Industry funds are taking to social media engagement, but an aversion to risk and leaner resourcing means Australian funds still lag behind other countries. An analysis of the social media footprint of 34 super funds shows that only approximately one-third of funds have a searchable social media presence, with levels of engagement varying significantly.

“There’s a lag effect and there is a need for education at chief executive and leadership levels. Because once you’ve got buy-in from the CEO and his or her leadership team, you see significant change in terms of how that [organisation] embraces social media,” says Tom Buchan, principal at Buchan Consulting.

“I think that’s changing gradually rather than rapidly, but we’re seeing significant changes.”

The analysis, an update on a May 2012 study by Buchan Consulting, which advises on and implements social media for organisations, reveals some funds have low searchability or lack of integration with a website, while others only used social media to drive specific campaigns.

Stats from the Tweety pie

Only two funds have created a social media presence since May last year, but Twitter followers have increased for most funds, with Australian Super’s (@AustralianSuper) following growing by 85 per cent, from 570 to 1053. The average increase was 37 per cent, with Equipsuper (@Equipsuper) and Catholic Super (@catholicsuper) sitting on average. The highest Facebook engagement came from NGS Super, SunSuper and AustralianSuper.

Attention to risk management has also slowed financial services down, according to Buchan, who says it’s not unusual for CEOs and boards to query how to mitigate risk in social media platforms. But he believes funds should be willing to invest resources to monitor what’s being said.

“Then it’s good old-fashioned direct, open, honest communication as quickly as you can. That’s standard practice for good communication.”

Yet, engagement is rising. Just last year, the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees awarded diversity in super fund communication strategies in its 2012 awards.

Branding dialogue

Anthony Rodwell-Ball, CEO of $5-billion fund NGS Super, says it’s a good brand investment and that electronic communications are a means of effectively and cost-efficiently reaching out to members.

“Social media undoubtedly is the communication platform of the future. It provides an environment for members to pull information rather than us continually having to push it. And really, if you think about it as an industry, we push a lot of stuff out – we have to because the law requires it.”

Meanwhile, Rodwell-Ball, who says the fund is engaged on various social media channels, including Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, believes there’s great focus on risk and not opportunity.

“I think that will change in time. You’ve got be alert to what people are saying about you.”

Umberto Mecchi, executive manager of strategy and marketing at Hostplus, agrees, saying in terms of public and reputational risk, it’s far better to welcome dialogue and respond positively than be oblivious to it.

“Social media is a good listening device before joining the conversation,” he says. “Quite often, if you can respond to a criticism or a pain point for a customer really quickly, what you’ll see is they go back online and say thank you, and actually applaud your effort.”

He says the fund is not media biased, but tries to cater to the various demographics of its membership. Hostplus’ most notable engagement has been in Cook for your Career, a partnered cooking competition to address Australia’s lack of chefs, now in its third year.

“We had a dedicated Facebook page… and it’s called Cook for your Career, not Hostplus. And we did that quite deliberately,” he says.

“It builds good will for the brand and makes us a perfect partner for the community.” 

Teifi Whatley, Sunsuper’s general manager of customer experience and insights (pictured right), doesn’t believe funds have the luxury of not engaging in social media, particularly in terms of managing and monitoring public activity involving the fund.

“You don’t want to go in without your eyes wide open, because at the end of the day, the customer is in control of these mediums. And we’ve all seen instances where things have gone very pear-shaped around social media.”

Sunsuper’s Dreams for a Better World campaign, which has more than 11,000 likes on Facebook and has been running since February 2011, was part of the organisation’s strategic approach to social media, and an attempt to engage meaningfully with its under-40s membership.

“We knew that they were not necessarily fully engaged in superannuation, but our research was telling us that they were in fact quite socially conscious,” Whatley says. “We also knew that they tend to be social media users, so it seemed to be the perfect opportunity to start that program.”

3 comments on “Super sidles up to social media”
    Walter Adamson

    While it’s true that the current numbers are quite trivial and the current audience reach is small, it is also true that unless you shut down everything on social then you do have a serious risk management and governance issue to manage. So point 1 is that if you do it you have to do it properly from a governance and risk perspective, not to mention a strategic perspective

    Point 2 is that you cannot actually opt-out anyway. So the idea of shutting down or “not being in social” is not reality. People are talking about your services, your brand, your customers, your agents daily whether you choose to participate or not. So you need to listen, and the respond, and then once you respond you face the challenge of Point 1.

    Point 3 is the one made by Teifi Whatley which is that every person changing jobs is potentially changing super, and these people are not the 65+ age group, they are exactly the younger ones. If you miss lifestyle conversations around events related to super choice decisions then you miss business. It can’t be stated any simpler.

    Walter @adamson
    See my paper Auditing Social Media at the Internal Auditors SOPAC2013 Conference

    Phil Sainsbury

    While I agree with Rodwell-Ball that “Social media undoubtedly is the communication platform of the future.” I question to value of it at the current point in time.

    Firstly AustralianSuper twitter followers is only 1053 of a roughly total 1.9m members. That’s hardly an effective communication strategy. And I wouldn’t think it’s unfair to suggest that of those 1,053 followers a significant number of them are Industry professionals like myself and media outlets/reporters.

    Secondly, Superannuation is arguable most important for those in retirement of approaching retirement. While slightly out of date, ABS figures show that somewhere between 20-30% of over 65’s use the internet at any location and an ACMA study shows that only 4% of over 65’s use social media. For 50-64 these figures become 60% and 17% respectively. Social media campaigns are not reaching their core target because the core target does not use social media.

    While I believe that Social Media is/will become important as younger members who are adapt at it, grow older and fill in the void, at what point do we admit that Super funds using Social Media is just exercise to say ‘look how savvy we are’ and give ourselves pats on the back?


    The credibility of social media is declining by the day. I can’t understand why it’s better to amplify and give creedence to the whinging nit-picking of anonymous keyboard warriors who may not even be your members, than to remain oblivious to them by not engaging on social media. Members with genuine complaints have several other non-public channels in which to be heard.

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