business.
With the advent of the Internet, would-be entrepreneurs and other self-starters could effectively advertise their business’ products and/or services OR engage in speculative trading all for the purpose of making ungodly amounts of money!
At the center of this emerging virtual marketplace were the advertising and public relations field. The Internet essentially became the platform from which advertising and public relations competed for consumers and financial markets. In fact, more than half of the advertising dollars spent in the late nineties were spent by dotcoms.
Then, let’s not forget the tech bubble of the early 2000s….
Everyone and anyone with an online trading account and a little bit of financial acuity played their hand at stocks. When the market opened and the IPOs (initial public offerings) were listed, everyone participated in this feeding frenzy where stocks were gobbled up all in the hopes of buying low and trading high.
Led by the tech-heavy NASDAQ, dotcoms promised to be the next get-rich-quick-scheme, as daily reports of thirty-something millionaires partying and celebrating were splashed all across media. As stock prices were inflated, novice investors became giddy with the hopes of early retirement.
Heck, these celebratory events alone were public relations and advertising for the technology field, and tech stocks continued to soar….
By the late nineties, the Internet made it possible for virtually anyone to advertise a business.
By the beginning of the new century, consumers had sobered up and become wary of the promises of wealth that could be made from simply using the Internet as a tool for business, even the field of public relations suffered.
After a while, the Internet became such a large entity that the constant barrage of email, marketing and advertising campaigns, and promotional ploys made consumers tune out as spin, buzz, hype and spam flooded the virtual market place.
The Internet became of glut of way too much information!
At the same time, a quiet social revolution began to take to place online. People learned they could engage with one another socially by subscribing to any number of social media sites.
Whether it was online dating or making friends in cyberspace, people engaged with these tools for leisure and entertainment. In the beginning, the sites were a little crude only allowing for users to upload images and send and receive messages.
eHarmony was one of many of the dating sites where in its inception it operated to allow users to upload pictures and descriptions of themselves, and almost as an advertisement, promote themselves to prospective suitors.
MySpace, one of the more popular social sites, allowed users to create whole online photo albums. In essence, this site probably was one of the first that enabled users to create a public image, whether that image was an accurate depiction of the person was wholly at the user’s discretion.
The import of these sites would not be seen until their current incarnation—as public relations tools.
With advances in Internet technology, of course, social media allowed users to have more of a genuine social experience. In fact, many social media sites have applications allowing for people to join communities related to specific interests, play games online, and engage in conversation, in addition to a plethora of other tasks.
What’s more important is that social media, more than any other sector, has handed individuals the tools for self-promotion.
Whereas in the past Facebook, Pinterest, LinkdIn and Twitter were used solely for social purposes, today these same sites are used as public relations platforms where not only people post their professional accomplishments and abilities but major institutions do as well.
To answer the question at the beginning of this article….
One need not go to a PR professional for social media has provided a format. Social media has made public relations for the average person more accessible because it can be done for free within the confines of one’s own living room.
The individual only need create an image and engage in relationships with chosen publics. A person can essentially carve out a public persona, can advertise his/her business, or can engage in self-promotion.
And this is public relations in its truest form….
Social media functions as a public relations platform because all three dictates of informing, persuading and engaging in two-way relationships are at play in this arena.
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