Who is using Instagram well for jobseekers?

Instagram has long been important for small, independent brands, and has even spawned a new industry of ‘influencers’. It has taken more time for corporates to find their niche on the photo-sharing platform, but there is a growing trend to use it to engage with jobseekers. Here, Mali Perdeaux shares the companies making the most of Instagram for recruiting.

This corporate expansion onto Instagram reflects the evolution of the platform itself – usage doubled between June 2016 and 2018, with 80 per cent of users apparently following at least one brand account, according to Brandwatch research. Many of the corporate careers accounts we’ve seen focus primarily on early career candidates (also according to Brandwatch, 90 per cent of Instagram users are under 35 ) but increasingly they also address a wider audience of professionals.

Instagram provides a range of opportunities to engage with jobseekers, from ‘quick win’ staff profiles (video content is particularly popular) and graduate ‘takeovers’, to using Stories for tips for applicants, site tours, polls and more.

A bonus for stretched digital teams is that less slick, more authentic posts are often more popular than very polished agency-style material. The inherent informality of the platform provides an ideal opportunity for organizations to present their human side and show off the engaging individuals behind the corporate brand.

Here, we take a look at some of key trends to see who is serving jobseekers well on the channel.

Verizon, Vodafone and BP: Giving brands, and policies, a human face


US telecoms giant Verizon was one of the first notable corporate careers Instagram feeds we found, blending corporate images with a series showcasing members of staff talking briefly about something important to them outside work. Collated under the hashtag #ThisIsMeVZ, examples include an employee who finds the energy for a busy work and family life through a new-found passion for exercise, which saw him competing on the American Ninja Warrior show. As well as being in keeping with the early spirit of the platform, this is a low-cost and effective way to bring a human face to the company – most of the pictures were personal snapshots rather than corporate shots – while making staff feel involved, supported and seen.

More recently, the company uses the feed to combine personal stories with responsibility and recruitment messages - for instance a new father kissing his baby and talking about the positive impact of his paternity leave allowance, or employees taking part in community projects under the hashtag #PowerToGoBeyond.


Vodafone has an ‘Early careers’ channel, @VodafoneGlobalGrads, which makes excellent use of its feed to inform and engage with potential candidates. The main grid is primarily – though, crucially, not exclusively – slick 'official' photography. The channel comes into its own in the Stories, which feature Q&As with current grads, 'Wednesday wisdom' tips from recruiters, 'Intern life' offering a glimpse into the intern routine, interviews with #WomenInEngineering and more. This approach provides a relatively quick and inexpensive way to provide material that offers real value to candidates, helping to build a realistic picture of whether a career at Vodafone would be a good fit for them.

BP launched @life.at.bp on Instagram just over a year ago to 'Celebrat[e] our culture, colleagues and careers around the globe'. The posts mix professional event photography with candid snaps to provide a compelling insight into life at the company. The variety on the feed reflects – and powerfully demonstrates – the reach of the organization, for instance a collection of ‘Office views’ that ranges from La Defence in Paris to sunsets from a rig off Trinidad and Tobago. Perhaps most powerfully, Stories allow staff to give an informal, and often convincingly enthusiastic, view of their working day in pictures.

Maersk and Unilever: A win-win – boosting engagement with reposting

Some canny digital teams also use Instagram to boost staff engagement, while providing ‘quick win’ updates for the main feed, by reposting (with appropriate permission and credits) pictures shared on employees’ personal accounts.


Maersk regularly re-posts pictures or films posted by staff on their own feeds. This provides candid content for minimal digital team overhead; makes staff feel valued (and boosts the potential audience for their personal account); and sends a subtle but powerful message to jobseekers that existing staff are enthused about their work.

Similarly, the Unilever Instagram feed includes pictures taken by Unilever employees (whose Instagram profiles are linked from the post), presenting the company as a fulfilling and creative place to work. Many of these are also used to reinforce responsibility messages which are likely to be appealing to jobseekers.

Facebook: Sidestepping the silo trap

One potential pitfall we have noticed is a growing number of companies producing compelling material on social media platforms but failing to make use of it on the relevant pages on their main Careers section. One organization that does bridge this gap – perhaps unsurprisingly – is Facebook.


Many of the pages in the Facebook Life area of its Careers section include a panel of links to Instagram posts of employees discussing an aspect of their career or working life. By providing links to posts that are relevant to a specific page, rather than a general Instagram feed, Facebook is extending the ‘life’ of the profile posts and making sure they are visible to the target audience.

Mali Perdeaux

For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

 If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.

BC Tip: The Ryder Cup - Keeping up the momentum

The Ryder Cup’s social media accounts kept interest in the golf event alive long after the final putt was sunk

Ryder Cup - Team Europe’s Instagram

Ryder Cup - Team Europe’s Instagram

The Feature

Golf’s Ryder Cup, the biennial team contest between Europe and the US, concluded recently in France.

There are accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for both the USA and Europe teams. In the week following Europe’s victory, various celebratory posts appeared on the team’s channels. There were Twitter and Facebook votes about successful players, while collages, videos, graphics and cleverly filtered images, including some informal behind-the-scenes posts, filled the Instagram page.

Two posts used across the social channels stood out: a video produced to inspire the European team, which they watched before the event, shared and liked by thousands and viewed over 1.5m times. And a humorous vignette of two of the team’s most successful players, in bed with the Ryder Cup trophy.

Meanwhile the defeated USA team’s accounts, such as Instagram, struck a more muted tone, and looked forward to the next event in two years’ time.

The Takeaway

The mix of material posted to social channels helps to maintain engagement beyond the Ryder Cup competition itself – something that corporate digital managers can replicate in the wake of a significant company announcement, event or milestone.

Internal content can be used to give an insight into the way a company works, while bespoke material, tailored for individual channels, can attract significant audiences on social media.

This can simply be used to keep an organization in the public eye, or to give people a reason to return to the corporate website. Social referrals to corporate websites are often low, as we found in our last Google Analytics benchmark, so this is an area in which companies are frequently missing an opportunity to attract users to their sites.

