SOCIAL MEDIA AS AN EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION AND FEEDBACK PLATFORM FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS A CASE STUDY OF GUARANTY TRUST BANK PLC

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SOCIAL MEDIA AS AN EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION AND FEEDBACK PLATFORM FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS A CASE STUDY OF GUARANTY TRUST BANK PLC

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1. BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

Use of social media networks is widespread among public relations (PR) practitioners and comprises important tools in the public relations
area. Social media helps public relations because public relations practitioners are able to build more new relationships across a wider
landscape and in a sustainable fashion never before possible (Waddel, 2010). The widespread use of social media has fundamentally
changed how public relations practitioners communicate and share information for practice. Public relations departments in Nigeria are
now more specialized since the Internet has transformed the way public relations practitioners communicate and interact with their
different audiences. Public relations practitioners and journalists have changed the way they communicate because of the various social
media tools available. Google and other Internet search engines have changed the way people find information online. The term Social
Media refers to the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into an interactive dialogue and is often used to
describe websites like YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, or MySpace and Instagram — all virtual places where people can interact and
engage with others by simply logging on through a computer or mobile device, it can be defined as “blogs, social networking environments,
person-to-person broadcasting messaging and other Web 2.0 applications” (Palen, 2008). Arguably, new social networking and social media
technologies are widely believed to offer business a powerful means to improve their communications, processes, and ultimately
performance. However, there is a lack of empirical data on the extent to which public relations practitioners in Nigeria are utilizing social
media networks, and in particular, how they are being deployed. Wright and Hinson (2009) studied extensively how social media tools are
implemented in public relations and they perceived social media positively with respect to strategic communication for PR professionals. In
another study (Herger and Howell, 2007) on the importance of blogging in public relations, research results revealed what the potential of
blogs can be used for rather than what public relations practitioners actually do with blogs, and showed that “from a public relations
perspective, there has been limited investigation and understanding into the nature of cyberspace as a communications medium.”
Researchers (for example, Weber, 2007) also highlight that the communications world is increasingly moving in a digital direction and those who can grasp this transformation will be able to communicate far more effectively than those who do not. As such, and given the
phenomenal usage of Web 2.0 platforms in corporate communications, it is critical for public relations professionals to understand how
social media works. Public relations practitioners seek to communicate with and hear from consumers, as well as use social channels to
share information with key audiences. Social media tools provide researchers and public relations practitioners with a new and rich source
of easily accessible data about individuals, society and potentially the world in general (Nicoli and Komodromos, 2013; Schoen et al., 2013).
A number of researchers (Key, 2011; Waddel, 2010) agree the role of public relations in the digital age requires understanding how your
audiences are gathering and sharing information and then influencing them at key points. “Doing so, requires strategies that embrace the
digital age” (Key, 2011). Public relations practitioners are shifting to social media as the lines between online and online promotion
becomes blurry. Social media afford public relations practitioners the opportunity of reaching out to and engaging with their public in
conversation (Eyrich, Padman & Sweetser, 2008; Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden, 2011). The increasing number of Facebook users also suggests
that the potential for organisations to reach and communicate with a number of public has also increased commensurately, thereby
impacting public relations efforts. Public relations have been widely accepted by many businesses particularly the banking and financial
institutions. Banks tend to thrive on the knowledge and trust of their various stakeholders. Considering that the practice of public relations
deals with fostering mutual interest, increasing visibility and building a reputable brand name, banks, therefore, require the management
function of public relations to achieve its set out goals and objectives. The banking industry needs a certain level of customer’s trust to
flourish in its endeavors’. It is as a result of this trust that customers are confident enough to entrust their funds in the various banks. Thus,
the success of a bank depends on how it intends to build a positive relationship with its key public. Some of the tools and techniques
employed by public relations practitioners include press releases, blogging, newsletters, events, audio-visual releases, exhibitions, and
social media marketing amongst a host of others. In the era of instant communication, it is behooved of institutions in the Nigerian banking
industry to employ the most appropriate PR tool(s) for disseminating key messages and information to customers. This is also required in
addition to the issues mentioned above (digitization, new entrants in the industry et al.) faced by the Nigerian banking industry. While other
PR techniques are equally suitable for banking institutions, communication via social media remains a paramount platform for spreading
information to customers. Social media which refer to a series of computer-mediated technologies (such as applications and websites)
allow its users to share information on virtual platforms in real time. More recently, Social media allows for open and transparent
dissemination of data with an organization and its various publics (Leben, Gardner, & D.Myers, 2015). Its ability to facilitate a more direct
channel between organizations and their targets bypasses the ambiguity and complexity associated with other media channels. Since the
organization itself remains the most trusted source of its information, social media provides it with an opportunity to clarify misinformation
and relay key messages while taking accountability. This paper basically tries to analyze the effectiveness of social media and its
implications in the society. This paper also tries to find out the usefulness of social media as a tool for effective communication and
feedback for public relation practitioners.

