Social media adopted in corporate strategies

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on January 21, 2011

Social media adopted in corporate strategies

Companies are finally overcoming their fear of social media by harnessing social tools and networks both to engage their employees and to strengthen customer relationships, according to a survey report from Econsultancy and cScape.

Research for the '2011 Online Customer Engagement Report' found that more than half (58%) of companies are planning to invest in their presence on social networks this year, while a third (32%) of companies are using internal social networking for employee communication.

Around half (51%) of companies are now using social networks for customer service improvement, up from 36% a year ago, according to the survey of more than 1,000 internet professionals.

The report examined trends relating to customer behaviour and attitudes, and the tactics and techniques being used by companies to cultivate customer engagement.

According to Econsultancy's research director, Linus Gregoriadis, "This paints a very different picture of organisations than the one typically depicted in the media. Paranoia about employee use of social networks and potential damage to their brands is being replaced by an understanding that in-company social networking can help communication and collaboration in a way which ultimately benefits the customer and the company."

Indeed, it appears that corporate fears surrounding social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter is now subsiding as companies realise that they can use them to help increase loyalty and improve customer service.

"The big lesson to come from this research is the blurring between the corporate and the social," said Dom Graveson, lead consultant for cScape's Customer Engagement Unit. "Now business is being done on and around platforms which - only a year or so ago - were seen by many organisations as chaotic, uncontrollable and even threatening."

As the corporate pioneers in this area have already found, social media presents a great opportunity for the personality and quality of a brand or service to shine through, both internally among employees and externally in the marketplace. According to Graveson, it also reflects a renewed democratisation of the media space: "Be good to your customers and employees, and be creative in your message, and anyone can become famous. It's put people back at the heart of things, right where they belong."

Companies and agencies continue to develop innovative techniques to help foster customer engagement, borrowing features from social gaming and networking. Small but significant percentages of companies are now using techniques such as time-limited activities (18%), rewards for online behaviour based on engagement (16%) and playful interfaces (10%).

The research noted that businesses are now more likely to be using both social media and mobile channels to deepen customer relationships and improve levels of service, including through the use of social networks, Twitter, mobile applications and location-based marketing.

"'Gamification' is an important trend," Gregoriadis noted. "At the moment, only a minority are using game-inspired features such as playful interfaces, top customer charts and levels of access which depend on the extent of engagement. But expect uptake of these techniques to increase in the future as companies seek to gain a competitive advantage."

Among the other key findings of the report:

  • More than half of companies (54%) are planning to further invest in social media as a customer service channel during 2011.  
  • Email newsletters (72%), presence on social networks (48%) and micro-blogging (46%) are the tactics most likely to result in a tangible improvement to companies' online customer engagement.  
  • Significantly more companies than last year are planning to increase investment in user-generated content (+13%), on-site branded communities/forums (+9%) and rich on-page interactive experiences (+8%).  
  • More companies said they were now using social networks compared to the previous year (+7%), along with video sharing (also +7%) for product development and innovation.  
  • Some 45% are using intranets for internal communications. Use of internal micro-blogging utilities (+7%), employee blogging (+4%) and instant messaging (also +4%) also increased slightly during the year.  
  • The majority of companies (73%) said they were planning to invest in the mobile channel in 2011, compared to only 60% one year before.

The full report is available for purchase directly from Econsultancy - click here.

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