UK firms lag behind US peers for corporate comms social media use, says Investis survey

UK firms lag far behind their US peers in their use of social media for corporate comms - posting just one third as often on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube - according to a survey by Investis.

The survey analysed more than 500 major US and UK companies to score their use of eight social media channels, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube.

US companies scored at least three times as highly on key metrics. For example, the median US company with a Twitter account used for corporate comms has tweeted 2,979 times, whereas the UK median is only 738.

On LinkedIn, the median US company posts updates 15 times a month, three times as often as the equivalent UK firm. US companies have an average of 141 videos on their YouTube channels; the UK median is 45.

The median US Twitter account has more than 20,000 followers, nearly 10 times the UK average. The gap on Facebook, as measured by likes, is even greater: a median of 45,111 for US companies but only 1,177 in the UK.

The survey found sectors that have faced reputational challenges, such as the oil majors and the banks, are making a notable effort with social media.

BP comes out top globally for its use of LinkedIn, where the report noted it posts a wide range of corporate and careers content, including employee testimonials and current job openings.

Banking is the second highest-scoring sector overall, with oil and gas coming in at number eight. Construction (23rd) and basic resources (24th) are among the lowest-scoring sectors.

In contrast, smaller companies that make up the FTSE 250 are typically making limited use of social media to date, and many score poorly.

Only 32 per cent of FTSE250 companies have a YouTube account used for corporate comms and only 26 per cent have a Facebook account for this purpose. Twitter has been more widely adopted but less than half of the FTSE250 firms have a corporate Twitter account, compared with 72 per cent of the FTSE100. In the US, every member of the Dow Jones index has a corporate presence on Twitter.

LinkedIn is the most popular social media channel, with 93 per cent of all companies actively maintaining a LinkedIn account for corporate purposes. The next most popular channel is Twitter, where 67 per cent of companies use a Twitter account for corporate purposes.

The highest-scoring company across all eight channels is Cisco Systems, with 86 per cent. The leading UK listed companies are Royal Dutch Shell (fourth globally, 81 per cent) and BP (tenth globally, 76 per cent). Other technology companies including HP and Symantec also scored highly, helping to make technology the best-performing sector.

Other UK examples of best practice include Pearson, which scored 97 per cent for design; Sainsbury’s, the UK company that makes the best use of Flickr; and Balfour Beatty and IHG, which both scored 79 per cent for their use of Pinterest.

The research found that UK companies are more likely to publish investor relations content on Twitter than US companies. US companies tend to use Facebook most for media content while UK companies prefer to use Facebook for corporate social responsibility and careers content.

Marcus Fergusson, research director at Investis, said: "This is the most comprehensive review of the use of social media for corporate communications that has ever been conducted. The big surprise is the difference in approach between American and British companies.

"Too many FTSE350 companies are failing to post content regularly and they are not posting a broad enough range of content. As a result, UK companies are failing to engage their audience with the same success as US companies. Social media is now an integral part of the corporate communications mix and corporate content drives social media engagement."

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