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Mining companies fail to use YouTube

December 22, 2010

YouTube has over 2 billion views per day. It is the world’s second largest search engine. It hosts more video material than has ever been broadcasted on television. Consumer goods companies use YouTube to scan for trends, market their goods and interact with potential customers. Still, mining companies fail to use YouTube.

Why should mining companies use YouTube?

Establishing a presence on YouTube can be a very effective tool in managing public opinion about the company. The YouTube user is not the investor or the business partner, but the average person using the mined goods. Mining companies are traditionally trying to hide from public attention. Most attention is negative attention, focused on environmental destructiveness and corporate greed. However, communicating with the world out there would help to make more people realize the relevance and the challenges of mining and at the same time serve as a way to gather feedback about the perception and public issues around the company. The public opinion has been a powerful weapon in the mining industry this year in both the decisions about mining tax changes in Australia and BHP Billiton’s attempt to acquire PotashCorp. YouTube can be a powerful  tool to influence public opinion.

How are mining companies currently doing?

The lack of use of YouTube by the world’s largest mining companies is shocking. Out of a list of ten of the world’s largest mining companies only 3 have established a YouTube channel (Anglo American, Rio Tinto, Vale); 5 appear to have claimed their channel’s name (Teck, Vedanta, Alcoa, Newmont, Freeport McMoRan), but are not yet using it, potentially because he name has been ‘hijacked’ by a proactive YouTube user. This is clearly the case for the remaining 2 companies (BHP Billiton and Xstrata). Their channels are broadcasting video material totally unrelated to the mining industry. Almost all of these firms have video material available on their websites that could easily be used to communicate on YouTube. The companies certainly do have a presence on YouTube: many videos about the companies have been posted by journalists and activists.

The performance of the 3 companies active on YouTube diverges widely. Anglo American started the channel in November 2010 and has posted 1 video about HIV Aids. Rio Tinto made a promising start in the summer of 2009 by uploading 10 videos about various topics, but the last visit date of the account owner is 7 months ago. Still, the videos have been viewed almost 400 thousand times in the past year. Vale has opened a comprehensive YouTube channel. The page and most of the videos are in Portuguese, but this makes sense when considering the geographic location of most of Vale’s operations. A point for improvement is the use of the channel to interact. The company has disabled the option to comment on the videos, making the channel a pure broadcasting station.

The importance of interaction

Simply broadcasting videos on YouTube is not the optimal way of using the site. People will react, and the reactions shape the public opinion. Responding quickly to the reactions gives an opportunity to show empathy, present the facts and win critics over. Below an example of reactions on Rio Tinto’s YouTube channel:

What happens when polluting industries find themselves surrounded by housing development? People get sick, the companies won’t move. This is the situation in Kilburn, South Australia, right now.

Rio Tinto may be a ‘leading mining company’, but it is also one with one of the most appalling international reputations. Type ‘bougainville’ + ‘mercenary’ + ‘RTZ’  into google to find out about their connection to atrocities in Papua New Guinea after the natives refused them permission to mine.

The reaction of Rio Tinto to these comments? Complete silence.  Missed opportunities to explain the company’s position to important opinion makers.

A 5-step guide for Mining Companies to start using YouTube

What should mining companies do to use the potential of YouTube?

1. Appoint a Content Manager – Appoint the person that will be running the show. The Content Manager should not just be responsible for selecting and managing the broadcasted content, but should also be responsible for participating in online discussions and answering to comments.

2. Explore the environment – Don’t plunge into uploading videos without finding out what is going on on Youtube and defining the strategy of content type and structure. For example, most likely YouTube users are much more interested in the environmental performance of the company than in the latest profit figures.

3. Establish a presence – Upload videos, add tags, select favourite videos featuring the company from other sources.

4. Monitor environment and reactions – Don’t only read the comments on the uploaded video’s. Do the same the YouTube user will do: search for information about the company; click-through to related videos; gather all user-generated content about the company.

5. Interact – Respond to both positive and negative reactions. Invite critics to explain, explain the situation and the facts. Feed the most important topics found online to the executive and marketing team.

©2010 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

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  1. December 22, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    Hi Wilfred – great articles.
    Unfortunately most of the people who should be reading it (PR managers at these companies) probably don’t read blogs either!!

    I agree that mining companies are failing to capitalise on “social media” trends very well in talking and listening to the community at large. As you mention, they need to adopt a structured approach to it, and make sure they understand it’s a two way street of communications. I think they also need to make sure they keep a personal face to it rather than just posting press releases. Let’s have some videos of senior managers discussing the current state of play in the industry or on some topical point.

    I know Rio and a few others have twitter accounts, but they are likewise infrequest users of these, usually with a big spike in activity when they first open in, and then trailing off to the occasional press release.

    I don’t like posting links away from other people’s blogs, but you might find this article I wrote on the roles of social media in the mining industry to be of interest: http://www.miningman.com/Blog/April-2010/How-Social-Media-can-Benefit-the-Mining-Industry

    Cheers,
    Jamie

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