It is key to keep the tone of posts appropriate though, as the differences between the approaches of the Europe and USA teams demonstrates.

For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.

BC tip: Goldman Sachs – strident tweets from the top

The chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs uses his personal Twitter account to convey the firm's position on contentious sociopolitical issues in a way that is high profile yet at 'arm's length' from official channels. 

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The Feature

Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and CEO of US investment bank Goldman Sachs, created a Twitter account in June 2011 but did not start tweeting from it until June 2017. Since then, he has tweeted sparingly (28 times) but stridently on contentious social, environmental and political issues, from Brexit to US participation in the 2016 Paris Agreement on climate change.  

The Takeaway

Mr Blankfein makes what appears to be carefully calibrated use of Twitter to convey Goldman Sachs' position on big global issues in a way that is high profile and 'straight from the top' – Mr Blankein’s Twitter biography says simply 'CEO @GoldmanSachs' – yet also at ‘arm’s length’ from the firm’s official corporate communications channels. For example, Goldman Sachs signposts four Twitter accounts from the footer of its website (including the 'Official Goldman Sachs Twitter account') but Mr Blankfein's is not one of them. The points made in his tweets are reaching far beyond the confines of Twitter: news outlets from the Financial Times, via the BBC, to Reuters, have extensively covered them in recent months.

Click here to read the 'Explain yourself Index' – our new report on the best companies in the world at telling their stories online.

BC tip: Suncor Energy – Social media pop-ups

Social media icons with pop-up menus can help integrate digital channels and send visitors to the right place.

BC tip - Suncor.png

The Feature

The social media icons in the footer of Suncor Energy’s corporate website have pop-up menus with links to different pages on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

For example, on clicking the Facebook icon, links to five of the Canadian oil company’s Facebook pages appear – the main corporate page; careers page; and consumer and campaign sites.

For icons with one channel, such as Flickr, there is an introduction ‘Check out our Flickr photostreams’. YouTube has a longer introduction to its two channels: ‘We maintain several official YouTube channels to share official Suncor videos as well as relevant videos and playlists from our stakeholders.’

The pop-ups also work in smartphone view of the responsive site. Unusually, the set of icons has one for Suncor’s blogs, with a pop-up menu describing three that the company maintains.

The Takeaway

The pop-up menus are a quick way of promoting multiple social media pages from one set of icons, and help visitors find the right channel.

Many companies have a main Facebook page and a Careers page, for example, and these can be brought together without worrying which one is being promoted in the footer at any given time.

There are weaknesses in the way Suncor uses the icons – some of the Facebook channel headings are unclear, for example. The blog menu is promoting two blogs that are no longer maintained.

One company we know used pop-ups, then dropped them.

Used in the right way though, they could be a neat hub for a company’s social media pages, and a good way to integrate the company’s online presence.


BC tip: The Draft House – Retweeting from across the group

A UK-based pubs company’s approach to local Twitter feeds could be adapted by corporates.

BC tip - Draft House.png

The Feature

The Draft House has a group Twitter feed – @DraftHouseUK. Each of the pubs in the group has its own Twitter handle, based on its location eg, DH Tower Bridge, DraftHouse WB, DraftHouse MK, etc.

All of the group's Twitter accounts bear the group logo as an identifier but in a different colour to help to easily differentiate at a glance.

The group account regularly retweets each pub’s tweets on the group-level account.

The Takeaway

The Draft House approach is a simple way to ensure that a group-level Twitter account is always busy, interesting and reflective of the whole group.

In a corporate context, this approach could be applied to country, regional, division or individual Twitter accounts.


Taking a stand online

There was an unprecedented reaction from American CEOs after the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia. Jason Sumner also found a surprising number of companies willing to address the controversy on their corporate websites and social media. Does this signal a new approach to managing corporate reputations online?

We often look at corporate websites after a crisis hits to see if companies are doing anything to put their side of the story across online.

Usually we find little or nothing, not even a press statement in the News area. We put this down to risk averse lawyers and conventional PR wisdom – don’t mention it too much and hope the media moves on, which it usually does. This has probably been sound advice.

I expected to find the typical online silence when I started looking at the websites of companies whose CEOs had resigned en masse from Donald Trump’s American Manufacturing Council following the president’s controversial comments about events in Charlottesville, Virginia– which eventually drove the US leader to disband the panel.

There was the usual reticence on the part of some, but a surprising number of CEOs and companies spoke out on their official digital channels about what led to their decision to quit.

Merck’s CEO, Kenneth C Frazier, was the first to go. There was an announcement on the pharmaceutical company’s Twitter account on August 14th, but we could not find any reference to the resignation on Merck.com.

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Intel also had nothing on its main website, but announced its CEO’s resignation from the panel on a policy blog. (We wrote a recent BC tip about it here.)

On August 14th, the same day that Mr Frazier resigned, clothing company Under Armour tweeted a statement from its CEO, Kevin Plank. ‘We are saddened by Charlottesville. There is no place for racism or discrimination in this world. We choose love & unity.’

The next day the company issued a statement in its website’s media section saying Mr Plank had resigned, and the statement still remains at the top of the press releases list on the site. The statement was also tweeted on the corporate Twitter handle.

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The Campbell Soup Company also released a statement on August 16th from its CEO, Denise Morrison, on its corporate home page and Twitter. It was still the top feature on the home page nearly a week after Ms Morrison resigned. ‘Racism and murder are unequivocally reprehensible and are not morally equivalent to anything else that happened in Charlottesville,’ the statement said. ‘I believe the President should have been - and still needs to be - unambiguous on that point.’

Unusually, Campbell’s opened the statement to comments from readers. There were 145 comments when we checked the site – many in support, but some promising to boycott the company’s products.

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Several companies took the usual route of saying nothing on official channels, including investment management company Blackrock. Pepsico CEO Indra Nooyi tweeted from her personal account – ‘Hatred and intolerance are a betrayal of what we stand for as Americans.’ - but we couldn’t find any statements on the website or corporate social media

Walmart’s CEO made his announcement in an internal note to employees – we did not find anything on official public channels.

