Creative Storytelling Key to Social Media Success
26 February 2014 at 8:51 am
Despite a massive increase in the number of companies using social media to communicate their efforts around sustainability and corporate social responsibility, quantity hasn’t translated into quality, according to findings of the 2013 Social Media Sustainability Index.
The 4th annual Index analysed how 475 global, publicly listed companies are using social media to communicate their actions around sustainability and corporate social responsibility.
It looked at more than 4000 corporate social media channels to select the top 100 companies for the Index and highlight best practice communication and storytelling.
“What we have found is an explosion in the number of companies committed to talking about sustainability,” the Index’s author Matthew Yeomans, of Sustainly, said. “Yet, at the same time, very few of those companies seem to have a good idea of who they are talking to and what stories they should be telling.
“All too often Tweets read like press release headlines, blog posts have all the creativity of a scientific instruction manual and YouTube videos are dominated by dry, corporate speak. As a result they only get a handful of views,” Yeomans said.
He said that for sustainability to win mainstream respect online, companies will need to talk about their environmental and social responsibility work with the same passion and creativity with which they promote their core products and services.
To do that, they will need to have a clearer understanding of their audience. “It won’t be enough to talk to kindred spirits in the sustainability and CSR community,” he said. “Neither will they be able to position sustainability just as a niche topic for academics, NGOs and the green media.”
Instead, he said companies will need to follow the lead of the companies at the top of this year’s Index, including Spanish bank BBVA (up from No. 2 last year), followed by AT&T, IBM, GE, Unilever, Levi Strauss & Co (last year’s leader), Nike, Coca-Cola, BSkyB and Suez Environnement, which are successfully bringing sustainability into the mainstream by winning over consumers, customers and their own employees with stories about products and services that are useful, interesting and relevant.
Almost half the companies studied for the latest index (233) had social media channels or campaigns dedicated to presenting their sustainability or corporate social responsibility activities, compared to only 60 major companies using social media for this purpose four years ago.
Yeomans said it appears that companies are becoming increasingly keen to tell the world about how sustainable they are trying to be, as the environmental and societal issues around sustainability take on more prominence within society and around the board table.
“Social media provides the perfect platform for companies to communicate sustainability, because it is driven by the philosophy of being transparent in communicating and authentic in what you have to say,” he said. “Time and again over the last decade, companies have found – to their cost – just what happens when they try to fool social media communities or fail to respond promptly and transparently to questions consumers ask of them,”
This year’s Index revealed that 86 of the Top 100 companies were using Twitter to convey their sustainability and CSR messages. Facebook and YouTube also were popular for sustainability storytelling, while a few ambitious companies including Walmart, Telecom Italia, IBM and Sun Life also embraced platforms such as Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest.
There was an increasing use of online magazines and blogs, Apps and interactive games. But apart from a small number of compelling, high-production examples, such as Werner Herzog’s 30 minute documentary for AT&T’s It Can Wait campaign, visual storytelling was “a bit of a corporate video wasteland”, Yeomans said.
Yeomans said BBVA reached the top of the 2013 Index because it has a strong understanding of its social media community and creates projects, campaigns and services to meet the needs of that community. During 2013, BBVA’s social causes crowdfunding platform, Suma, helped NGOs raise money for typhoon relief efforts in the Philippines, and other global projects.
The Index report is free and contains information about:
- what social media channels companies like to use;
- the new storytelling trends through social media;
- how 10 major FMCG companies communicate sustainability through their brands;
- which industry sectors succeed at social media for sustainability; and
- how the Top 10 companies use social media to tell their stories.
Register to receive it here.
Read more about sustainability here.