Guest post by Becky Johns, author of I’m Working On It.

The business world is obsessed with social media. It is obsessed with “conversation” and “engagement” and other such buzzwords.

Yes, the way people use the web in a social way allows better contact with customers and prospects. And, yes, it presents an opportunity to gather insightful information about consumer behavior.

But despite these realities, many companies are still simply broadcasting stale marketing messages. Media itself isn’t social; people are.

Remember why social media got its name in the first place? The important part is social. But it doesn’t work without messages worth sharing.

The thing that drives digital communication is that people are behind every post. That’s why every social network has a built-in personal identifier, username, avatar photo, or profile. It’s why the online community expects company accounts to disclose who is posting each update. In one way or another, we’re all online to represent ourselves.

Remembering this is especially important for professional communicators. People want relevant, not targeted. Entertaining, not viral. Compelling stories, not marketing. News, not hype. Information, not spin.

Think about how the social concept applies to:

  • Pitches. Imagine the story a reporter is working on were a casual conversation. You would address each person by name. You would offer some common ground so you wouldn’t be complete strangers. You would listen to what they’d been talking about and only speak up if you had something relevant to contribute.
  • Press Releases. If there aren’t at least three reasons why a complete stranger would care about whatever you’re announcing, then it’s not news and does belong in a reporter’s inbox.
  • Content. Use photos as tools to tell part of the story, not just to prove something exists. Use videos to put those who weren’t able to attend an event in the middle of the action. Use audio to let an audience hear something in the presenter’s own words.

Of course, there are many other elements of PR the social concept applies to. Unfortunately, many companies still forget that audiences of all kinds are made up of individuals. In life and in business, people make decisions. People receive information.

Communication is about more than just putting messages in front of target markets or a list of characteristics on paper. It’s the job of a communicator to share information in a way that matters to people, customers, and communities.

Remember why social media matters. It’s social. Make your message worth sharing.

Becky Johns is a communications professional and photographer from mid-Michigan. Part of PR Week Magazine’s Required Reading list, Becky’s blog, I’m Working On It, examines public relations, social media, and the life of a young professional and communicator.