Shell plc’s Renata Castro on Social Media Strategy

10th June 2022

“Growing up in Brazil, it wasn’t an uncommon occurrence to have power outages that lasted two days. I think experiencing a lack of supply and commodity issues can change the way you view your work within a major energy company.”

Renata Castro began at Shell as an External Affairs Trainee when she was 19. Nearly a decade later she entered a community management role that changed the way she thought about how reputation impacts content and performance. She is currently the Global Corporate Social Media Strategist for Shell, and an expert in delivering integrated social media campaigns shaped by data and insight.

What’s some non-intuitive advice you would give about corporate social media?

Not everything has to be on social. We don’t need another photograph of a couple of businessmen signing a piece of paper. We don’t need another image of a ribbon cutting ceremony.  And we don’t need to have an opinion on everything.

Successful social strategy includes what a company doesn’t post about, as much as what it does. I’m not likely to approve a post about an international calendar day or a political event just for the sake of it. There has to be a purpose and an appropriate channel that fits within the strategy.

Does Shell have a playbook for different social channels or strategies?

Yes, because of the way we structure data at Shell there’s a team called the Social Media Center of Excellence. They will have this type of playbook that includes guidelines such as ‘use up to 20% text on image in Facebook posts’. The guidelines include the tactical and technical approaches of each platform.

What I have on my team is a social corporate content strategy framework. It positions each channel and explains how we use it. And it gives examples of how we use content for leadership and what types of content we use.

The purpose of our corporate social media strategy is based on Shell’s business strategy which is called Powering Progress. Everything stems from this theme, and each channel has a purpose.

So for example, LinkedIn is dedicated to thought leadership and specific content that highlights our Powering Progress strategy. And if we get a request from a team, for example,  to post on an internal comms event or product marketing for a domestic retail brand, it’s quite easy for me to show that these content types are outside the themes used in the global LinkedIn channel.

What’s changed in Shell’s social strategy over the years?

We have to take external events into account before sharing content on social. For example, recently there was a complete shift in how we communicate after COVID. There was pre-covid and post covid social. Due to the cyclical nature of the pandemic, Europe would be opening up from the lockdown while South Africa was going into a really severe lockdown. Our communication had to change in relation to this – what we would have originally published just wouldn’t work. We’ve had similar experiences with social before and after the war in Ukraine. Now, if what we want to do on social runs the risk of appearing completely frivolous then we just don’t do it.

There’s also been a shift on what we spend on social for various reasons. Just a few years ago you didn’t have to spend as much because social and digital content wasn’t as monetized. We could actually get a lot of impact generating organic content without paid support. And that’s completely impossible today.

How do you achieve consensus on social media?

This is something I find difficult. If I’m appalled by a social idea, or it’s bad from a social best practice perspective, I’ll share feedback directly or try to get hierarchal support because that’s what works in a large company.

I may explain why something won’t work using examples such as competitors who have tried similar approaches, backlash received from it or low engagement numbers. But it’s equally important to offer solutions without dismissing the idea out of hand. I might ask if there’s an image of a product or service that we can use instead or another angle from which to approach a topic, and usually people are responsive to this approach internally.

But before you even get to that stage, it helps to have those defined purposes and objectives for each channel. I can then refer to the channel framework to support social media decisions.