Why should social media matter to non-consumer-facing brands?

Burberry, ITV, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury's: what do they have in common?

Social media always matter, argues Ross Easton
Social media always matter, argues Ross Easton

They’re all consumer brands and, according to research carried out by brand communications agency Battenhall earlier this year, they all use social media well. 

But, in the same research, the agency identifies ten FTSE-100 companies that don’t even have a Twitter presence at all, and none of them are consumer facing. 

Why should social media matter to non-consumer-facing brands, too? It’s simple. 

First, brand protection. This month, a fake press release claiming to be from security firm G4S was issued to journalists. 

The release stated that executives at the firm had been sacked amidst accounting errors, and was supported by an official looking website.

The company acted swiftly, issuing an official release clarifying that the news was false and there was no such problem at the firm. However, the news spread quickly on social networks and shares initially fell by five per cent before recovering.

By actively using social media, businesses have an established and official ‘voice’ to communicate through, particularly when the proverbial hits the fan. 

Second, tell your story. All businesses, not just consumer-facing ones, contribute to society, so tell the story. Creation of jobs, running an apprenticeship programme, partnerships with universities or schools – corporate social responsibility is a story seldom told beyond a press release and an annual report.

Social media help organisations tell that story through words and pictures throughout the year. 

Third, add colour to dry news. Investors and financial journalists make use of Twitter to follow company news, but just providing a link to a press release doesn’t really tell the full story.

On results days, make use of social media to share video insights, infographics and relevant quotes from senior leadership. In my last role, a video interview we produced in-house with the CEO at our full-year results was shared on YouTube, picked up by broadcasters and featured on national news. 

And then, demonstrate your purpose. In November’s Harvard Business Review, Bob Moritz, the US chairman of PwC, noted that PwC’s millennial generation "don’t only demand to know the organisation’s purpose – its reason for being – but are prepared to leave the firm if that purpose doesn’t align with their own values".

Social media provide a platform for organisations to demonstrate their purpose directly to the people they need to influence: what is it they are doing that makes them valuable to society and interesting to work for?

Through blogs published on LinkedIn, Medium and Twitter leaders can demonstrate that the words on the company’s snazzy careers website have real meaning.  

Finally, engage employees. When we first established our Twitter channel last year, we told investors and journalists. A few months in, when we looked at who was following us, something caught our eye.

Despite no internal marketing, a number of our employees had found us and wanted to follow our news online. With a global workforce spread across 70 countries, social media connect our employees to the very latest news from the group – as it happens, via our Twitter channel.


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