Starbucks executive chairman Howard Schulz got a lot of attention in the media for his statements on the violence in Charlottesville, although he was not part of the president’s manufacturing council. This did not stop the digital team from promoting his stance heavily on the website. A town-hall style meeting he had with employees on August 15th was being promoted heavily in the company’s corporate newsroom, with a feature story titled ‘Hate has no home here’, photographs and short video.

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The mix of approaches to presenting the controversy online reflects a wider uncertainty about how best to manage corporate controversies when the combination of social and traditional media can create an ongoing storm of bad publicity that does not 'just go away’ but takes on a life of its own. Unprecedented times could mean more unprecedented communications tactics from corporates - at least in the US.

Indeed, for the moment, this has been a very US-centric debate. An interesting question is whether European or Asian companies will eventually find themselves under similar levels of scrutiny and feel the need to speak out in this way.

Another interesting question arises too. This controversy was external – something the US president said, rather than a home grown scandal, such as the Volkswagen emissions fraud, or Wells Fargo’s fake loans. Will CEOs of larger corporates continue to make the calculation that online silence is the best approach to these kinds of controversies or will the old rules apply?

- Jason Sumner

Do we need corporate websites anymore?

The corporate website has so far avoided a widely predicted extinction at the hands of social media. Yet its supposed imminent demise because of newer technologies like virtual reality and chatbots is never far from the digital conversation. In a Q&A with David Bowen, the veteran commentator explains why declaring the death of corporate websites is (still) premature.

Q. The world is changing so fast. Isn’t it a big mistake for digital communicators to concentrate on old-fashioned technologies like websites?

David Bowen: It is a mistake for them to concentrate on them without looking at the things that are changing, certainly. But of all the digital communications tools that will still be around in 20 or 30 years, I would put my money on good old-fashioned websites as the safest bet.

Q. Why?

DB: Three main reasons:

·      First, websites were born out of the technology of the late Eighties and early Nineties – particularly the limited internet bandwidth. Unless you had your own fibre cable network, it was all very narrow band. When I first started looking at how things were going, about 1992, lots of people were talking about virtual reality – and assumed that in a few years we would be doing our shopping sitting in an armchair with headsets on. But meanwhile the things that worked had to be technically simple, which is why the rather basic idea of the website was invented. I can’t program but I have managed to build a simple website. And simple things tend to survive; think of the bicycle, or even the wheel.

·      Second, although websites are technically simple, they are extraordinarily powerful. Their ability to hold vast amounts of information makes them like the biggest books in the world, full of words, pictures and now videos. Clickable links mean they are much easier to get around than a book – we take hyperlinking for granted but it is a brilliant idea. Websites can incorporate a mass of clever interactivity, which will turn them into shops, helplines, travel agents, whatever. You have to remember that they were invented by Tim Berners-Lee as a way to make sense of a vast amount of information held by CERN; they’re still unbeatable at handling complexity.

·      Third, they are owned by their owners. That may sound silly, but what I mean is that companies do not rely in any sense on other companies for their existence. That’s really important, especially in a crisis when they need to keep absolute control of their messaging. Websites give companies an almost universally accessible platform where they can say what they want, in the detail they want and with minimal fear of being shouted down.

So that’s why websites have kept going, despite predictions that they will be swept out of the way by new, more exciting technologies.

Q. Such as?

DB: Social media is the obvious one so far. When it first came along it was called ‘Web 2.0’ – with the obvious implication that it was going to replace the old ‘Web 1.0’. There was a period a few years ago when there were plenty of ‘corporate website is dead’ stories based on the presumed dominance of social media. Its huge promise was that it would turn an essentially one-way communication tool – the website – into something based on conversations. And every marketer knew that a conversation was the best way to sell.

Facebook (and some other channels) have indeed become a massive conversation factory, and in some ways have pushed websites out of the way. But not when it comes to corporate communications. The sad truth is that people want to have conversations with each other; they don’t want to have them with large corporations. It has taken years for companies to really understand that, and some of them are now using social media successfully for corporate communications – but it is always an addition to the website.

Facebook pages can’t hold loads of information, they tend to be quite inflexible, and most important they are not owned by the company. When Nestlé got into trouble over palm oil some years ago, it was driven from its own Facebook page by Greenpeace activists; pirates over-ran the ship and the crew had to jump overboard.

We are now seeing worrying levels of hacking of websites, but they are not by their nature open to attack as, say, a Facebook page is. That is why it is useful to think of corporate websites as being the sun, with social media channels the planets that circle it. The same sort of thing happened with apps – they turned out to be brilliant at what they are brilliant at, but attempts to create corporate apps that replaced websites have pretty much all failed.

Q. So does that mean we should forget about any new technologies that come along, and simply concentrate on our websites?

DB: No, that would be very risky. Although websites are likely to maintain their importance, other technologies and devices will continue to burst forth. We will undoubtedly see some innovations that we can’t even imagine (could you have imagined Snapchat 10 years ago?).

Before I start future-gazing, I’d like to go back rather on what I was saying a moment ago. Yes, in general social media has not proved much of a boon to corporate communicators, and yes in general apps have had even less effect. But there are parts of the world where that is not true. In Latin America, Facebook has in places become a more important communications and marketing tool than company websites, and companies operating there who don’t know that will get into trouble.

In Asia, apps are huge because mobile phones are so much more important than computers (see next question). There are even big differences between the US and Europe in the way websites themselves are used. The Europeans are way ahead when it comes to using corporate websites to get their company messages across but the Americans are still better at ‘selling stuff’ online. If you want to be a ‘global-local’ operator, you have to understand such things.

Q. WeChat in China seems to be huge. Do we all need to know about that?

DB: Yes, of all the new technologies corporate communicators need to be studying, messaging apps should be at the front of the queue. I have been increasingly using WhatsApp, Facebook messaging, Skype messaging, even the chat bit of my game of internet Scrabble. Always for messaging , maybe with pictures added. My daughter uses Snapchat – I still don’t quite get that, but it is pushing the format.

