We’re just starting our study of how well the UK’s largest public companies, the FTSE 100, perform on social media platforms. But does a good social media performance actually matter for corporate audiences?
We wouldn’t be in business if we didn’t think so, and it’s reassuring that a majority FTSE 100 companies apparently do too… or at least they think it matters enough to have a social media presence of some kind. But not everyone’s equally keen.
Who’s on what?
First, by ‘corporate’, I mean the overall business, rather than its constituent companies or brands – although for some ‘company brands’, this is the same brandname. Specifically, for the purposes of this study we are looking at the entity actually listed on the London Stock Exchange, the plc.
Others may have done more complete breakdowns of which companies are on which platforms but these often look at the consumer-facing brand(s), not the corporate entity. For our study, the percentage breakdown for the four common platforms that PRINT™ assesses is as follows:
- Website: 100% of the FTSE 100 have something aimed at corporate audiences.
- Twitter: 72% have created some kind of corporate Twitter account
- YouTube: 65% have a corporate YouTube channel
- Facebook: Only 56% have a corporate Facebook page, perhaps indicative of a platform perceived as being more consumer-focused
It’s hardly surprising that all the companies have a corporate website – even if some are pretty basic. But the numbers drop off after that. So which audiences are the companies that do have a corporate social media presence trying to reach and why is that relevant for the others?
Corporate & financial audiences
Of course there are a whole host of potential ‘corporate’ audiences: employees, trades unions, suppliers, local communities as well as regulators, legislators; not to mention commentators and a broad spectrum of ‘traditional’ media. All these groups include many important individuals who are active users of social media. For them, it’s just another way to have a relationship with a brand or company – or simply keep track of what they are doing.
But what about investors? Do they really care about tweets and Facebook likes… they are just interested in facts and figures, right? And in any case, surely better for listed companies to avoid the risk of engaging via these informal forums and channels and stick with the safe formalities of the annual report, face-to-face presentations, earnings statements and the traditional mediated route of the financial press.
This view is short-sighted for a variety of reasons. For a start, shareholders and potential investors are people too – and likely to be participating in social media, especially in the UK and USA.
Second, both private investors and the ‘wholesale’ City institutions like insurance companies, banks and brokers, routinely use social media analysis to help in their buy/sell/hold decisions on individual shares. Furthermore, City commentators, not least the financial press, use social media to track news and opinion – and themselves engage in creating social media content.
Fragmented control = fragmented corporate messaging
Ever since the advent of the web 20+ years ago, the Internet in all its forms has become a public mirror (sometimes distorted) for brands and companies, showing the good and the bad, highlighting successful strategies and exposing corporate fault-lines. Yet some FTSE 100 companies still seem to be adopting an old-school, pre-Internet (let alone pre Web 2.0) approach to managing the social media aspect of their online presence. Specific audiences are assigned specific platforms leading to a dangerous potential for gaps, contradictions and confused or incoherent messaging.
A typical example is Twitter. Many companies just use Twitter corporately as a broadcast channel devoted to journalists with content consisting almost entirely of references to news releases. Why is this happening? Well, it could be a well thought out strategy but my guess it’s probably because someone in the Press Office was seen to ‘get’ Twitter, so he/she got it forever.
There’s similar issue with Facebook. The perception – aided and abetted by Facebook and digital agencies – is that it’s purely a consumer platform and the only role for companies is advertising. Yet many organisations use it successfully to reach out to local communities, job seekers and even business partners – all traditionally within the remit of the corporate communicator.
A competitive issue
Unsurprisingly, our own point of view is that social media undeniably have a large and increasing important part to play in corporate communications – including the daily struggle for investors’ confidence and money. Furthermore, how well a company engages corporately through social media is a competitive issue – both as a risk to be managed properly and an opportunity to gain advantage.
It’s therefore an important issue not just for corporate communicators and marketing directors but for company Chairmen, CEOs, Finance Directors and their Boards.
And because of that, we’re really looking forward to seeing how the FTSE 100 stack up!