1.2 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM

Social media can be deployed and applied in a variety of situations, particularly in the organisational setting. Indeed, organisations are
embracing social media use for diverse activities including building brand awareness, promoting brand recognition, customer relationship
management and market research (Chikandiwa, Contogiannis & Jembere, 2013). Consequently, various scholars, through research, have
explored ways in which social media can be used for brand building and reputation management, customer relationship management and
market research. A case in point is Bruhn, Schoenmueller and Schäfer’s (2012) online-survey of three distinct industries – tourism,
telecommunication, and pharmaceuticals – examining the comparative effect of brand communication on brand equity through social
media, in contrast to traditional media. Bruhn et al, (2012) found that communication by organisations through social media affected brand
perception significantly. Undoubtedly, branding has implications on customer relationship management, and scholars have endeavored
to explore how social media can be used in managing relationships with customers. Regarding customer relationship management, Baird
and Parasnis (2011) carried out two online surveys, firstly with 1,056 customers in America, Europe and Asia, and secondly to 351 business
executives in similar locations. From their findings, they argued that organisations that embrace a more social form of customer
relationship management are likely to create increasingly cooperative and valuable experiences with customers. Further studies have also
explored the use social media in marketing research, Patino et al, (2012). Nevertheless, as social media continues to grow in usage, studies
that explore the application of social media for organisational-public relations remain scanty (Briones, Kuch, Lui & Jin, 2011). Also, the use
of social media websites, as a tool for public relations and how these relationships are evaluated seem hazy, as most organisations
underutilize the technology (Lovejoy, Waters & Saxton, 2012) especially in the African context. Banks are using social media platforms to
achieve this communication objective and customer relationship with its key stakeholders. Social media provides banking institutions with
a compelling and interactive interface which aligns with the values and needs of its customers hence, its adoption as a suitable tool for
‘humanising’ content and maintaining a positive relationship with customers. Hence, this study aims to contribute to this knowledge gap by
investigating how organisations use social media as a public relations tool for effective communication and feedback in the banking
industries.

1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY

The major aim of the study is to examine social media as an effective communication and feedback platform for public relations. Other
specific objectives of the study include;

  1. To examine the extent Public Relations consultants adopt social media as an effective communication tool.
  2. To identify the types of social media used in the banking sector by Public Relations practitioners
  3. To examine the effect of social media on the effective communication and feedback for public relations practitioners.
  4. To examine the implications of social media as a formal channel of communication in the banking sector by Public relations
    practitioners.
  5. To examine the relationship between social media usage and effective communication of public relations practitioners in Guaranty
    Trust Bank.
  6. To examine how social media as a tool of communication may be harnessed to enhanced public relations in Guaranty Trust Bank.

1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY

The current study anticipates advancing research and knowledge by finding out the impacts of social media on effective communication
and feedback platform for public relations within the banking sector. Public relations at the corporate level today are confronted with an
astounding array of new communications channels. Internet-based social media tools like blogs, podcasts, and online video. Social
networks are giving voice to the opinions of millions of consumers. While mainstream media continues to play a vital role in the propagation
of information, even these traditional channels are increasingly being influenced by online conversations. The new influencers are therefore
beginning to tear at the fabric of marketing as it has existed for 100 years, giving rise to a new style of management, communication and
marketing that is characterized by conversation and community.

SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF THE STUDY

The study is restricted to social media as an effective communication and feedback platform for public relations, a case study of Guaranty
Trust Bank in Lagos state.

1.8 LIMITATION OF THE STUDY

Financial constraint: Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or
information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview)
Time constraint: The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on
the time devoted for the research work.

SOCIAL MEDIA AS AN EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION AND FEEDBACK PLATFORM FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS A CASE STUDY OF GUARANTY TRUST BANK PLC

SOCIAL MEDIA AS AN EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION AND FEEDBACK PLATFORM FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS A CASE STUDY OF GUARANTY TRUST BANK PLC