Online stakeholder engagement – making the most of social media

How big is your company’s digital footprint – your online presence? As your digital footprint grows, your potential for online engagement grows with it. Ask yourself:

  • What are the interactive features of our website? How are we engaging? How transparent are we?
  • Do we have a LinkedIn group? How many of our staff are engaged there? Are we using Linked in to advertise jobs or link with other relevant industry groups?
  • Do we have a company presence on Facebook and Twitter? Are we monitoring what people are saying about us and how are we responding? How many followers do we have? Is our CEO leading the way?
  • Do we have a blog? What is our focus?

Growing your digital footprint, is a cost-effective way to enhance your brand. According to David Edelman, (in December 2010’s Harvard Business Review) up to 90% of a company’s marketing spend goes to advertising and retail promotions – “yet the single most powerful impetus to buy is often someone else’s advocacy”. If building customer loyalty grows sales – we can expect that building stakeholder loyalty, or at least engagement, will build your social capital.

Rather than build the case for enhancing you web presence, I now want to focus on two avenues to achieve greater online engagement.


Nearly 20 million people “like” Starbucks providing the company with a platform to build their brand. Loyal fans promote their products without being prompted – the “mountain coming to the Muhammad”. Before I read their page, I wasn’t aware of the existence of an Earl Grey latte non-fat – but now I know where to go if I need one! The page I viewed included a suggestion from a customer for a Valentine’s drink.

Starbucks also uses their site to provide information about the company and its products, has an app for those wanting to find jobs at Starbucks and connects its fans to worthwhile social causes. For more on Starbucks, check out The Starbucks Formula for Social Media Success.

On a smaller scale, Tourism New Zealand’s Facebook page 100% Pure New Zealand, has over 300,000 followers. It’s a great platform for breathtaking photography and video featuring New Zealand. The front page appears to populated by staff, and engages through comments and “likes”. A “discussions” page enables engagement.


If Facebook is not for you, consider a company blog. While blogs typically don’t reach the numbers as social media such as Facebook, a big upside is that you can screen out negative comments if you choose.

Blogger Mark Schaefer finds most company blogs bland, but has identified his top ten company blogs. He has excluded blogs for tech companies such as IBM and Oracle, because they are “so far ahead of the rest of the corporate world”.

Links to Mark Schaefer’s top ten blogs and their apparent goals

Caterpillar (problem-solving, community-building, loyalty)

Starbucks (new product development, engagement)

Marriott (customer satisfaction, sales, crises management)

Wegmans (direct sales, loyalty)

Manpower (thought leadership)

General electric (brand awareness)

Fiskars (customer engagement, brand awareness)

Southwest airlines (enhance corporate image and integrate with traditional media)

Patagonia (complement brand image, engage community)

Whole Foods Market (complement brand image, direct sales)

Note how these companies are using their blogs in pursuit of a diverse range of goals, but engagement, and aspects of community building are common to most.

If you are thinking that companies like Caterpiller and IBM (who are doing very nicely as figures emerge from the latest earnings season) have huge resources to support their blogging, consider this blog. I write Stakeholder Engagement blogs on a shoestring budget. From approximately 150 million blogs, mine appears second on a current Google search for blogs – and I haven’t got around to any search engine optimisation yet, apart from a few tags.

Mark Schaefer writes more about the benefits of blogging here.

Of course there is a down-side too. Those wanting to damage your reputation can have influence far beyond their numbers and resources by utilising social media. But why surrender without even joining the game? HBR’s Leslie Gaines-Ross recommends stockpiling your online credentials to draw on should they be needed.

So now’s a good time to engage online. There has been a fundamental shift from the shareholder to the stakeholder, and from announcement to engagement. The engagement ethos needs to permeate everything we do. We have two options – engagement or extinction.


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