The mining industry has certainly got the message that people are what keeps it going – not just profits, and it now uses the full array of social media platforms to help tell its story, with Twitter, surprisingly, taking the lead.
Aprio Digital compiled a 90-day analysis of eight of South Africa’s leading mining companies, assessing over 1 300 posts during this time to see what the trends were in terms of the tone and topic of social media posts, as well as how they resonated with audiences.
People are the heroes
There is a clear indication from our analysis that speaking about people gives mining companies more confidence to speak about themselves. Almost one in two posts on social media (45% of posts) focused on people-related matters and the relevance of the industry in people’s lives. Topics included community development, showcasing employees, and safety milestones. The next highest category, and not far behind, was corporate news, with 40% share of voice. These posts included recent financial performance as well as other achievements such as safety records and accident-free milestones.
Coincidentally, EY’s report into the Top 10 Business Risks Facing Mining in 2021 highlighted ‘licence to operate’ as the number one risk for mining companies this year. This supports the evidence that mining companies are posting about issues that demonstrate a focus on people and communities, while punting their own performance and corporate achievements alongside these messages.
Trailing way behind “people’ and ‘corporate’ posts were stories that covered the environment (7% of all posts), mining ‘products’ (5% of all posts) and technology and innovation (just 3% of all posts). The report identified decarbonisation and the green agenda as the fourth highest risk area facing mining in 2021, while innovation and issues around digital and data were both in the top 10. It’s concerning that there is a significant gap between the people/corporate news and environmental/innovation news being released on social media by mining companies.
Twitter and LinkedIn are ‘killing it’ as the industry’s favourite channels
We found that Twitter and LinkedIn are coming out tops in the social media wars, holding 37% and 32% of total posts, respectively. Facebook held 23% of all posting activity while Instagram – a relatively ‘glossy’ newcomer with only 101 posts in total during the period, carries just 8% of total activity. However, the quality of posts on Instagram is exceptionally high, indicating that mining companies are getting ready to take the next step in terms of their public image by using high quality content on consumer platforms like Instagram.
One in nine of the big mining players across the country (88% of the mining companies surveyed) has an active Twitter profile.
We found that the trend across the sector was to repeat content on all platforms (particularly LinkedIn and Facebook) rather than tailoring content for the specific audience group for each platform.
Investor-focused content really ‘sells’ on Twitter
The type of content that was shared the most on Twitter was company news (45% of content posted), compared to 37% of posts which were focused on people. A few of the larger listed mining companies have started using Twitter to drive conversation around corporate news and have specifically started live-Tweeting their financial results. This not only provides analysts and investors with a running commentary t they can follow throughout the day instead of following an hour-long results presentation, it also allows them to provide very short posts that are easy to share with their followers – this helps give an impression of hype and added visibility for the company’s results.
This approach works favourably when the financial results are positive, but it will be important to tailor social media messages appropriately when times are tough.
How are audiences reacting?
The results from our analysis show that companies are well matched in terms of what their audiences want to see. The top engagements (including likes and comments) across all channels were ‘people’ posts (51% of engagements) and ‘company news’ posts (31% of engagements), although there may be an element of confirmation bias. In other words, because these are the types of stories that companies are more likely to share, theyare typically the only posts that people are seeing. It would be interesting to see what impact a shift in messaging would have on engagement – and we hope to be able to report more findings on this topic soon.
Interestingly, the highest grossing post was on technology and environmental innovation (hydrogen innovation) which garnered 4 800 likes within just a few weeks, significantly more than the next highest post (3 200 likes) which was a corporate news post, and more than double the highest people-focused post (2 100 likes).
Aprio Digital will continue to monitor social media trends closely. If you would like to go through the findings of our research in more detail or if you would like to work with us on a similar project, please contact Thomas McLachlan on firstname.lastname@example.org or the team at Aprio Digital on email@example.com for a consultation or workshop.