The oil and gas industry needs to increase its social media presence to better communicate with the public

You’ll find some of the big names in the oil and gas industry on social media, but the industry still has a ways to go before it makes the most of what Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogging and other online outlets can do for them. Fear (of the unknown, of getting negative feedback) may be alienating some companies; others may not have the tech expertise in house (or haven’t gotten around to hiring anyone yet).

But social media experts agree that almost any industry can reap the benefits of a successful online presence.

For gas, oil and mining, it may be a bit more complicated, especially due to controversies surrounding fracking and other aspects of the industry. But one social media expert says the industry should take a new look at what social media can do, especially in terms of shaping people’s views of a company.

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“I think that the industry as a whole has an old-school way of thinking and is afraid to be on social media,” says Shawn Alain, president of the Canada-based social media firm Viral in Nature. “In general, it’s the younger crowd that understands social media a little better.”

But Alain reminds companies that, “The conversation is going to happen with or without you.”

Social media – whatever the site – provides another platform for companies to get out their message. In short, online content, Alain says, should “educate, entertain and (be) a call to action.”

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But being online is more than just sharing content and getting “likes.” The content should be compelling enough to interest readers. In addition, having a social media presence can also help companies with recruiting, public education, branding, crisis communication and more.

Plenty of companies like Viral in Nature exist to assist with developing and maintaining a social media presence. Basically, Alain says, a company has three options to approach social media. “They can try to (hire) someone who knows their industry but is not on social media; they can hire someone who is knowledgeable of their industry and on social media; or they can hire a social media firm to oversee.”

And Alain recommends that companies go “all in” when it comes to social media, creating coverage on all sites, like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs and Google+. The latter, he says, especially helps with SEO (search engine optimization), which leads Internet surfers more quickly to your sites and posts.

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Benefits of social media

On its website, Viral in Nature has posted several reasons why gas and oil companies need to be on social media. They include:

1. Join the conversation. That’s important, Alain says, even if that conversation is negative. He says it’s better to be engaged and know what’s being said about your company. This may also include clarifying facts and correcting misinformation.

2. Recruiting. Word gets out fast on social media, so any posts on upcoming interesting projects and technologies will reach potential talent for your company. Social media also allows you to promote job openings to a greater audience.

3. Corporate morale. Be proud of what your company does; showcase it on social media. Don’t be shy about your accomplishments.

4. Event participation. Even off site at a conference or other event, companies can be posting or “tweeting” about their involvement. Twitter hashtags can draw in commentary from followers.

5. Education. Use social media as a platform to educate (and dispel myths) about the industry. For a gas or oil company, this may mean educating followers on environmental cleanup and other initiatives.

6. Crisis communication. Some companies learn crisis communication the hard way – after a crisis happens. Alain recommends companies get ahead of the curve and be online before a pipeline bursts or a scandal erupts. If something negative happens, you want to be able to tell the story, not just let the news media tell it for you.

7. Branding. How do people perceive your business? How would you like them to? Social media allows you to shape your vision and values – and that’s more than just the services or products you provide. According to Alain, “Social media allows you to offer the tone of voice you want people to hear, such as positive, upbeat, charitable or environmental champion.”

8. Value. According to Alain, unlike other advertising mediums such as TV, radio and newspapers, after you gain a follower online it’s likely you will retain that follower years from now. That allows you to get your message out at no additional cost. And paid social media advertising gives you the opportunity to target your audience more precisely.

9. Public relations. PR ties in to education and crisis management, of course. Having a solid online presence can be an excellent PR tool in all the ways described above.

Consider these nine reasons all part of ensuring a healthy return on investment for your company. Social media can help your company communicate, but it’s important to have the right strategy and maintain that online. 

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