WeChat in China is moving to a different level, right into website territory. There are several reasons why apps have taken off so strongly in China, but the result is that companies working there have learned to use them as substitutes for email, websites and social media channels – all rolled into one. One big European B2B company says WeChat is more important than the web. It can be used to display product details (though the functionality is much cruder), to provide customer service, to communicate internally; all sorts of things.

This multi-function ability should in itself make WeChat interesting, but the real reason companies everywhere should be interested is that it is designed for mobile users. We do not believe that in most countries corporate sites will ever be viewed mainly on small screens – simply because they are complex and so fiddly to use. But mobile use is growing fast, and it may well be that messaging apps will be more useful for many mobile users than, say, small screen versions of responsive websites. They won’t replace them, but they may well complement them especially if, as we believe they will, the borders between corporate communications and marketing become increasingly blurred.

Q. Is there anything else on the immediate horizon?

DB: Artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots will become increasingly important for people who want answers to specific questions. So they will have an effect on one aspect of websites, and will probably be increasingly incorporated in them. The obvious place is in the search engine, which is notoriously the weak spot of corporate sites. I have to say that there is little sign yet of great leaps in the effectiveness of website search, and AI has been a promising technology for so long we probably shouldn’t hold our breath

Q. Cars have the internet and we can talk to our fridges from our smartphones. Could this affect corporate comms?

The ‘Internet of Things’ is worth digital communicators applying their imaginations to. We have a presentation at our conference in June by the head of digital communications at Bosch. I won’t try to guess what he’s going to say, but it is all about the fact that the internet now gets everywhere, and there will be things that could well affect your jobs. He says the Internet of Things will transform our jobs as comms directors for corporates – how we do ‘content and communication’. 

Q. You started by talking about virtual reality. There was lots of publicity about it last year. Should communications people be studying it?

DB: I think so. When Second Life was hyped, then dropped out of sight a few years ago, there was lots of experimentation, some of it coming within the communications orbit. People experimented with press conferences – an advantage of the VR format is that you (or your avatar) could chat to the person ‘sitting’ next to you, while also listening to the main speaker; just as you could in real life. Human resources people got excited by the possibilities – virtual careers fairs seemed to make a lot of sense. It failed because of technology limits, but maybe they have now been overcome. I would be talking to your HR people in particular – they often have good antennae for new things coming along.

Q. Those are all positive things. Anything bad?

DB: Hacking, cybercrime – maybe one day someone will manage to bring down the internet. It was designed to withstand a nuclear war, but will that be good enough? On the other hand, it is hardly worth basing any sort of strategy on speculation like that. Just make sure you still know how to write with a pen. 

For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com

BC tip: GSK - Volunteer vlogs

The pharmaceutical giant has successfully adapted the ‘video blog’ trend to the corporate web.

The Feature

GSK has created a series of video blogs – known as ‘vlogs’ – featuring an employee who spent six months on a company-sponsored volunteering programme in Kenya, which finished in December 2016.

Vanina Kacheva, an area marketing manager for Central and Eastern Europe in GSK’s healthcare business, created five vlogs during her stint advising Save the Children on its communications.

They are two-minute to three-minute video diaries, in which Vanina speaks directly to camera about her experiences, in the style of popular video blogs on YouTube. The vlogs are located on the corporate website in the Responsibility section, and on YouTube. GSK promoted Vanina’s final vlog on Twitter in December.

The Takeaway

GSK has taken the trend for vlogging, popular among internet marketers and millennials, and adapted it effectively for the corporate web.

A volunteer programme, which gives employees interesting new experiences to share, is a natural application. You need an employee willing to go on camera, but an advantage is that with vlogs, lack of high production values or professional presenting skills is an advantage, and adds to authenticity.

Vlogging could have a number of uses in the corporate context – employee profiles are an obvious one, but there are surely many others.


Facebook beyond the feed

The social media giant’s web estate is fragmented and often frustrating to navigate. However, there are pockets of brilliance and originality; and signs that the company’s approach to online corporate communications is maturing, Jason Sumner says.

In the last few days, we’ve been doing our annual check of Facebook’s web estate to help keep our Index of Online Excellence up to date. Since we last looked in detail at the firm’s online presence in 2015, the all-conquering social media platform has become one of the world’s 10 biggest companies by market capitalisation and now has 1.8bn monthly users. 

We think it’s unlikely that Facebook will break into our top 30 ranking though. It has too many weaknesses, the most obvious of which is fragmentation, something that it has in common with a lot of US technology firms’ online estates. Journeys to information for anyone who is not a signed-in ‘user’ are often difficult, with an array of dedicated Facebook pages and microsites that have different navigation systems and do not always link up neatly.

But Facebook has online communications strengths in a few important areas that make it worth watching: 
•    It is highly effective at providing online information for its customers (advertisers and potential advertisers), an issue that is front of mind for digital managers we speak to. 
•    Careers pages are at global best practice standards.
•    Visually speaking, much of the estate looks elegant and parts are outstanding. 

We also saw signs that the company thinks ‘corporate’ online audiences such as investors and CSR professionals are worth trying to serve better too. 

Facebook.com/business is the gateway page to resources for advertisers. The material here is clear, straightforward and well-targeted to the audience. The calls to action anticipate some ignorance about the basics of Facebook’s business model and address it – ‘How Facebook adverts work’ – or, for those already in the know, ‘Create Advert’, which leads to a step-by-step process to set up an online campaign. There is abundant and useful supporting content, including clear, succinct video tutorials, FAQs, case studies, pricing information, metrics, etc.

