Marketers moving beyond 'social experimentation'
Companies have moved from experimentation with social media marketing to a range of activities which are more likely to be integrated with other marketing channels and across business functions, according to research by Econsultancy, LBI and BigMouthMedia.
The company's 'State of Social Report 2011' found that almost two thirds (64%) of companies say they are now beyond the experimental phase compared to 54% a year ago. In fact, the companies surveyed were much more likely than one year before to be using Facebook and Twitter for a range of purposes, such as marketing, publishing new content, customer service, gathering customer feedback, and market intelligence.
More than half of respondents (52%) said their organisations use Facebook for reacting to customer issues and inquiries, compared to only 29% one year before. Similarly, 50% of companies now use Twitter for customer service, compared to only 35% previously. Half of organisations (51%) are also using Facebook for gathering customer feedback, compared to 37% one year earlier.
"This shows a change in social media focus. In the last year, more companies have set up a presence on social media channels and in some cases, social media has become a priority as organisations have started to see the potential benefits," said Econsultancy's research manager, Aliya Zaidi. "There has been a marked increase in the number of companies using social networks for a range of business functions, including a huge change in the extent to which organisations are using Facebook and Twitter for customer service and gathering customer feedback. Where previously the focus for companies was on getting started with social media, more marketers are now focused on optimising their social media strategies by heightening engagement and listening and responding more effectively across social media channels."
According to Lyndsay Menzies, CEO for BigMouthMedia and CMO for LBI, "Social media has moved well beyond the land-grab phase and this study underlines the idea that brands are taking it seriously, embracing the opportunity that it presents to connect with their customer base. The increasing convergence of the channels - and in particular search and social media - is fuelling social media's adoption as customer awareness, advocacy and acquisition become intrinsically linked."
The research also found that the trend expected to have the biggest near-term impact is the increased use of mobile and smart devices such as tablets, deemed to be 'highly significant' by more than half of responding companies (54%). The smartphone is overwhelmingly deemed to be the 'most persuasive' device for social media, according to 73% of respondents. Significantly fewer respondents cite other devices, such as the laptop, tablet and desktop computer.
The majority of companies surveyed are using Twitter (87%) and Facebook (82%) as part of their social media marketing or online PR activities. More than two thirds of companies (69%) are using Google's video-sharing platform YouTube and 57% are using business network LinkedIn. Relatively small numbers of businesses are using other networks or web properties for social media activity such as the recently launched Google+ network (14%), location-based platform Foursquare (15%) or question-and-answer network Quora (3%).
"When social media industry was in its relative infancy, there was much talk about the wide range of social channels available, including smaller platforms and the rise of niche social networks," explained Zaidi. "But now, the social media landscape is dominated by the established 'Big Four' social networks, with the majority of companies using Facebook and Twitter for their social media activity."
Among the study's other key findings:
- More companies than last year are integrating social media activity with other channels such as email marketing (up from 76% to 80% of businesses), print media (up from 21% to 32%) and mobile marketing (from 9% to 16%).
- Despite social media heading toward maturity, 60% of organisations have not yet implemented internal social media training and governance models. Although social media is becoming an important part of the organisation's marketing toolkit, there is an on-going need for more formal social media processes and policies.
- Apart from the use of Twitter, less than a third of companies say they are doing 'well' at a range of social media-related activities, including listening and monitoring, engaging customers in dialogue, having a content strategy and working with bloggers and influencers.
- Another recurring trend is the difficulty with measurement, but it is encouraging that significantly fewer marketers now say they are unable to measure. When asked to describe the value from social media, some 37% of companies report they are unable to measure, compared to 47% in 2010.
- Organisations are using a wide range of different types of content in their social media marketing. Over half of organisations (57%) have a company blog as part of their social media activity, while 55% have used video.
- While there is much room for improvement, more companies are reporting they do social media well, an indication that businesses are becoming more confident about best practice and increasingly familiar with how to optimise social media activity. Over a third of companies (37%) now report they use Twitter well, compared to 27% last year. Over a quarter (27%) report they are using Facebook well.
- The main use of Facebook is as a marketing channel. Two-thirds of respondents (67%) cited this last year, compared to three-quarters (75%) in 2011. Over three-quarters of respondents (77%) now use Twitter as a marketing channel.
- More than half of companies (56%) feel that their organisation has not moved quickly enough on Google+, while 16% say their organisation has moved quickly enough.
The full report has been made available to purchase directly from Econsultancy's web site - click here.