The purpose of Virgin Group’s social communications on sustainability are to drive readership of their blogs and opinion pieces which aim to share innovations and examples of people and organisations leading the way to a better future to their wide stakeholder base.

UNITE unifies the Group

Virgin Group’s success at securing social influence is a great example of how even a business with a diverse product portfolio can leverage social media to connect the full range of sub-brands and grow recognition under a unifying flagship concept. In this case, under the aptly named ‘UNITE’ Foundation, which incorporates the Group’s approach to sustainable business.

Provoking interaction from insights and opinions

A unique feature about Virgin Group’s social communications, is that virtually every piece of content links directly to an opinion piece on one of their many blog sections – Entrepreneur, Disruptors and Business Innovation being some of the main sources of sustainability content. Both on Facebook and Twitter, Virgin make use of a consistent, succinct and sometimes provocative style to encourage followers to click on the links. This approach promotes high rates of engagement (retweets, comments, shares, likes and favourites) which is the main driver of their high SB{influencers}100 score.

Investing in constant content generation

Virgin’s strategy of maintaining their Group’s website as a source of fresh content shows that corporate websites don’t have to fit a staid template of policies, reports and press releases. In the last six months of 2014, more than 7,500 pieces of content were shared on Twitter just from the @Virgin main account and Sir Richard Branson’s individual account, making the company amongst the most prodigious tweeters on sustainability issues. Similarly, almost 700 posts were made on their Facebook page. Virgin achieves this with the help of a large team of content managers, writers, social media managers and guest bloggers. This connected approach gets the corporate web content noticed, talked about and linked to.

The data demonstrates the value from fresh, focused content

This style also enables them to interest a broad audience that not only reflects their wide customer base but also the diverse opinion formers on the subjects they blog about – from the sharing economy, to ocean pollution, resource-saving innovations and green travel. The channel also shares content from Virgin Unite (the non-profit Foundation arm) and views on purpose-driven business. Across all topics, the emphasis is on reporting insight, trends and innovations.

Whilst this may seem a resource and time-intensive approach to digital communications, the data demonstrates the value to Virgin. Virgin receive the most Twitter mentions of all our top 10, and behind only mega-brands Google and Coca-Cola in the entirety of SB{influencers}100.

With a little help from a certain Founder

Due to the strength of Sir Richard Branson’s individual fame and follower base, the most shared sustainability posts from the Group typically come from his account. For example, one tweet about species extinction was retweeted more than 2,000 times. Combined, these social channels have a follower base of more than five million giving them an impressive and wide-reaching potential influence.