Scottish PLCs fail to embrace Social Media (trailing the FTSE 100)

Scotland Best Small CountryA recent article on this blog suggested a real lack of progress being made by the UK’s FTSE 100 companies in their use of Social Media. On completing a similar study of Scotland’s PLCs, we find that the news is no better north of the border and in many ways, worse. We reviewed the websites and Social Media channels of Scotland’s PLCs (63 organisations). The following high level findings emerged (see also Figure 1 below):

  • Only 22% of Scottish PLCs show any sign of social media on their corporate websites (this compares poorly with the 40% of FTSE 100 companies)
  • 35% have a Twitter account (lagging the FTSE 100 figure of 54%). Even for those with a Twitter account, only half are Active*. This means that only 1 in 5 of Scotland’s PLCs are using twitter in any way effectively (frequently tweeting and replying).
  • Only 19% of PLCs have a Facebook page. Approximately 60% of these have little or no activity on the page, and perhaps more tellingly, many have less than 100 ‘likes’.
  • Better results are recorded for Linkedin with the majority of Scottish PLCs having a company profile page. However, significant scope exists for improving the page content and levels of Linkedin engagement.

As we move into 2012, there is general agreement that companies need to move to a deeper level of social media engagement. The early results of our on-going research suggest that Scottish PLCs have a long way to go before they are leveraging the full potential of social media for building sustained customer and competitive advantage. Evidence from other countries suggests that we are falling behind in the social media stakes.

Do these results reflect the wider business uptake of Social Media in Scotland? Are there reasons why Scottish companies (that also happen to be publically listed) are failing in their use of social media? Why are Scottish PLCs trailing other UK FTSE 100 companies?

Your comments and thoughts are as always welcome.

Alan, Jim and Vincent

Figure 1, provides a high level comparison between Scotland’s PLCs and FTSE 100 companies.

Figure 1 – Comparative Use of Social Media – Scottish PLCs and the FTSE 100

FTSE100 and Scottish PLC SM Use Compared 500Source: Energise 2-0 based on Sunday Telegraph 20/03/11

* We have defined “Active” companies as those that have tweeted more than 12 times

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  1. Jason Warnock
    January 13, 2012 at 10:50 am - Reply

    Hi Jim,

    I find this article very interesting as the definition of Social Media is something I find bemusing, I see yourself like many of Scotland’s major ad agencies define social media into FB, Twitter & Linkedin.
    Many of you forget that long established news groups like The Herald, The Scotsman and so on are alsoe evolving and a very much a strong alternative to international social media, in fact many posts about real social issues in Scotland on sites such as Facebook are usually picked up from news sites such as The Heraldscotland.com.

    I feel the reason there is a lack of comittment from many companies is simply the time and effort needed to promote social media engagement on sites such as Twitter and FB is labourious and ultimately expensive, this along with the fact that tangible results are difficult to assess is a real issue for any company on social media sites such as Facebook, to click and like something is fine to click and buy something is what every company strives for.

    Having a social media presence and having a social media strategy that sets objectives and targets for sales revenue are two completely different things and any company has to decide and commit to a full online strategy that includes not just social media but all elements of online marketing to get real tangible results.

    To finish, if any Scottish companies large or small want to engage with a large Scottish audience across a network of social online sites that have brand credibilty in Scotland, have Scotland and it’s social issues at the core of everything they do, then there are real alternatives for them besides FB, Twitter & Linkedin with a news group such as the Heraldscotland.com who recieves thousands of comments every day about social issues that are raised by our 2 million plus Scottish users.

    Again grat post and very interesting reading.


    • Alan Stevenson
      January 14, 2012 at 5:06 pm - Reply

      Thanks for taking the time to make some very detailed comments. I fully agree with your points around the importance of having clear objectives and strategy – as you say its not just about having a social media presence. In fact, social media planning pays is not only the strapline of this blog but underpins everything we do.

      This article is of course on one level a crude yardstick – it is simply asking, are our most prominent and profitable businesses fully embracing the potential of social media. A count of the more mainstream channels and levels of engagement provides one perspective on this.

