Research is job one in any public relations project. Whether you seek quantitative or qualitative data, social media is a tool that can engage community members and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your effort.
Here are five ways you can use social media in research for public relations:
Environmental scan: Environmental scanning is a process that systematically surveys and interprets relevant data to identify external opportunities and threats.
Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter provide a constant, daily stream of trending issues, news, research, opinions, and rumors. You can spot emerging issues that will impact public education simply by following organizations and grass roots groups relevant to schools and education. This enables you to anticipate emerging issues and prepare your strategic response.
Surveys: Social media is one way to engage your community in your online survey. Post the link, and include a photo that draws people to the topic. To increase participation, change the photo, include a short cover note, and push out a reminder the following week, and again a week later. If you are sharing your survey data, Twitter and Facebook can be a good way to share the news.
Forums and Focus Groups: Use Facebook’s event posts to invite community members to attend a focus group or community forum, to gather RSVPs, and to send out reminder notices.
Ask for feedback: New schedule? Big event? Snow day response? New education strategy? Use social media to ask for feedback from parents, students and staff. Did they like it? Did it work for them? What would make it work better? You will certainly hear their input, loud and clear. An added bonus is the opportunity to clarify any misconceptions or questions on the spot.
Secondary Research: As part of an in-depth research process, follow social media sites for the Pew Research Center, the U.S. Census Bureau, Center for American Progress Education Policy Team, Rasmussen Reports, and other go-to sources. This will provide a constant stream of research, and remind you to go look there when you need something specific.