When Mark Zuckerberg sat down at his computer in college all those years ago and created an interesting bit of software, he probably had no idea it would ultimately become the biggest social media platform ever. That program of course was the embryonic version of what would ultimately develop into the behemoth that is Facebook. Would social media have become the enormous 'thing' it is today without Facebook showing us what could be done in this space? Maybe. Maybe not.
Facebook though isn't the only social media platform out there making inroads into our daily lives. There are dozens and dozens of them out there, although only a relatively small handful may be known to many of us. The top 15 social media sites statistically are:
- Facebook (2,230,000,000 million monthly users)
- YouTube (1,900,000,000 million monthly users)
- Instagram (1,000,000,000 million monthly users)
- Qzone (563,000,000 million monthly users)
- Weibo (376,000,000 million monthly users)
- Twitter (336,000,000 million monthly users)
- Reddit (330,000,000 million monthly users)
- Pinterest (200,000,000 million monthly users)
- Ask.fm (160,000,000 million monthly users)
- Tumblr (115,000,000 million monthly users)
- Flickr (112,000,000 million monthly users)
- Google+ (111,000,000 million monthly users)
- LinkedIn (106,000,000 million monthly users)
- VK (97,000,000 million monthly users)
- Odnoklassniki (71,000,000 million monthly users)
- Meetup (35,300,000 million monthly users)
If you're in any doubt about the growing importance of social media, some of these statistics should convince you otherwise.
Social media also now dominates marketing activities and has changed how consumers interact with companies. Where once we were used to looking at static advertising that told us what was what, and we had to take the claims and the product at face value, that's no longer the case. Consumers can, and will, do their due diligence. They will research those claims and those products, and see through inconsistencies and false advertising. That's the power of the Internet for you.
Social media allows consumers to interact with companies on a scale never before seen. It lets them directly query companies about their products, question claims being made, hold companies more accountable for both their products and their marketing. And any company that ignores their customers, disregards social media feedback, and thinks customers will blindly accept their advertising, is heading for some unpleasant surprises.
But marketing on social media is a whole lot more than simply putting ads up and maybe answering a few questions about the product or service. The 'social' in social media pretty much sums up what it's about. Social media is first and foremost about social intercourse. It's about people talking to each other, interacting socially, making new online friends and acquaintances. The advertising comes second and, to put it bluntly, social media platforms only allow it because it generates revenue. If it didn't, you wouldn't be allowed to do it.
That said, just posting ads alone on social media is not enough. Social media not just an electronic billboard. Again, it gets back to the 'social' bit. Social media users want, and expect, companies to interact with their customers if they want those customers to buy their products and services. They want to see companies providing value, contributing to the online community, educating, informing, enlightening, supporting, and engaging with their audience. Those companies that get this right will earn customer loyalty, and get the sales. Those that don't, won't.
What does this have to do with mining?
Social media is a powerful tool for reaching out to, and engaging with industry influencers like industry analysts, potential investors, the media, community groups and the general public. It can attract investment, allay concerns, enlighten and inform. It provides an ideal way for the mining industry in general to improve the image of mining through open two-way communications with the public. We've talked about a social licence to operate in several other articles and utilising social media correctly can be considered part and parcel of that. Yes, it may open the industry, and a company, up to criticism from detractors and opponents. By the same token though the industry can 'fight back'. Responding directly to criticisms and comments in real time allows companies to openly engage with audiences and facilitate productive discussions. Quite often these types of discussions completely defuse uninformed opinion by revealing the facts, and both sides of an argument. Open-minded sceptics can then make up their own minds based on the facts in front of them instead of blindly believing antagonistic propaganda because that's the only information they have to go on.
It's also a fact that when a company is trying to gain community approval and social licence, not all stakeholders will come to the table, attend all community meetings, or read all the documentation and notification material. However, many of them are on social media, especially if the project is in a developed country. Use the opportunity this presents to establish and foster good will amongst the broader stakeholder community.
Then there is the ripple effect generated by good social media habits. People today are better informed about what's going on in the world than ever before and this has had a powerful effect on public opinion. Public opinion can influence policy makers aka governments. Therefore, an industry that does its best to positively utilise the power social media gives it to engage with, and keep the public reliably informed, is more likely to positively influence public opinion than an industry that doesn't. And that is a powerful tool when it comes to policy decisions.
On a smaller albeit global scale, mining companies can use social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube et al to keep their followers informed and entertained. They can use it to showcase their sustainable and environmental initiatives. They can use it to educate and update. They can use it to attract skilled personnel.
Make no mistake. Social media is an incredibly powerful tool and mining companies that are not utilising it are doing themselves a serious disservice.
Speaking of social media, we're excited about the launch of our exciting Podcast on Thursday November 8th. "Dig Deep – The Mining Podcast" will provide an insight into the global mining industry. We'll be speaking with mining professionals and industry leaders, keeping abreast of current mining industry news and events as they happen, and taking a look at some of the movers and shakers in the industry. We hope you'll join us for our launch, and follow us as we explore what's happening in the mining world worldwide.