How-to video in the business section

How-to video in the business section

Careers information on Facebook.com was strong when we looked in 2015 and it is strong now. On digital careers metrics alone, we rate Facebook among the best online estates in the world, and well worth emulating. Jobseekers receive a top service, with the global vacancy mechanism and careers information provision at global best practice levels. The online application form is excellent - elegant, streamlined and appropriately targeted at digital natives. The ‘Careers hub’ provides a very effective pitch to prospective jobseekers, positioning the workplace as a lively environment in which staff are encouraged to pursue their ideas and make a real difference.

Careers landing page

Careers landing page

Facebook has made some improvements in the way it communicates with traditional corporate stakeholders such as investors and CSR professionals. In 2015, we noted that their investor landing page stood out for its boring conventionality (even if their recent quarterly information was very well organized). Since then they have launched a modern-looking microsite for investors that is much more in tune with the company’s visual style. Although it falls short of best practice (we could not find a quarterly results archive, for example), the microsite is a step forward.

Investors landing page

Investors landing page

In 2015, we could not find any CSR data. In our most recent visits, the Sustainability microsite had a long scrolling page of creative data visualisations, housed under ‘Our Footprint’, covering carbon emissions at data centres, the energy mix between renewables and fossil fuels (including its goal to be using 50 per cent renewables by 2018), and water usage. The site provides a PDF download of all the data and a useful list of links to external resources about Facebook’s environmental performance. The page has links to interesting real-time dashboards tracking ‘power usage effectiveness’ and ‘water usage effectiveness’ at Facebook’s four data centres.

Sustainability landing page

Sustainability landing page

Real-time energy and water usage dashboard

Real-time energy and water usage dashboard

The Sustainability microsite is a good example of the site’s often striking visuals. It uses (currently-trendy) looping video on the landing page, original photography, clean fonts and colours to tell make the company’s case that it is a force for good in the world. 

‘Facebook Stories’ are another example of professional visuals combined with high-quality editorial. Housed on a microsite, they are a set of well-produced videos that cover what ordinary people have accomplished by setting up Facebook groups. Many of the videos have CSR and community-based themes, including 'Homeless in Seattle' about an architect who has a page 'Facing Homelessness' and 'Save the Monarchs', a group in Iowa dedicated to butterfly conservation. The production values are high, and may well be outside many firms’ digital corporate communications budgets, but the way the videos are summarised on the page, and the way the videos are subtle about connecting Facebook to the groups doing the work, could be a model for other corporate 'story' videos.

Facebook Stories microsite

Facebook Stories microsite

Overall, we were struck by the imbalance between how frustrating it can be to find specific information on the estate, and then being impressed by the abundance and detail when we got to the right places. It is a good thing for Facebook, given how frustrating our journeys were, that the estate tested very well for visibility on search engines. Users starting from the home page could struggle, for example, to find the links for journalists, investors or sustainability, but putting these terms into Google returned the exact destination at the top of the results every time. 

- Jason Sumner

What to do with the poor old media section

The exploding complexity of the media world has left the Cinderella of website sections behind, says David Bowen.

Who do corporate websites serve the best? One way to tell is to look at the Bowen Craggs Index, which is based on a ‘user-centred’ approach. Our reviewers put themselves into the heads of different groups, and see how well they are served: the scores come out of that process.

I’ve extracted averages for each of ‘serving’ metrics in the Database from our top 30 list – that is, the best online communicators among large companies - and have found intriguing differences. The best served group belongs to what we call ‘society’ – a combination of CSR professionals and broader groups interested in the company's behaviour (reputation management would be another way of putting it). They score 24.4 out of 32 on average. Then come investors and jobseekers on 23.1 each, and customers on 22.4.

Bringing up the rear is ‘serving the media’, on a distinctly unimpressive 20.6. If this were a school exam, the media section gets 64 per cent while 'society' gets 76. I’ve done similar sums over the years, and the results are always similar. The media section is too often the Cinderella, and it shows: press releases poorly organized, background information thin, image libraries weak. But journalists are a key to that other thing companies are so good at, reputation management. What’s going on?

It’s surely because the nature of news has been transformed by the internet, but few companies have got their heads round what this really means for them. That, as with so many things, is reflected in their websites: press offices don’t really know what they should be doing, so their web outlets suffer from a lack of clear purpose. 

Traditionally, press officers have concentrated on cultivating a small number of influential journalists with well tried techniques (such as lunch). Many still prefer to do this and it probably still returns maximum results for a set amount of effort. They may have expanded their group of influencers to bloggers or tweeters, but either way the website is not terribly relevant. They do not spend much time helping to get the basics of the media section working smoothly, and it shows.

But I would be libelling them terribly if I claimed they were not very aware of the changes the internet has wrought on their profession. Two changes in particular: the blurring of what a ‘journalist’ is, and the multiple earthquakes caused by social media.

What is a journalist? Is it still a person paid by a publisher to produce words? Does it now include influential bloggers and tweeters? Is it anyone who blogs and tweets? Is it anyone who reads blogs and tweets, and passes them on? Is it everyone (‘there are seven billion journalists’ was once a fashionable line)?  Bringing this back to the press officers - who is it their job to influence?

Every organization has tried to understand social media, and there are signs that some corporations are cracking it: grasping that it is not one thing but many is a key to this, as is getting its huge role of reputation management. But who is in charge of it? Marketing and customer service people jumped on it first; press people leapt at it too, but too often grabbed what they could without asking the simple journalistic questions: why and how? 'Social media dashboards’ appeared, embedded Twitter feeds are still appearing; but I wonder who is using these, and how. Were I still a journalist I would have my own dashboard like Hootsuite, and I’d set it up to follow the people and subjects I needed. I don't think I'd spend too much time looking at social media on corporate sites.

So maybe the targets are broader groups: if not the seven billion, then a congregation of journalists, bloggers, tweeters, ‘concerned consumers’, jobseekers, NGO people, politicians, regulators and so on. This would explain two linked trends. First there is a fashion for giving the old press section a name that is more inclusive: ‘News and features’, News and Insights’ for example. Second, some sites do not provide just the raw material from a which a journalist can start crafting a piece (which is what a press release is), but provide full-formed pieces. ‘The press release is dead’, the head of Coca-Cola’s site declared a few years ago – what he meant was, you don’t need to read a story repackaged by journalists when you can get it beautifully written straight from us. A useful way of thinking of this is wholesale versus retail: with wholesale you give journalists the basic product and let them do it up and sell it in their own shop; with retail you provide perfectly packaged products direct to the consumer. 

