Though growing numbers of companies are using social channels to connect with their customers, only 12% of business executives say their companies are using social media effectively, according to a study by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services.
Another 45% of business execs say their companies are "getting there" in effectively using social media, and nearly an equal number (43%) rate their use of social media as ineffective.
Such "effective" users are far more likely to use more social media channels—four or more—and report having developed and implemented a social media strategy: 63% say they've done so.
Below, other findings from study titled The New Conversation: Taking Social Media from Talk to Action, based on a survey of 2,100 senior-level business executives.
Among surveyed business execs, 58% say their companies are now using social media channels and 21% say they're preparing to launch social initiatives.
Even so, most companies using social media have yet to fully leverage customer interactions via social channels:
- 42% say they don't know where their most valuable customers are talking about them.
- 31% say they don't measure the effectiveness of social media interactions.
- 23% are using social media analytic tools.
- 7% say they integrate social media into their marketing activities.
Companies also struggle to gauge the effectiveness of social media. Asked to identify the most pressing challenges in implementing social media marketing, business execs cite the following:
- Understanding social media's potential to make a difference: 41%
- Measuring the effectiveness of social marketing activities: 40%
- Linking social marketing activities to financial outcomes: 31%
- Improving ability to fully utilize social media: 28%
- Demonstrating the value of social media to others in the organization: 25%
Top Benefits: Brand Awareness and Web Traffic
Asked to identify the top three benefits of social media marketing, 50% of business execs cite increased brand awareness—as do 61% of "effective" users. The next most significant benefit cited is increased website traffic (30%), followed by more favorable brand perception (26%).
Roughly one in ten business execs say they are generating increases in new business (11%) , but that level is twice as high for effective users (22%). Interestingly, other more accountable benefits rank far lower on the list.
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How Effective Users Lead in Social Marketing
While many companies view social media marketing as experimental, "effective" social media users are leveraging social technologies more than other business execs, most significantly in monitoring brands (55% vs. 33%), researching new products via social networks (52% vs. 25%), hosting online user groups for customers (50% vs. 30%), and collecting and tracking customer reviews on their sites (47% vs. 30%).
Effective users are also more focused on measurement—and are more likely to integrate their social media monitoring solution with other marketing solutions such as campaign management and email marketing. They're also more likely to measure customer sentiment collected via social media.
Other key findings:
- Among social media platforms, social networks are the most commonly used (87%), followed by blogs (58%), multimedia sharing (58%), microblogs (e.g., Twitter) (53%), and review sites and forums (22%).
- 69% of business execs say the use of social media in their organization will grow significantly over the next few years, and 32% say social media has been designated a high priority by their organization's senior executives.
- 46% say social media is an important component of their overall marketing strategy.
- 50% say until they're able to measure the impact of social media marketing, it will not be taken seriously in their organizations.
About the data: Findings are from an online survey of 2,100 Harvard Business Review Magazine and email newsletter subscribers during July 2010, conducted by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services in partnership with SAS.