Why is the pace of social media change so glacial in some companies?

Glacial Pace of Change in Social Media for CorporatesMany organisations are using social media to get closer to their customers, see what they say about their products and/or services ‘in the moment’ and give their business an opportunity to respond to their customers’ concerns or complaints in real time. But there is a growing divide between companies that use social media and those that don’t. Ryanair has chosen not to engage with social media despite operating in an industry that generally does.

Fully a third of FTSE companies, predominantly financial institutions and pharmaceutical companies, have no Twitter presence.  This seems surprising: even companies which don’t sell directly to consumers still have their corporate reputation to look after. A small piece of research we recently conducted at Ipsos MORI (albeit not in enough depth to draw robust conclusions) seemed to suggest that there is a link between the extent that consumer brands are talked about online in conjunction with their corporate parent, and the relative strengths of both the corporate and consumer brands themselves. Meanwhile, fully 82% of the Ipsos MORI Reputation Council (carefully selected senior corporate communications professionals across Europe) agree that discussions in social media channels can directly impact a company’s overall reputation and license to operate.  So why the disconnect? Or is the FTSE 100 not representative? Or – frankly – do some communications professionals need to put their money where their mouth is where it comes to social media?

Among companies using the big four – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube – many aren’t integrating their social media presence with the rest of their marketing and promotional efforts. That’s a problem because it can mean customers receive mixed messages; a few years ago, media channels were becoming increasingly siloed, but now social media forms just a part of a swirling communications maelstrom, with liveblogging and integrating TV with social just two examples of edges being blurred.

 This article  is a gentle reminder that social media can be used in all sorts of industries and all kinds of contexts: Reckitt Benckiser’s Facebook  and blog  activity focuses on careers; Hargreaves Lansdown’s Twitter feed gets a nice balance of promoting their own blog content and products, thought leadership elsewhere in the financial industry and keeping in touch with bright students. But why are so many other organisations so timid? Pennon Group,  for example, is listed on the FTSE 100, and is a major player in waste management and sustainable resources – surely one of the most popular bones for social media dogs to worry over. Yet they barely take the opportunity to get the good news stories out there online – meaning they’ll be missed by journalists and bloggers, environmentalists, and the public. Would their brand equity – and thus share price – not be boosted if success stories were shareable rather than being hidden on their website? Surely this is the sort of article that should have been written three years ago – the pace of change in some organisations seems glacial when it comes to social media.

No matter what sector they operate in, it is imperative that businesses develop a significant presence in the social media world for marketing, receiving customer feedback and serving customers; combined with a solid understanding of what is being said about them and how it could affect day-to-day affairs. So how can this be achieved? First, it’s important to invest in training – make sure your employees know how to use social media properly and integrate social media content with the overall company messaging strategy.  You have to observe what customers say about you – so you can then respond and start to maintain a two-way conversation with those you service. Finally, management have to buy into it, without management support any initiative will flop – get everyone from your head of media to your CEO to participate in the conversation – although our own CEO may get a little over-enthusiastic!

Eoghan O’Neill is social listening analyst at Ipsos MORI.