Given all these different things, it is hardly surprising that so many media sections are a bit of muddle. The answer, I think, is to untangle them: to straighten out the intertwined strands of spaghetti and lay them neatly next to each other. This can be done, but it requires a change of thinking within the company – as ever it’s about management, not technology.

Here are my suggestions:

  • Acknowledge that ‘traditional’ journalists (perhaps boosted by a few influential bloggers) are not only the most important single group to target, but that they need to be served in a specific way. Keep a traditional press section but make it really useful for these people. Let them check names and dates easily in fully-searchable archive of press releases; give them background material or link to useful pages around your web estate. Maybe management speeches should be here. Include a decent image library. Most important, give them good contacts so that can get in touch at any time of day or night.
  • Acknowledge too that a much broader audience wants to know about your company – our online surveys show surprising numbers of non-journalists saying they are looking for ‘news’. Give it to them in the form of features, soft news articles, interviews – in text, video, audio, graphics, whatever. This is of course what many companies are already doing with online magazines, and they’re doing it well (some, like Coca Cola Journey and the late-departed SAB Miller site, pretty much are magazines with a few bits added).
  • But - and this is the key - separate the two clearly. Getting labels right is crucial. Use a word that says ‘this is for professional journalists’ on the press section – call it press or media. Be even more explicit by calling it ‘For journalists’ (I like this). Don’t include the word ‘news’. The more general material will need a home, and that can be tailored according to need. GSK’s Behind the science is what it says it is; so is Goldman Sachs Our thinking. If it’s a magazine, call it that, as Bayer does.
  • Corporate social media needs to be treated carefully – divided into its different channels, and managed primarily by the same people who run the corporate website. Press officers may be involved, of course, and may even run channels – but only if they understand exactly why they are doing it, and who their audiences are.

What management changes will this need? Well, the press office will run the ‘professional’ bit (along with the digital team of course). Should it also run the softer channels? If not, who will? Who will manage social media? Are press offices as they exist now 'fit for purpose'? Should they be rebranded as reputation management departments?  Do you need a press office at all … the questions have a habit of snowballing. But they need to be answered, or the none of the audiences will be as well served as they should be and corporate websites will continue to underperform badly in our ‘serving the media’ metric.

David Bowen

BC tip: Wells Fargo - Facing the abuse

An under-fire US bank responds to its critics on Facebook.

The Feature

It has been a troubled few weeks for Wells Fargo. After owning up to some highly questionable sales practices, including setting up fake bank accounts, it agreed to pay a settlement of $190m; fired 5,300 employees implicated in the scandal; and its CEO resigned after a ritual grilling by Congress.

Adopting fresh leadership and a new ‘commitment’ to customers, the company has also launched a reputation-building communications campaign across channels – offline, television and online, including social media.

In September it posted three messages on Facebook announcing the ‘new actions to strengthen culture and rebuild trust’. These posts prompted a string of negative and occasionally abusive comments. Unusually, the company has adopted a policy of responding to many of these directly, with personal messages from named company representatives.

The Takeaway

Although there is a trend towards greater corporate responsiveness on Facebook, it is still relatively rare to see big companies engaging directly with irate followers. The policy of most seems to be to ignore the abuse until it goes away.

In Wells Fargo’s case, a scan of their Facebook page shows they were responding directly to enquiries before the scandal hit, so probably decided that going to ground would not look good, even if it might have been the safer policy.

Scanning the comments, the Wells Fargo responses can at times seem disjointed and overly cool, even if they may be genuinely trying to help. For example, there the comment from Gigi – ‘They pulled that … with me too, that’s why I switched banks a few months ago. They kept robbing me.’ This elicited the response: ‘Hi Gigi. If you have any concerns that you’d like us to review, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us (no account numbers). We’re here to help.’ – Nate’. They also seem to leave the most vitriolic comments alone; probably a good idea.

There may be legal reasons for the cautious approach, and each company will have its own limits on how fully it can respond, or not. The main lesson is that companies with a Facebook presence need a plan of action for when big problems arise, and even if the plan is to do nothing, to have a sound reason behind it.

When drawing up your own Facebook rulebook, it’s a good idea to watch what happens when companies like Wells Fargo come under fire.


BC tip: Anglo American - Making it easy to tweet

A mining giant invites users to tweet the company directly from its corporate website.

The Feature

A ‘Talk to us’ button on Anglo American’s corporate website prompts visitors to tweet the company directly without having to go to the Twitter site. 

There is a panel on the home page with the most recent tweet, prominent buttons to retweet or reply, and a text box already addressed to @AngloAmerican for messages. Clicking on ‘Talk to us’ below the box calls up a pop-up window for tweeting the message. 

The button appears throughout the site. In addition, a panel in the universal footer has the latest tweet and the Retweet and Reply icons.

The Takeaway

We have not seen this kind of attempt by a B2B company, in a contentious industry, to encourage people to tweet from within the corporate website (rather than send people to Twitter to do it).

A quick look at Anglo’s Twitter feed shows a healthy amount of activity. We don’t know whether this is down to the website tweeting feature, but regardless it sends the wider message that ‘we are open to hear from you’.


BC tip: BP - Quick Twitter insight

The energy giant uses Twitter for some fast, free insight into its followers.

The Site

BP sent two tweets in quick succession on September 12th, each saying, ‘We’ve just reached 30,000 followers! So why are you following us?’, with a link to a survey embedded in the tweets. Users that clicked on the survey had four options: ‘I want a job at BP’; ‘Interest in the industry’; ‘BP works in my community’; ‘A recommendation or RT’.

