City firms “failing” at social media: Report

By Chris Lee

A recent report into social media among FTSE 100 companies commissioned by the Public Relations Consultants’ Association (PRCA) and social media service Sociagility, has slammed City firms for their apparent failure at social media communication.

Using a wide set of criteria, the “Social Media in the City” study argues that the majority of the UK’s largest companies “may be at a competitive disadvantage” by failing to engage effectively with social networks. While Shell, Sainsbury and AstraZeneca were singled out in the report as performing well, only one in five companies have an active company page on LinkedIn and just one bank – Barclays – registered in the top twenty.

The statistics appear to prove the challenges faced by bigger corporations to organise social media, even if they enjoy board level buy-in. With this in mind, NMK asked a few of its contacts what the implications of the report are and what it says about the state of social media within large UK corporations.

No one size fits all

For Antony Mayfield of consultancy Brilliant Noise, it is arguably easier for retailers to score highly because they are more able to link social media with traffic and sales metrics when compared to pharmaceutical, financial and other sectors where the benefits are “softer”, like brand awareness and reputation management.

“Shell’s position at the top of the table is interesting – the company’s strategic approach and investment to social media has been led by reputation management and has been running for the longest of any I can recall on this list,” he told NMK, adding that Shell was working with online communities pre-Twitter. “That company has been looking at engaging with online communities longer than many and it has become embedded in their thinking about communications and relationships with their stakeholders.”

Mayfield said the relatively poor performance of banks and other financial services companies highlights a sector issue, perhaps a cultural one.

He added: “The main insight for me is that among the high performers there are different business cases that have been used to develop their social media – a mix of sales, branding and reputation management-led approaches. Maybe in social media strategy we should be talking about the business case mix more than the media mix?”

Big business, big data

For Jonny Rosemont, head of social media at consultancy DBD Media, it is important to remember that with so many different sectors represented in the FTSE 100 that social media requirements and strategies will vary significantly.

“I’d be surprised to see a company prominent enough to be in the FTSE 100 taking no interest in social media,” he told NMK. “To get the right social media strategy in place, each business should identify which platforms suit their sector and then listen into the relevant conversations that are happening across those platforms. This will generate insight that can be used as a starting point for engagement strategies.”

Rosemont continued: “Such strategies should put the business’s own particular audience at its core. Once this has been established, the business will have a properly developed platform from which to manage its reputation. Each FTSE 100 company has to get these basics right if they want to integrate social media across the entire business; the only way to transform a business into a truly social business.”

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