The way in which social media and mass-publishing platforms have changed the nature of communications and PR needs to be taken on board by branding experts trying to keep their organisation in the news, an expert has claimed.
James Frayne, a communications consultant and author of public persuasion guide Meet the People, stressed that hiring tech consultants or investing in more expensive computing solutions is not the answer for firms coping with social media problems.
Writing in PR Week, Mr Frayne warned that the voice of the public has become "the primary influence affecting how organisations are seen by the outside world", a major change from the last decade.
Previously, marketers and PR workers had to rely on polls and research to grasp the opinion of the world at large; now, however, they simply need to turn on their laptop and find out what people are saying on Twitter.
"Organisations find themselves in giant public conversations across social media platforms, consumer sites, blogs, web forums and comment threads," he explained.
This instant connection is an opportunity, allowing brands to shape the attitude of consumers in real-time, but it can also cause major problems if firms don't engage with the new concepts and challenges emerging from social media.
"Comms directors need to create communications strategies that are overwhelmingly focused on public persuasion and influence," added Mr Frayne.
He suggested they can learn from previous political campaigns, as these play out in public in a way that, traditionally, advertising has not done.
Basically, comms professionals now need to be reactive, dealing with situations as they arise and producing plans that take into account the possibility for changes and shifts in the environment.
While social media can drive up engagement levels and improve market penetration, many companies have learned to their cost the perils of diving onto Twitter and Facebook without having a clear plan.
They must focus on "leading the conversation" rather than becoming caught up in it, concluded Mr Frayne.