By adaptive - July 29th, 2014

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Social media is coming into focus for many corporations. However, more work needs to be done.

As with last year’s report we have seen some pleasing advances and some worrying activity across corporate social media. This year’s survey has highlighted a number of areas where corporations have made progress:

  1. One of the most gratifying results from this year’s survey is that social media as an organisational component is breaking out of its marketing silo to become a more vital and essential component of additional business activity.
  2. The understanding that social media now has a profound impact on businesses is being more appreciated by C-suite executives that are changing their attitude towards the value that social media has within their businesses.
  3. Tighter integration with marketing activities is also a major find this year. Social is not now simply an afterthought, or an addition made to marketing campaigns if there is budget to accommodate this, but is integrated at the planning stage of media campaigns.

More work to be done in 2014

Our findings this year clearly illustrate there is still some work to be done if corporations are the fully leverage what social media can deliver to their businesses.

The reductions in budget allocation we have seen this year is worrying, but could be explained by the fact that many corporations now have in-house social media teams, meaning less spending on outsourcing this component of their businesses. However, reductions in spending generally are a concern if corporations are to realise their social media goals.

A lack of evolution with how social media is measured is the key issue we can see for 2014. Social media analytics continues to be a major stress point for many corporations, which have continued to use quite crude and generalised metrics to measure their social media activity and how this supported their defined ROI.

Corporations need to move away from the brute force KPIs they still use to a new analytical approach that considers what can be the intangible aspects of social media. This must happen if corporations are to fully understand and then commercially leverage their activity across the social media environment.

Corporate insights

There are two ways one could interpret the data we’ve shared in this report. Either social media within companies is beginning to mature, and the drive to leverage social to its full extent is undiminished. Or, social media within companies is stagnating, and there’s an increasing lack of resources available to those within business to move forward to full leverage social’s potential.

On the positive side:

  • 72% of executives say that social media has impacted on their internal organisation - that’s a deep level of impact, and would be impossible were social simply an ‘addition’ to the normal way of doing business.
  • Social has already begun to deeply impact on customer service, customer insights, employee engagement - and even product development.
  • Importantly, our respondents say that this trend will continue over the next 12 months - witness the increasing number of respondents saying that social will impact on multiple customer departments over the next year.
  • A huge 83% of respondents recognise we’re not fully leveraging social’s potential yet .

But on the negative side:

  • There are fewer and fewer executives working on social - either exclusively or as part of their job role.
  • Social’s not getting any higher up the organisation - having reached a glass ceiling in reporting to the head of marketing.
  • More and more say social budgets will not increase.
  • There has been little to no progress in measuring social impact.
  • Only half of corporate boards buy in to social.

Because executives can’t prove they’re making progress if they can’t track impact accurately. And they can’t. 

There’s the will, but not the resource. Social has hit a glass ceiling - it can’t prove value in the boardroom, and executives are thus finding growth opportunities curtailed. All this talk about social being about ‘ROE’ and ‘ROR’ creates a series of tweetable soundbites, but gets short shrift in a boardroom looking for real business impacts they can understand.

For social to fully leverage its potential across business, the social media executive must begin to get a handle on measurement. 
It is only with the successful tracking of impacts - using metrics the CFO and CEO can understand - that the social media advocates within a business will get the buy-in they need to succeed.

Commenting on this year’s report, Aaron Lewis, Cisco WebEx Manager, Global Social Marketing told Useful Social Media: “Your findings that fewer executives are involved with social isn't surprising, leadership tends to focus on things, which they can easily articulate in real business terms. The lack of industry-standardized measurements, and more importantly the inability for most businesses to intuitively link social marketing spend with the bottom line elicits a very cautions response.

Typically the C-suite aren't sure exactly what the value truly is for social in their businesses, however the good news is that they seem to stay close and remain open to being convinced. The utility of social media to support other operational areas of business has certainly expanded. We use it heavily in our support operations, product development, and employee engagement. However I would guess that sales involvement in so-called "Social-Selling" will be a popular and relatively new area of social utility in the coming years.”

Corporate social media then is at a crossroads. The rules of engagement are now known, but social media seems to have hit a ceiling where corporations fail to move their use of social media networks to the logical next level. It’s vital therefore, that corporations don’t undermine the excellent work they have been doing with social media to simply focus on short-term commercial gains.

Lara Ruth, Vice President, Content and Social, Citibank North America concludes: “If 2013 was the year of ramping up of social media, 2014 has been the year of integration. Rather than social media being thought of separately it’s slowly progressing to being a key component across multiple functions. Companies, both B2C and B2B, are getting that it can no longer be in its own world or being an afterthought. Social has to line up with what companies are doing elsewhere as well as have the ability to escalate concerns internally across even the most complex of organizations. If you can’t do that, you’re already behind.”

Download the full The State of Corporate Social Media Briefing 2014.

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