Reasons Corporate Communications Needs to Control Social Media

December 13, 2014


One of the most common concerns I address with clients when restructuring corporate communications departments is moving the social media function into the department. The companies I counsel tend to associate handling social media as a marketing function.

There is some truth in that approach, as it might have served companies in the past. But times have changed—and consumers’ expectations of social media are evolving, and those new needs are being heard. Social media has always required a softer, slower sell, one that starts with awareness and engagement. Now, consumers are demanding that softer sell, and social networks are listening.

It’s a bit counter-intuitive for marketing. Companies need to stay on message, engage, and inspire action through interest. It’s what public relations and communications professionals do daily. So if your company is rethinking its social media strategy, consider a shift that includes another look at engagement, content, and tone.

Less Promotional Post Reach on Facebook

In November, Facebook announced, there will be less promotional posts in subscribers’ news feeds beginning in January 2015. Specifically,

(1) posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app,
(2) posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context, and
(3) posts that reuse the exact same content from ads.

For many companies, this means that social media teams must understand their communities’ engagement patterns, how to engage without a “sell,” and have an advertising budget. The Facebook algorithm changes in 2014 reduced organic reach, so to maintain or exceed 2013 engagement levels, companies needed to set aside some level of advertising dollars. The level of advertising dollars, in general, will most likely need to increase to maintain 2014 engagement levels.

No Dominant Social Network

While Facebook remains the biggest social network (and a must for companies) with 1.3 billion out of 3 billion internet users having a Facebook account, the site’s usage and engagement metrics fall behind other networks. GlobalWebIndex’s third quarter survey found that UK and US members are using the channel less frequently and more passively.

The survey notes the following (as published by TechCrunch and Business Intelligence):

  • Fastest growing active user base: Tumblr (120% increase since the first quarter), Pinterest (111%), and Instagram (64%), which was the fastest growing platform at the end of last year. Though Tumblr and Pinterest saw the most user growth, the two platforms have the lowest user frequency rates compared to top social networks—Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, and LinkedIn.
  • Fastest growing mobile app: The share of internet users on Snapchat has grown 56% since the beginning of the year. Facebook and its messaging apps (Messenger and WhatsApp), however, still capture the largest share of usage.
  • Most visited: YouTube. Outside of China, 85% of adults around the world visit the site each month, more than Facebook (76%), Twitter (40%), and Google+ (30%).
  • Most frequent engagement rate: Facebook—54% of users log in more than once a day. This is 20 percentage points higher than the second highest rate, which occurs on Twitter.

These trends reinforce the need for companies to understand their community and support those social networks with the right mix of attention and appropriate content. Use company controlled channels (website, blogs) to integrate communications while keeping the messaging consistent. “Lazy posting” (using the same posts on all of a company’s social media channels) is no longer an option.

As social networks continue to mature and evolve, companies must remain informed and flexible in order to truly leverage the power of communications and see a powerful social ROI.

Remember that social media communications are vast and far-reaching, not to mention instantly accessible via all forms of gadgets from laptops and tablets to smartphones and soon, smart watches. Technology is indeed a powerful tool, but learning how to master social media can truly help companies stand apart, communicate, increase their brand awareness, and help to drive engagement and, as a result, sales.

So be smart about your social media strategy and entrust it to the highly capable hands of the corporate communications experts.

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