Social Media: Helping or Hurting Your Business?

Shane Sweet asks: Who has the ball on your company social media accounts?

As I pen this in mid-January, over the past few days and in numerous discussions with industry folks, everyone seems to be a bit disturbed about the current divisiveness among Americans, and to my surprise, this level of concern seems to be equally shared by those who lean left as well as those who lean right.   

Regardless of which way anyone might lean in the political spectrum, of late the posts from some industry social media accounts have left me scratching my head.

One account in particular, that is on its face a promotional account on behalf of the retail heating fuel space, and is affiliated with more than one industry group, has been posting to Twitter in a manner to suggest concurrence with the messaging of some Twitter account holders not known for their support of our industry.

I think it’s fair to say that these recent posts, in the form of “likes” and re-tweets, have been of a partisan nature, and by inference, have supported the narratives of those that are clearly not friendly to the fuel industry.

Those cited Twitter accounts are held by entities and individuals—a mix of lawmakers, regulatory officials, politicians, etc.—that openly want to see the fuel industry decimated.

So, I ask: Why are fuel industry corporate or organization Twitter accounts allegedly aligned with the interests of the fuel industry supporting the narratives of those individuals and entities that seek to do us harm?

I spoke with an association executive in mid-January and asked this individual why a Twitter account that exists to promote the fuel industry is supporting, in the form of likes and retweets, the Twitter accounts of those people or entities that have publicly stated their intention to do away with us all.

Turns out the executive was not aware of the posts, and was just as puzzled as I am as to the rationale behind the likes and re-tweets.

The exec asked me whether the holder of the account was in some manner trying to engender or curry favor for the fuel industry with those that clearly seek to do us harm. I asked myself the same question and both of us agreed that if this was a strategy, it was, at best, ill-conceived.

So, again: Why?

I find it difficult to believe that the posts in question have been backed with the full-throated consent or knowledge of individuals with final say over the Twitter account. This makes zero sense.

Is it a case of an individual, tasked with managing this Twitter account, using the account to promote their personal political agenda? It’s not like we’ve not seen this happen before, a recent example being a U.S. government website update attributed to a “disgruntled employee” with access.

 As we go to press, I don’t have the answer to the above.

But if you are in the fuel industry, or affiliated with it, and use social media for your company or organization, I would like to offer some helpful tips:

  • be in touch with whoever or whatever is handling posts to your company social media accounts
  • give this person or persons clear instructions on the purpose of your company social media account
  • provide that person or persons with clear and concise ground rules about what is OK and what is not OK to post, “Like” or re-tweet and 
  • monitor that account to ensure your company or organization is sending the message you intend.

Shane Sweet is principal of Shane Sweet LLC, a Vermont-based energy consulting firm to the propane, heating oil and motor fuel sectors. The company represents select products and services, works with trade associations, and, in April 2020, co-founded VirtualPropaneExpo.com. In addition to 15 years in the retail oil and propane business, Sweet served as the executive for the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association, the New England Fuel Institute (now the National Energy & Fuels Institute) and the New York Propane Gas Association. Sweet can be reached at shanemsweet@gmail.com.

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