For six years Pelican Communications has been working with Roythornes Solictors to create the Social Media at Work Report.
The survey polls a wide range of businesses on their policies and practices in relation to social media use in the workplace.
Pelican’s managing director Michael Bennett, gives an insight into the latest findings and why social media must be a key consideration in every company’s business strategy.
The social media landscape
When we started surveying food businesses about their social media policies back in 2012, there were 1 million Facebook users.
Fast forward six years and this has more than doubled. At the start of this year there were 2.13 billion monthly active Facebook users.
On average, 1.4 billion people log onto Facebook daily, and the Facebook Like and Share buttons are viewed across almost 10 million websites daily.
Whilst these figures only relate to Mark Zuckerberg’s in/famous platform (depending on your point of view) they illustrate the social media juggernaut that has changed the way most people and organisations communicate with their audiences, be it Twitter, Snapchat, Linkedin, Instagram or Whatsapp.
Social media – what’s changed?
You only have to look at how President Trump has transformed Twitter from a short messaging app, into a tool of international diplomacy, which can set the agenda for traditional news organisations.
Back in 2012, most of the commentary was positive: social media platforms were a force for good, helping people communicate quickly and easily, sharing content that would educate, entertain and generally improve our lives.
The ‘mood music’ is now radically different, following the revelations that Facebook, Google and a range of other platforms have been used to influence elections and monitor our daily lives to a level of detail many of us find deeply worrying.
Social media and food businesses
How businesses, especially food businesses, adapt to this changing social media landscape is a key question for marketing and communications professionals.
As expected, our survey shows that in most cases, social media remains the responsibility of marketing departments, often supported by an external PR agency. Marketing takes the lead in generating and monitoring content. Marketing teams need to decide, in-light of growing concern about social media, is it business as usual or do they make fundamental changes to the way they communicate online?
Food is at the very core of the social media debate. A study (published by Social Media Monthly) found 75% of consumers have used Facebook to decide on which restaurant to eat at. More and more people share pictures of what they’re eating on social media or search sites for recipes.
But will consumers continue to trust food brands that promote themselves via platforms they feel they can no longer trust? Is the audience access worth the potential reputational damage?
Pub chain JD Wetherspoon decided that it wasn’t when it closed down its social media accounts in April. Despite having 44,000 Twitter followers and more than 100,000 Facebook followers, chief executive Tim Martin said he was making a stand against “the addictive nature of social media”, describing the medium as a “waste of time” for him and his 900 outlets.
Does your business have a social media policy?
Different businesses will react differently, but a key tool in deciding the way forward is ensuring you have a social media policy in place. Interestingly only two in three of our respondents say they have such a policy. This is down from a peak of 74% in 2015/16. Even allowing for the difference in the sample of companies responding, this leaves a worrying number of food businesses exposed.
At the same time, the number of companies monitoring social media use by their staff has fallen from 38% to 27%: a six-year low. This indicates that respondents may be reacting to changing attitudes towards social media and privacy. And some companies may be concerned about employees reacting badly to the idea they are being monitored by ‘the boss’.
Whichever way food companies decide to respond to the changing social media landscape, whilst they remain online their reputation will be linked to that of the social media platforms they choose to use.
We’ll have to wait for the results on next year’s survey to see how many firms have opted out of social media or have radically changed their online behaviour.
To find out how Pelican Communications can help your business shape its social media communications, speak to our food experts.
Pelican Communications are specialists in the environment, food and drink, outdoor and leisure and packaging sectors and offer a range of services such as media relations, brand management, event management and people development. Contact us for marketing and communications expertise.