      We would love to open up this debate, bring in other views and perhaps more evidence to support or otherwise. We raised some interesting so what questions towards the end of the post. As you suggest, why not debate these issues on important Scottish communities like the Herald and Scotsman?

      Thanks again

  2. Ian Meredith
    January 14, 2012 at 3:21 pm - Reply

    Is it not a big assumption to think that social media is suitable for all companies, regardless of the status?
    Just because company A has a twitter account it doesn’t mean they are using it.
    I think there needs to be a distinction between the value of the content and engagement, versus mearly having a Twitter account….does anyone need to follow *Weir Group?
    And where is the analysis regarding Google+?

    I like your site, but I think its a little biased, given it’s focused on SM an not general communications….

    *I have no affiliation with this company, just wanted to make a point!

    • Alan Stevenson
      January 14, 2012 at 5:31 pm - Reply

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I admit I am biased towards Social Media 🙂 I firmly believe that the effective use of social media technologies can derive real business benefit for any organisation – in fact I have yet to hear of a company or organisation where it would not make a difference. I would also never say stop doing what you are doing and move everything across to social media.

      As you can see from previous comments this article is not about suggesting which channels are right for a business but more about answering the question of whether our most successful businesses are taking social media seriously (enough). I think based on the evidence we gathered (albeit not an exhaustive research study) the answer is a resounding no.

      I think there is an important debate here. Are we wrong in our assertion that companies are not grasping this opportunity? If we are right, what are the underlying issues?

      Thanks again Ian and I look forward to more of your valued contributions in future.

      All the best

  3. Jason Warnock
    January 16, 2012 at 11:05 am - Reply

    Hi Alan,

    Thanks for your response to the points i raised and for opening further debate.

    On your key point with regards to major companies not being proactive enough in Scotland on social media, I think this falls down to the Irn Bru effect, where one of the largest companies in the world can not break their strangle hold on the Scottish market, even thought their social media presence in the rest of the world is staggering, Scotland is hard to target for many reasons and below is a small explanation as to why many companies find it hard to target Scotland on Social media and online in general.

    Many FTSE 100 companies that have a Scottish presence still tend to run most of their media from London, most ad agencies and PR agencies prefer to buy from Networks via IP targeting,( which incidentally is around 20% accurate in the UK)

    What this creates in a market place such as Scotland is great difficulty in targeting internet users with relevant ads as they are being shown to live in England due to IP providers sources, this is slightly enhanced on some social media sites, but ultimately they mostly sell traffic and adspace via IP targeting.

    With this in mind the marketing then lacks response in areas such as Scotland, I will regularly get ads for South West Trains on FB even though I live in Scotland, I work in Scotland and have no interest in South West Trains and there services, this ultimately weakens the value of Scoial media in Scotland and for FB as they are running ads for advertisers based on the inacuracies of IP targeting.

    The advertiser will then naturally concentrate on markets where they get stronger response and where IP targeting is far more accurate ie London & Counties.

    This means the Scottish side of their Social Media presence will wither away to a barely visited page that eventually slips into the darkness of FB or Twitter’s equivalent of Social Media hell, so although Social Media has a place in the marketing approach for any size company, it has to be held responsible for chasing the buck rather than ensuring all ads are correctly placed, targeting the correct market for the multi national.

    If this was done I am certain more major brands would target Scotland and there populace equally as well as The Heraldscotland.com & Eveningtimes.co.uk & s1 sites, that have a collective Scottish audience of over 2 million users every month, and who are far more likely to respond to a targeted campaign from a multi national on our sites as the ads will be relevant, we have run many succesful campaigns for National Government & Scottish Government, RBS, Virgin & BT, all major companies that have seen CTR rates siginifcantly higher than the market average.

    So to finish yes Social Media sites have a place in online marketing but alas they are not the be all and end all of online marketing in Scotland for FTSE 100 companies.



  4. Scottish PLCs fail to embrace Social Media: Part 2 | Energise 2-0
    April 19, 2012 at 2:19 pm - Reply

    […] in January, Alan published an article entitled ‘Scottish PLCs fail to embrace Social Media’.  Based on some initial research we conducted at the end of last year, Scotland’s PLCs were […]

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