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Is there room for Social Media in Oil and Gas?

Posted by Stacy Richter on January 29 at 1:30 AM

The short answer is YES.  The larger questions are WHY? HOW? And for WHOM?  I had the pleasure of speaking about ‘Understanding Social Media’ at the Social Media Forum hosted by CAPP (@OilGasCanada) this past Tuesday.   The forum presented discussion topics such as CAPP’s Social Media Plan,  Pumptalk Blog Experience, and Mind the Gap.


The forum hosted a range of people from web and electronic communications, public and investor relations, marketing communications, legal services and media from companies such as Shell Canada, Enerplus, Nexen, CAPP and of course DMD Green (@DMDGreen) to name a few.   What was different about this forum was that it generated thoughtful discussion.  So many forums will have a few ‘experts’ present a topic which may generate a few surface level questions and then on to the next so-called subject matter expert.

This forum was more about discussion between the attendees than it was the SME’s.  Refreshing!  This leads me to believe that many in the oil and gas industry are giving careful consideration to new ways of communicating.  I have more hope now than I ever did. 

The most interesting topic that came up again and again during the discussion was how can producers use this channel effectively?  Although many of the participants had several great suggestions about how they will propose social media strategies to their executives, it comes down to this:

Social media in oil and gas is more about CULTURAL CHANGE than it is about technological change.

An organization has to be ready to engage and have a discussion with people.  Just because organizations have the ability to converse with Joe Public (via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIN, etc.) doesn’t mean they will, or want to, or feel they need to.

The jury is still out on how ‘ready’ the oil and gas industry is to communicate openly through social media.  I expect that there will be a few innovators who will take advantage early bearing all the fruits and manage the risk.  We will see an emergence of a few early adopters soon followed by the main stream who realize they are missing out on opportunities.  Finally, the laggards will be brought along out of necessity and the resistors kicking and screaming all the while missing the point.

Social Media is another tool to add to your organization’s communication tool box.  It’s up to you to take advantage.  So jump up and join the discussion.



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7 Comments so far...

Excellent post Stacy. I agree it will take a cultural shift in order to move the energy industry into this new method of communication. The only comment I would have for these companies so hesitant to embrace the idea is that all the key groups opposed to their business practices are already using these tools (GreenPeace, Pembina, etc) not having a voice in the conversation appears to show guilt simply by lack of response. You don't have to engage in heated debate via Twitter to be leveraging Social Media, rather the simple process of allowing some realistic discourse with the concerned public will create some much needed transparency. That alone would go along way towards their public perception.

Posted by JW on February 1 at 1:02 PM

Thanks for the comments JW. The old silence is compliance kicks in there. The ENGO's own the social media arena right now. Mostly because there is a lack of opposition. Not to mention they have very little to lose.

Stand up and be heard or take what you've been given.

Posted by Stacy Richter on February 1 at 3:39 PM

Gas and oil are no different from any industry in that they have customers and should have ways to connect with them beyond a monolithic web page and press releases.

Using social media successfully requires understanding the context of the conversation and engaging in a normal and interesting interaction. It does not have to be the edgiest conversation out there. Some companies use Twitter to provide valuable information on simple things such as press releases.

Think about how people that follow you are using Twitter. What is their purpose? Support that goal and win.

Posted by Chris Finlay on February 2 at 1:48 PM

Great post Stacy. I agree with your statement about “Cultural Change” in companies. I find companies are dealing with several trends right now, not only the aging workforce walking out the door with decades of knowledge, but also experienced hires coming into their businesses who need to understand a new corporate culture. Companies have an opportunity to supplement their existing collaboration capabilities with newer tools such as pod casts and social networking to accelerate the sharing of knowledge, increase teaming and to better communicate between their workforces in different regions. I believe companies will start to be more open to this method as a younger generation moves in.

Posted by Ryan B. on February 2 at 1:59 PM

Some great posts here!

Yes, there is definitely a place for oil and gas in Social Media.

JW, I think hesitancy isn't the issue at all anymore. But jumping in would be both a logistical nightmare and foolish. The vast majority of the 40 or so key people who attended CAPP's forum are past Social Media 101. As Stacy mentions in his post, many in industry who understand Social Media are now carefully creating strategies and becoming increasingly aware. Some are actively involved right now, and more are joining in. The cultural change is underway!

Some parts of the cultural change aren't going to be that difficult. There are a half million or so industry employees across Canada. I’m sure many participate on their own in some form of Social Media. It's those voices that will make a difference because they understand the culture of Social Media. They know the subject-matter better than anyone, and their voices will help bring transparency, facts and clarity.

Other parts of the cultural change will take a little longer. I think the biggest challenges for corporations will be learning when to use Social Media, acknowledging that there are many voices not one, and - maybe the biggest challenge - defining legalities for things like personal responsibility and individual privacy.

I think we can agree that the culture of Social Media communication has moved from the fringe into the center in a very short time. Lack of industry participation thus far has nothing to do with guilt and everything to do with learning and understanding the culture.

Here’s a question: In the early fringe days of SM, do you think maybe it was more of a one-sided conversation that was mainly rant-driven? I tend to think so, and I would argue that industry wasn’t really welcome to join in. I think SM is maturing with balance, and the balance is giving credibility to the medium. (And I guess that ultimately answers Yes to the title of this discussion!)

Posted by Tony from CAPP on February 2 at 5:05 PM

I completely agree with this. In my online conversations I see there is a lot of misunderstanding on how the Venezuelan oil industry works, and that is perhaps because in Venezuela social media such as LinkedIn is not widely used (Facebook is, but that is another niche). I expect great changes to happen in 2011 rather than 2010, as there is still a threshold to be met.

Posted by Ruben Rivero on February 2 at 6:48 PM

Thanks for all of the great comments and discussion. Chris made a great point and @dblacombe suggested the same during the forum 'Find out where your stakeholders are conversing and go there'. The point is well taken. If they're on Twitter, you should go there. If they're on LinkedIN, same and so on.

To address Tony's question, I agree that the onset of social media was driven largely by individuals who wanted to rant or voice their opinion. If it's on the Internet, people will at least feel like they've been heard. Big companies were not welcome in that sphere nor have they been interested.

Up until about 6 months ago, I had a hard time buying into Twitter. Why did I care if someone wanted to announce they were at a boring movie? Then I found the conversations and information I am actually interested in. Something that provides me with value and that was the turning point. I believe that it is the same for corporations... Big Oil included.

Awesome discussion... Thanks!

Posted by Stacy Richter on February 3 at 1:36 PM
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