The survey lasted 24 hours, and in the end one tweet garnered 123 votes and the other 165. Results were similar – about 40% were following for job prospects; about 50% because of an interest in the industry, with only small percentages saying BP worked in their community or because of a recommendation.

The Takeaway

There are obvious limitations to this approach – a small sample, only four choices of answer, etc – and it should not replace more sophisticated measurement and evaluation, but it was probably not meant to.

There can be value in simplicity, and BP’s Twitter survey is an interesting idea – quick to set up and run, giving potentially useful insight at no cost.


BC tip: Starbucks - An effective blend on Facebook

The well-managed ‘Starbucks Partners’ Facebook page presents the US coffee company as a lively, supportive place to work.

The Site

Starbuck’s Partners, the company’s Facebook page for employees, is prominently signposted from the Careers section on its corporate website. It has more than 342,000 likes and frequent posts, which receive an unusually high number of shares and comments.

For example, the top item from our most recent visit – an image of a coffee scoop with the headline, ‘Do you call this the spoodle or the magic coffee wand?’ – had been posted 10 hours previously. It had already received 372 ‘likes’, ‘hahas’ and ‘loves’, plus 82 comments, most of them positive. Other posts receive similar levels of engagement.

The Takeaway

The Starbucks Partners Facebook page is a good example of how a corporate Facebook presence can become a true online ‘community’. Its followers are unusually engaged, which could be the result of the fact there are nearly 350,000 of them, or incentive programmes, or both.

The result is an effective blend of internal and external communications – a lively online forum that helps motivate existing employees and promotes the company to jobseekers as a good place to work.


BC tip: Virgin Group - Taking a view

A UK CEO’s blog post on Brexit offers lessons for other companies wanting to cut through online noise.


The Site

Richard Branson, co-founder of the Virgin Group, the UK investment conglomerate, has a blog on the company’s website, called ‘Richard’.

After the UK voted last week to leave the European Union, he wrote a post, ‘Calling for Parliament to take a second look at the EU referendum’. He criticised the UK’s Leave campaign for misleading the public, said that the vote was based on ‘false promises’, and urged people to sign a petition calling on Parliament to re-run the vote.

The Takeaway

Branson’s post takes a clear position on a controversial political issue, something many companies will be hesitant about. Branson’s forays into social media are not always so interesting, as we have noted here.

However, several companies we know are grappling with the question of how to gain traction for their online content amid all the noise. Addressing issues with a defined ‘point of view’ is one of the ways to do this, and ‘not being boring’ is another, both of which Branson accomplishes with his Brexit piece.

Organizations struggle to take clear-cut opinions for cultural reasons (reticence to stick heads above parapets) and practical reasons (no time to blog, worried about backlash). Your CEO does not have to go as far as having a public view on Brexit to be interesting – a clear-cut and compellingly argued take on, for example, an industry issue can be just as valuable for getting attention online.


BC tip - The Hillary Clinton campaign: Designer subtitles

A US political video gets its message across to viewers who have their sound turned off.


The Site

The creators of a YouTube film of President Barack Obama endorsing fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton have made subtitles an integral part of the design.

As Obama speaks to camera, his words appear in different places on the screen, and in varying font sizes; larger fonts are used for points the Clinton campaign wants to emphasise.

The Takeaway

A problem with video online is that so many people cannot listen to the audio because they are in an office, on a train, etc. On Facebook and Twitter, videos start playing with the audio switched off as the default.

The producers of this slick video of Obama endorsing Clinton for president seem to understand this - and have made ‘mega subtitles’ an key part of the film, rather than a small-text, crude-font bolt-on.

This means that the video gets its messages across whether viewers have their sound off or on, a potential lesson for companies looking to use video effectively on their online channels.


CEOs should tweet - if they know how to

Lucy Kellaway writes one of her usual engaging columns in the FT today. In case you can't read it (it's for subscribers, though there is limited free access),  I'll summarise what she says. She starts by referring to an Insead ranking of the CEOs who use Twitter most effectively, combining a score for quality and quantity. Insead runs a piece on this that claims that '82 per cent of consumers are more likely to trust a company whose CEO engages on social media' and '78 per cent of professionals prefer working for a company who leadership is active on social media channels'. I wonder where those percentages come from?

Anyway, Ms Kellaway concentrates on the leaders in the #Twitterinfluence list, and has fun with them. Tim Cook of Apple writes the blandest tweets and still manages thousands of 'likes'. Why, she asks? She points out that he tweets only rarely - 40 times this year: which makes me wonder what the 'quantity' part of Insead's research consists of. Richard Branson manages to outbland Mr Cook: 'Talk less - smile more', while Rupert Murdoch ('who used to make the elementary mistake of tweeting his opinions about things') got married and stopped tweeting. 

These, Ms Kellaway says, 'are rotten role models for regular executives', because others are not as they are. The only 'regular' CEO in the top 10 is Microsoft's Satya Nadella, who tweets in tedious marketing speak. Marissa Mayer of Yahoo tweeted the company results along with a picture of her baby girls, and got lots of likes for that. From all these examples Ms Kellaway concludes that for all but business superstars, 'there's no point in tweeting unless you are prepared to pimp your kids'.

Although this is all good fun, I think she is wrong - and an example she gives that I haven't mentioned says why. Elon Musk tweets and 'is rather good at it'. She is right: he posts pictures of rockets taking off with 'Woohoo!' as the only comment, and links to bits and pieces he finds intriguing. Ms Kellaway says he can do this because he does exciting things like launch rockets. I disagree - he can do it because he knows what will get people's attention. You don't need rockets to do that.

Bob Lutz used to be vice chairman of General Motors. He's retired now, but used to write on GM's Fastlane blog. A fond obituary for the blog quotes some of his pith: 'I guess it depends whether your have your own personality or whether you are a lemming-like follower of current trends'. 'People will exercise the freedom to buy the vehicle they want, V8 engine and all'. 'Do the best product you can do, and it if it looks better and drives better than the other guy's, you win'.

