According to new figures released by corporate communications specialist Investis, the United Kingdom is lagging behind the United States when it comes to how social media is being used by businesses. The survey involved 500 major companies, and is the largest of its kind ever conducted, with spokespeople claiming it offers the most comprehensive overview of the situation to date.
In many ways the statistics speak for themselves. In America, the average corporate account issued 2,979 tweets per year, compared with 738 in the UK. LinkedIn posts in the U.S. were triple that of their British equivalent, YouTube saw firms Stateside sharing 141 videos, here in the UK that number sits at just 45. Meanwhile, on Facebook, American companies claimed 45,111 likes on average, the UK’s rate comes out at 1,177.
Needless to say, it’s important to look behind numbers in any study, especially when comparing a country with a population of 322million with on of just under 65. Even so, per head it’s difficult to argue with the notion that something is definitely not performing right in Britain.
One theory could be an inherent scepticism that comes with our national identity. Consider the relationship between commerce and creativity in both nations- on this side of the Atlantic, we are wary of too much branding and sponsorship being involved in arts, music and culture, for example. Across that vast pond, the relationship between these entities has existed with far more transparency for a much longer period of time. The result being there could well be a greater percentage of British citizens that wouldn’t warm to ‘liking’ a huge corporation than we see in America.
Sound spurious? That’s probably because it is, as the next point goes to show.
Remarkably, the highest performing British firms when it came to the Investis social media survey were actually oil and gas producers- namely Royal Dutch Shell (ranked fourth overall), and BP (ranked tenth). The only two UK firms in the top 10, the rest being American and either technology or telecommunications-based, if the theory that Britain distrusts major firms more than the U.S. has any truth we would expect the best UK performers to be anything other than oil and gas behemoths. Objectivity remaining, we all know the industry doesn’t have the best name for itself in the public eye.
All of which begs one question: if the most successful British brands on social media are directly linked to damaging the environment, climate change, the exploitation of resources in the developing world, and similarly negative practices, what are all the other companies doing so wrong when it comes to how they use these platforms?
The average number of tweets could cast some light on this. With just under 740 issued on average from corporate accounts in the UK, that works out at around 2.03 per day. And that’s simply not enough to have any major benefit to online presence. Consider the ‘Golden Rules of Twitter Engagement’ according to the Havas Discovery blog. Not only does point number two highlight the importance of re-tweeting- a great way to engage with other users and potentially increase followers- it also recommends between three and five tweets per day as a basic standard.
Fundamentally, the point is social media is as much about listening as it is having your voice heard- whether you’re a journalist or PR, business or individual. Without understanding what others are talking about, reacting to that, staying current as a result of that, and being active on a regular basis (which doesn’t mean quickly logging on to post anything a few times a day) you might as well not bother. And, if the demands of your job prevent that from happening, it’s clear you should be in the market to bring in someone, or some team, that can take the responsibility on for you.