If you think of all your corporate communications skills as ingredients for a recipe, then social media expertise is the seasoning. It elevates the meal, taking it to new and improved heights. 

After a few tumultuous years, the corporate communications field has evolved dramatically. Today, it’s a critical focus for executive leadership teams as they reconsider how they want to tell their growth story to employees, media, investors and more. 

These diverse needs are driving entirely new insights-driven roles, many of which rely on social to amplify brand messages and understand target audiences. Honing your social media skills can help you evolve alongside the profession, so you can create an even bigger business impact and remain competitive for future job opportunities. 

That doesn’t mean you need to take a “social media for beginners” course. The social applications for corporate communications are unique, so you’re better off tailoring your development plan to your business or team need. To help you create a more personalized learning path, we created this list of essential corporate communications skills that can be revolutionized by social. 

1. Social listening

Every day, millions of people log into their social media accounts to discuss everything and anything, from politics to culture and beyond. These conversations are more than online chit-chat. They’re rich sources of business intelligence. 

With social listening, you can distill those unfiltered conversations into actionable insights that can inform your communications goals. In Sprout, Listening Topics can be designed using pre-built templates or through custom queries. Once your Topic is set up, it will continue to collect social data as long as it’s active. 

A screenshot of Sprout's Listening feature, which includes five listening templates: brand health, industry insights, competitive analysis, campaign analysis and event monitoring.

While there are a ton of creative ways to use social listening, there are two use cases that can help you refine your strategy: audience insights and brand sentiment. 

Social listening for audience insights

For a message to resonate with its intended audience, it has to be well-researched and tailored. When you’re speaking to several audiences (customers, media outlets, shareholders, etc.), that refinement process can be labor intensive. 

Whether you’re trying to create a more targeted media pitch or you need to understand how audiences are reacting to a brand crisis, social listening is your secret weapon for insights on the fly. 

The team at Indiana University, for example, relied on Sprout’s Social Listening tool to provide the university’s leadership with actionable advice during a campus crisis. When a Twitter user surfaced insensitive Tweets from a tenured IU professor, their social team quickly set up a Listening Topic to understand the volume and reach of the conversations surrounding the issue. 

This empowered the IU leadership team to develop an audience-informed response to the crisis within 24 hours of when the issue first emerged. This fast-paced response strategy mitigated any further escalation, halting what could have been a larger issue in its tracks. 

Social listening for brand sentiment

Brands are, in a sense, celebrities. They garner attention, attract fans and (for better or worse) often have their actions dissected in the public sphere. 

Depending on your brand’s public perception, this type of attention can either be a goldmine or a minefield. That’s why being able to understand and unpack brand sentiment in real time is an essential corporate communications skill. 

Say you’re launching a new corporate social responsibility campaign. If you’re using a social listening tool, like Sprout, you can create a Brand Health Listening Topic to better understand how sentiment has trended around your brand over time. These insights can inform opportunities or risks in your campaign before you launch it broadly. 

A screenshot of Sprout's sentiment analysis feature, which provides an overview of how sentiment has trended over time.

Once the campaign is launched, you can monitor conversations around the campaign and your brand to see what’s resonating with your audience and what’s falling short. Referring to this information as you continue to improve your strategy can lead to better results in a shorter amount of time. 

2. Executive communications 

Your executive communications strategy can work wonders when it comes to reinforcing your brand story. But if it only accounts for speaking engagements and internal communications, you’re leaving a lot of opportunity on the table. 

To promote your company’s vision at scale, you need to get your executive leadership team on social. Coaching leaders as they develop their social presence can help your business in quite a few ways. First off, it can increase transparency between your company and valued stakeholders. In fact, 63% of people say CEOs who have their own social profiles are better representatives for their companies than those who do not. 

Ensuring that your leadership team understands the risk involved in posting unchecked content can also reduce the chance of an unfortunate social media faux pas. Remember: if a leader goes rogue on social, that creates more work for your team to clean up. 

How these accounts are managed can vary based on how comfortable your leadership team is with posting on social. If you’re working with a social-savvy CEO, they may be able to manage their profiles themselves with some strategic guidance. If they’re calling Twitter “tweeter,” you’ll need to be heavily involved in the process.  

