Who to follow in social media
For the many companies doing something in social media but without really knowing what they are doing, others are producing plenty to like, Scott Payton says.
|FT Bowen Craggs Index 2012 introduction||BASF social channels dashboard|
|Nestlé IR feed||General Electric home page|
A wealth of social media tactics – but a poverty of social media strategies. This was one of the most visible trends in the 2012 Financial Times Bowen Craggs Index. Online communications teams in all sectors have spent the past 12 months experimenting with Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other channels more actively than ever before. But the potential benefits of such activity – in terms of improving the effectiveness of communications with investors, journalists, customers, jobseekers and others – are frequently being undermined by duplication, fragmentation and a lack of clear purpose.
The social media story from this year’s index isn’t all bad news, however. Some pioneering companies have started to embed their activities on Facebook, YouTube and other channels into the heart of their corporate web strategies – bringing coherence to their online communications where so many others’ social media efforts have so far only brought confusion.
What not to share
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. Major problems with corporate use of social media identified in this year’s index include:
Proliferation of silos Imagine you are a British college-leaver who wants to research career opportunities at Proctor & Gamble (P&G). You will be spoiled for social media choice. You can visit ExperiencePG.com, the company’s flashy global recruitment site, and watch video profiles of P&G employees based in Europe and elsewhere. Or you can visit the Experience P&G YouTube channel and watch video employee profiles there. Alternatively, you can go to the P&G Western Europe YouTube channel and view video profiles of employees at this location instead. You can also visit the Experience P&G Facebook page and read up on recruitment topics and discussions. Or you can go to the P&G Western Europe Careers Facebook page. Finally, there is the @experiencePG Twitter feed. As a British college-leaver with, say, 30 minutes to spare to do some research, the question is: where on earth do you go first?
P&G’s careers-related social media activity is plentiful but there is duplication between different parts of the business and between different channels. This fragmented approach risks wasting the company’s money and audience members’ time.
‘Jacks of all trade and masters of none’ Click on the Twitter icon on many a company home page and you are taken to a feed that contains tweets about all sorts of things: press releases, financial results announcements, sustainability messages, industry conference updates and so on. Who are feeds like this for? By providing a pick-and-mix of material in the hope of catering for everybody, they risk being considered worth following by nobody. The same can be true for Facebook pages if they lack a clear focus and/or purpose.
‘Neglected toy syndrome’ One of the great strengths of Twitter accounts is how cheap (indeed, free) and easy they are to set up. But for many companies, this is also proving to be their greatest pitfall. The world of corporate Twitter feeds is, as one attendee at a recent Bowen Craggs event put it, a “cemetery of good intentions” – littered with accounts that were once updated daily, but are now left untouched for months on end, like a once-loved but now forgotten plaything. Some companies have removed signposts on their sites to neglected Twitter feeds. But unless they delete the Twitter account itself, it will continue to convey a bad impression about the company to those who find it (via a Google search, for example). It’s surprising how many of these neglected corporate Twitter feeds remain alive in the digital graveyard.
During our research for the 2012 FT Bowen Craggs Index we found that several giant corporate websites have been neglected (see Index introduction). Could this be because resources – in manpower and money – are being spread too thin? The problems of lack of social media strategy and poorly controlled websites must be two sides of the same coin – a coin marked ‘governance’. This will be cured only when senior managers understand just how important the whole business of online communications is, and start to take a strategic interest in it.
What to link to
Now the good news: some companies are overcoming all of these traps and creating a coherent social media strategy that – crucially – is part and parcel of their overarching web strategy. Their Twitter feeds, YouTube channels, Facebook pages and so on do not duplicate or compete with one another or with the corporate site. They complement and feed traffic to one another; and are technologically and editorially integrated.
Live dashboard Some companies are taking relatively small and straightforward steps towards this goal. BASF, for example, provides a social media ‘dashboard’ on its site that allows users to view the latest posts and updates across all of the company’s social media feeds simultaneously. It’s an approach that helps to deliver a joined-up service to online audiences.
Dedicated feed Other companies are overcoming the ‘Jack of all trades’ problem by providing more targeted social media based services. Nestlé has launched the @Nestle_IR feed, featuring a photograph of the head of investor relations plus the names and contact details of his colleagues. It is crystal clear to potential followers who this feed is for, who updates it and what it is about. Other companies could improve their own Twitter feeds hugely by taking this tailored, personable approach.
Home tailoring For a glimpse into the (potential) future, however, it is worth looking at General Electric’s new home page. It features embedded YouTube videos, links to a blog packed with Instagram images and – boldly – direct feeds from employees’ Twitter accounts. The clever bit is that at any given time, GE’s home page always displays social media content related to a single topic. For example, if users switch the home page theme from ‘curing’ to ‘powering’ (the page has four themes reflecting GE’s business areas), the Twitter feeds switch from employees in GE’s healthcare division to those in the energy division. The embedded YouTube videos and other content switch, too.
Unlike many companies, GE is beginning to discover how to harness proliferating social media channels to amplify corporate messages rather than garble them. This, perhaps, is one of the greatest challenges of all for other online communications teams during the rest of 2012 and beyond.
First published on 02 May, 2012