By Nick Johnson - March 27th, 2013

This week, we highlight three key stories from the world of corporate social media - a recent survey on consumer trust in branded content, Brian Solis on social business, and a look at social in India

How many consumers trust your content? 10%

Over at the 1000Heads blog, Molly Flatt highlights a recent Forrester report (the key chart is above). And it doesn't make pleasant reading for brands - only 10% of consumers trust your content.

As social has become a core marketing channel, the generation of engaging, relevant and high quality content has become a real focus for brands. Consumers are increasingly able to decide on what they give their precision attention. Up until recently, they read one paper, watched one TV show, and were force fed display ads. No longer, and as Nicola Kemp over at Marketing Magazine says,  

"a growing number of people are filtering out commercial messages...marketers must beware of being bypassed as [consumers] seek to simplify their path to purchase"

Now consumers can choose to filter out marketing messages, brands must offer value or they can be sure they'll be ignored. Consequently, many companies have spent significant portions of their budget on multimedia campaigns with high production values, and high costs.

But it isn't working. According to Forrester, only 10% of EU consumers (and a barely more impressive 15% for US counterparts) say they trust social posts from brands. As Flatt highlights, that means branded content is trusted less than sponsored search results, or even marketing emails.

One would hope that over the next few years, the curve moves upward. Two things mean that will happen

  1. Customers get more confident with social media full stop - it's still rather a wild west, and your consumers are still getting used to see messages from you on their Facebook stream full stop. Familiarity breeds trust. 
  2. Brands continue to improve content against the following key metrics:
    1. Value: The content being distributed is valuable to consumers
    2. Alignment: The content being distributed is aligned to the core brand message, and reinforces a voice already familiar to the company
    3. Authenticity: The content is human, and is genuine. Anything disingenuous, populated with corporate-speak, or simply lacking in personality must be cut out.

If brands can ensure number 2 happens, we can be confident that level of trust will increase.

The evolution of social media within business: Brian Solis on your future strategy

Brian Solis has his critics for his rather purple writing style, but few argue that he's a leading thinker on the impact of social media on business (he's chosen the wrong conference, though - this one is way better).

He's just released a new book, which links social media ever more with the future of business as a whole. Based on your own feedback to us, through primary research and surveys, we know full well that social media is beginning to impact on every area of business. Our State of Corporate Social Media briefing says as much, and it's the fundamental tenet of our flagship conference

Solis has begun to look into the future. He believes that there are no less than six stages in the corporate journey between initial social media adoption and becoming a truly social business:

  1. Planning: Initial research where you try to understand how your customers are using social, and start to set your KPIs and goals
  2. Presence: Use social to boost your current marketing strategy, and get people sharing your stuff
  3. Engagement: Start to drive sales, using social as a lead nurturing oppotunity. Start to engage with customers better through direct support over social channels
  4. Formalized: Governance models get implemented, one starts to plan for scaling social beyond the marketing department more strategically
  5. Strategic: Move social into new departments - customer service, HR, product development are the key areas according to our own research
  6. Converged: Not only are all these departments working on social, they're using social to work better together and deliver a better business

It's certainly a persuasive argument.  And his own research suggests a significant gap between stages 3 and 4 above. Only 34% of companies feel social strategy is connected to business outcomes, and perhaps even more worryingly, only 12% were confident that they have a plan that looked beyond the next year.

Our own research is slightly more positive, though similar concerns are aired. While fewer companies now silo social within the marketing department, and an increasing number of social media departments are reporting direct to the CEO, the numbers are still small. There are big increases planned however, with 75% of companies expecting to use social for better customer insight in 2013, 67% for customer service, and 49% for employee engagement.

You can read more in Brian's report here, and our report here.

Corporate social media in India

One of the most pressing concerns for the social media director is global presence and voice. There's a significant balancing act - both being relevant to, and respectful of, local culture, while also retaining a consistent brand voice.

Don Anderson, Head of Strategic And Digital Integration at Flesihman Hillard for Asia Pacific has some interesting thoughts to share on his experience operating in the country.

Some selected quotes from his interview with Campaign India - which is notable from the familiarity of the key issues for those of us in Europe or the USA:

  • ""More and more brands want to connect their conversations directly to the e-commerce platforms...This is a conversation I'm having with brands almost daily"
  • "When you're doing really got to make sense of what you're saying, how you're saying it, how they're reacting, what they're liking - and then tweak your engagement strategies as you go"
  • "I think [social] is more creative [than advertising]...You look at organisations like Tata, Nokia, Samsung...getting people involved. They're entertaining, but they're also creating conversations"

The most notable finding from the whole interview is the remarkable uniformity of priorities, challenges and opportunities between Indian companies and their counterparts in the West. The three points we pull out above are absolutely as relevant to European and US companies as their peers in India. When Don attempts to draw out differences, he highlights the fact that traditional media is still very strong in the country - with The Times of India dominating. Equally, he suggests that many brands still haven't 'dipped their toe in the water' and tried social. Finally, the spend on digital advertising is small - 0.5%- 1% of total spend. 

But it's perhaps reassuring for those of you with a global remit that in terms of the execution of social campaigns, the issues and the challenges are broadly the same.

Next Reads

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