You don't have to count the characters to see that Mr Lutz was born for Twitter, just born a bit too early. He was boss at a thoroughly mainstream company, so he wasn't Rupert Murdoch, yet like Mr Murdoch he said what he thought. Punchy language, strong views and being prepared to broadcast them to the world would have made him a tweeter as powerful as Mr Musk or Mr Murdoch. There must, surely, be other bosses who can do the same. 

David Bowen

BC tip: SAP - Glass half full

A German software giant promotes itself to jobseekers on a candid employer rating site.

The Site

Glassdoor is a US-based website where employees and former employees can post anonymous reviews of their experiences, trade salary information and share gossip about what to expect at interviews.

Many of the world’s largest companies are rated on the site, but SAP, which has accumulated a total of 3,700 reviews, is unusual in sending its own website visitors there. There is a panel promoting Glassdoor at the bottom of the SAP Careers landing page – ‘Candid. Transparent. Honest employee reviews.’

On the Glassdoor page for SAP, before visitors get to the reviews, there are promotional ‘company updates’, and a pitch to jobseekers; a right column runs alongside the reviews with links to SAP’s social media channels, company videos on YouTube, etc.

The Takeaway

Glassdoor has been around since 2008, and has gained traction with jobseekers, especially in the US, for its unvarnished look at potential employers. However, SAP is one of the first large companies we have seen promoting Glassdoor on its own site and posting content there. (A limited amount of company content can be posted for free; for more, there is a fee.)

The fact that many large companies either do not yet publish on Glassdoor (or at least do not promote it in their website careers sections) probably reflects the risks. SAP may have calculated that many of its US-based recruiting pool will be looking anyway, so they might as well engage and try to influence, if not completely control, the message they see.


Lessons in content strategy, from your fund manager

Instead of asking a fund manager about the Chinese economy, stock market tremors or emerging market risk, maybe you should be asking for advice on your online content strategy.

This article from the FT (may be behind a paywall) shows that some of the top fund management firms have embraced digital communications and social media, and the way they have done it holds lessons for any company establishing (or refining) its online content strategy:

Have a clear reason for doing social media in the first place. Woodford Investment Management, which launched in 2014, went on social media as part of a ‘conscious decision not to pay for advertising’. Other more established fund management firms started to see an opportunity cost in not talking to customers on channels that they were using already. The ‘market insight’-type material that most fund managers have long produced in print and online, are a natural fit to broadcast via Twitter, for example.

Don’t treat every channel in the same way. We think ‘social media’ should not be thought of as one entity, but as individual channels with different audiences. So, apparently, does James Cardew, global head of marketing at Schroders:

‘It is important to engage with clients and customers on the platform they use, rather than attempting to dragoon them all into one channel, Mr Cardew says… “We started out thinking we would use LinkedIn for business, Twitter for journalists and Facebook for graduate recruitment,” he says. In the event, Twitter was the most popular platform for engagement, so that is where Schroders has focused its efforts.’

‘Communications’ can be good marketing. We have been saying that the lines between marketing and communications in organizations are blurring, and that corporate communications can be seen as ‘group-level marketing’ – with customers as one set of stakeholders for company messages and information. Here is Woodford IM’s head of corporate comms: ‘We wanted to use social media to educate and inform, but also to communicate and engage. You can’t get the message across in an ad.’ I take this to mean that fund management clients are not the type to respond well to inauthenticity – they want useful information, about a company they might do business with, about subjects they are have an interest in, etc. Increasingly not unlike the rest of us, I would argue.

Apart from the FT article, a quick trawl of some fund managers’ websites shows that the sector’s reputation for being Luddites may be undeserved. Amundi’s Research Center makes good use of Twitter to promote its thinking. AXA Investment Management has prominent signposts to its social media channels. Many fund managers have YouTube videos of their experts embedded on their websites. And the industry has taken up blogging in a big way to stay in touch with customers – a point raised in the article as well. See for example Fidelity UK and Blackrock.

- Jason Sumner

57,000 corporate channels (and nothin' on)

Some online channels seem tailor made for corporate communications. SlideShare is ideal for sharing investor relations presentations. Twitter can be great for spreading company news. LinkedIn is, of course, a powerful recruitment tool. But other channels don't always prove to be such a natural fit.

For example, we at Bowen Craggs spend a lot of time looking at corporate YouTube channels – and most are either awfully uninspiring, or awfully awful.

We know that we’re not alone in this assessment: you can tell this by looking at the low number of views on most companies’ YouTube pages. Almost no one is watching.

Why is this? And what should companies do about it?

To answer the first question: most companies are simply not geared up to producing the kind of material most likely to gain traction on YouTube – videos that are not only informative, but also entertaining.

Historically, companies’ efforts in this area have been focused on producing television commercials. Indeed, when they put these onto YouTube – if they are good enough - they often get large numbers of views: look at this P&G ad, as well as this one from Google, for examples.

The Google video is particularly interesting, because it was part of a campaign designed to work on both television and YouTube (a channel that Google owns).

Most companies’ YouTube channels are unfocused mishmashes of videos drawn from elsewhere – employee profiles from the Careers section of the website; executive interviews from the investor relations section; case studies from the sustainability section. Pulled out of its original context on the corporate site and assembled on a YouTube channel, such material is doomed to failure: users must work hard to find footage on the channel relevant to their interests – and when they find it, it is often too dull to hold their attention.

So what should companies do about this?

One option is to focus efforts on promoting embedded – and therefore appropriately contextualized – video content on the corporate site (YouTube is undeniably a good format for this) – rather than promoting the corporate YouTube channel itself. If your company’s YouTube channel is not yet an attractive destination in its own right, don’t bother encouraging visitors to visit it. 

Another option is to focus more effort on producing video output that is genuinely attractive – in terms of viewability and shareability. For some companies, this will be time and money well spent – especially if it spent as part of a campaign designed to work over television and other channels, as Google’s was. But for other companies, producing videos that go viral on YouTube is likely to be a lower priority than using video in more modest – but no less effective – ways on the corporate website.

- Scott Payton