Enhancing your existing corporate communications skills with an understanding of social media management can make this process much easier. This can be done through independent research or ongoing collaboration with your social media team. Also, don’t be afraid to look to other business leaders for inspiration. Some notable CEOs on social include:

3. Investor relations

Social media can move markets. Just ask GameStop

Early in 2021, a thread on the popular subreddit r/WallStreetBets caused the GameStop (GME) stock to skyrocket by over 7,200%. The conversation spread from Reddit to Twitter, YouTube and beyond. If you map the volume of social conversations alongside this sudden price fluctuation, the correlation is near perfect. 

A graph comparing the GME closing price to the volume of GME related Twitter messages from December 1, 2020 to January 27, 2021.

Social gives consumers the power to mobilize en masse—which can radically impact market behavior. Missing out on these conversations can create a risky blind spot for public companies. Social listening can help you stay on top of investor perception and potential crises, but to truly cover all your bases, you need to be ready to join the conversation. 

Creating an investor relations-specific social presence can help your brand engage more proactively with business audiences like investors, analysts, and market and finance reporters. These accounts can be used to post earnings information, company announcements, investor-related events and media interviews with your executive team. 

4. Employer brand

Employer brand management has always been an essential corporate communications skill, but now it’s having its moment in the spotlight. As the Great Resignation evolves into a new workforce normal, employee recruitment and retention will be a priority across industries. 

The lines between social media and employer brand are rapidly blurring. Social professional networks are the second most popular channel for job hunting. As more professionals turn to platforms like LinkedIn and Glassdoor to assess new job opportunities, maintaining an employee-centric social media presence will only become more important. 

Of all the skills we’ve listed, this is by far the most content-focused. You can’t highlight company culture on social without culture-specific content. If this feels out of your wheelhouse, don’t be afraid to ask your social team for help. They’ll have invaluable expertise on what can elevate your company’s social presence from a recruitment perspective.  

Another major factor that plays into online employer brand is reviews. Each month, 32 million people use Glassdoor to assess the perceptions of potential employers’ leadership, internal culture, benefits and more. 

To improve your Glassdoor presence, monitor reviews regularly and respond quickly to both the negative and the positive. If you’re using Sprout, you can monitor and respond to reviews as they come in using our review management tool. 

A screenshot of Sprout's review feature, which centralizes reviews from Glassdoor, Google My Business, Facebook, etc. into a single stream for easy management..

5. Media relations 

The traditional approach to public relations—sending out a press release and hoping for media pick up—is not returning the same opportunities it once did. These days, to get press attention, you have to be creative. 

In this crowded media landscape, let social data be your secret weapon. Looking at this essential corporate communications skill through a social-first lens can help you identify priority outlets and create better, more targeted pitches. Best of all, if you’ve already mastered the art of social listening, you’ll see that media relations is another creative use case. 

Let’s pretend you’re running point on media relations for a coffee company that’s about to announce a new line of at-home coffee accessories. To identify potential outlets that align with your placement goals, you can create a Listening Topic around coffee and coffee lovers. From here, you’ll be able to find top influencers in the conversation in the Profile Overview section of the Demographics panel. 

A screenshot of the Profile Overview tab of a Listening Topic created within Sprout Social.

If certain media outlets are ranked in the list, congratulations! You’ve found some potential targets. If not, you can look at the profiles of top influencers to see who and where they’re sharing news from. 

To create a more targeted pitch, update your Listening Topic to include keywords and accounts specific to the outlet. That may include their brand name, branded hashtags, competitor names—whatever will give you a more comprehensive view of what they’re talking about and why.  

Use this information to create tailored pitches that are relevant and data-supported. As your social listening skills improve, you’ll be able to identify new opportunities that can expand the impact of your media relations strategy.

Develop your social media skills for a stronger corporate communications strategy

Enhancing your corporate communications skills with social media know-how can help take your business impact to the next level. Plus, there are tons of free resources you can use to build out your new and improved communications strategies, whatever they may be. 

Remember to take some time to get clear on the business opportunities you want to tackle. There is a lot of opportunity in social media, but that doesn’t mean you have to do everything all at once. 

Take it slow and seek inspiration from brands you admire. If you’re not sure where to get started, check out these examples from real companies driving impact with social data.