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Integrating Social Media Still Challenges Marketers

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Although most US companies use social networks—66% have a Facebook page, 51% have a Twitter account, and 44% have a LinkedIn page—only 16% say their social marketing efforts are fully integrated across the organization, according to [pdf] a study by InSites Consulting.

More than one-quarter (27%) of companies are working to integrate social media into their businesses; most, however, say their social marketing efforts are still in the early stages, with marketers taking first steps in implementing social media (23%) or piloting social media (20%).


Fully integrating social media into the organization positively affects companies in three key areas, InSites finds: 1) More effective marketing communications; 2) higher customer satisfaction; and 3) stronger financial returns.

By approaching social media tactically, rather than as part of an overall integrated strategy, companies are missing opportunities for better business outcomes, according the study.


Below, additional findings from the Social Media Integration Survey, among 400 US and UK companies, conducted by InSites Consulting.

Larger Companies More Integrated

In the US and UK, social media activities are only slightly less integrated in smaller companies (less than 500 employees) than larger firms (500+ employees) (12% vs. 13%), but fewer smaller firms are now working to integrate social media activities across the organization (20% vs. 31%). 


Among B2B and B2C companies, there is nearly no difference in social media integration.

Tech, Media Sectors Lead in Social Integration 

Tech and media companies lead the pack in social media integration: 23% of tech/telecom companies and 24% of media companies say social media is integrated across the organization. Another 46% of tech/telecom companies are working to integrate social media, as are 41% of media companies.


By contrast, companies in the financial and health industries are lagging behind in social media integration: Only 14% and 8%, respectively, say their social media efforts are integrated across the organization.

Barriers to Social Media Integration

Three types of change are needed to integrate social media into the organization, according to the research: 1) Personal change; 2) structural change; and 3) cultural change.Various factors impact people's attitudes toward such change. 

Regarding personal change, for example, most companies say employees are open to new technologies, but few have formal social media training programs. 

Among such "personal-change" factors, companies report the prevalence of the following (i.e., they fully agree or somewhat agree) within their organizations:  

  • Employees are open to new technologies and social media: 66%
  • Company is trying to educate employees on social media: 41%
  • Company is investing in technologies to facilitate use of social media: 41%
  • Top management is active in social media: 40%
  • Company has official training programs for social media: 29%
  • Company thinks all employees should have social media training: 26%

Other factors impact structural change. Though most (58%) companies are using social media for better marketing results, only 38% say their company has a clear view on how to use various social media channels. 

Among such "structural-change" factors, companies report the prevalence of the following (i.e., they fully agree or somewhat agree) within their organizations:  

  • Social media is being integrated into existing marketing plans: 67%
  • Company is using social media for better marketing results: 58%
  • Company has a person or team dedicated to social marketing: 57%
  • Social media responsibility is clearly understood: 57%
  • Company is working in cross-functional teams: 55%
  • Employees are allowed to use social media during the work day: 43%
  • Company has a clear social media policy in place: 38%
  • Company has a clear view on how to use various social platforms: 38%

Similarly, various factors impact cultural change; among them, marketers report the prevalence of the following (i.e., they fully agree or somewhat agree) within their organizations:  

  • Corporate values are clearly defined: 63%
  • Company lives up to its values: 53%
  • Culture and strategy equally important: 53%
  • Company has no social media policies; uses general code of conduct: 49%
  • Company is actively re-defining company values: 43%
  • Culture is tangible in everything company does: 42%
  • All employees know the company values by heart: 39%
  • Social media is high on priority list: 38%

The main barrier to change is the unclear financial return, according to the study. 

Among surveyed companies, leads are the most important performance indicator (52%), followed by volume in online reach (46%).  

Social Networking Stats: B2B and B2C Comparisons

Among companies in the UK and US: 

  • Twitter is equally popular among B2B and B2C, at 57% penetration
  • Facebook use is higher among B2C companies: 78% use it, compared with 60% of B2B firms.
  • LinkedIn is more popular among B2B firms: 58% use it, compared with 38% of B2C companies. 


Larger companies use most social platforms at slightly higher rates than smaller companies. LinkedIn is the one exception, where adoption is slight higher among smaller companies (49%) than large ones.

About the data: Findings from the Social Media Integration Study are based on a survey 400 UK and US firms conducted in June 2011. The report is authored by Steven Van Belleghem, managing partner of InSites Consulting and marketing professor at the Vlerick Management School, in Gent, Belgium.


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  • by Lisa Tue Jan 17, 2012 via web

    While I appreciate the info, I really don't need this data to tell me what I live every day with my small business clients and when I say small business, I'm talking really small business, the moms and pops of our economy. The real challenge they have in integrating social media is the problem of finding SOMETHING TO SAY. Getting them to wrap their heads around "storytelling" and brand identity is difficult. Getting them to pump out content (or hire us to do it for them) is also a challenge. Without that, social media just seems useless to them even if they don't expect some type of ROI.

    I am also going to hazard a guess (and this is just that as I have not looked at the data source for this report), that many companies over report how much they are really doing with social media or how integrated they truly are. I fear that companies may feel stigmatized IF they aren't using social media - as if it was the early part of the last century and they didn't have a phone.

    The fact is social media may not be right for every company right now and even if it feels right, it's still a challenge for really small businesses, many who would likely benefit from a core of locally-based followers/friends to create the content to make the connections with social media.

  • by Kelsey Thu Jan 19, 2012 via web

    @Lisa: Great point and I see the same thing with small business I work with. I've heard "Well, what am I going to say?" more times than I care to count. The challenge I come across is separating networking/relationship building and advertising for these businesses. You can't simply bombard people with your incentives and discounts - that is not what social media is about. So I agree - huge challenge with trying to get them to be storytellers and see what good social media content is all about. Bottom line: yes, there are many companies that "have a social media plan" - but do they know how to properly implement it? And those that "have a dedicated individual/team to social media"....do they know what they are doing?

  • by Sirous Kavehercy (Tripylon Media) Fri Jan 20, 2012 via web

    While InSites has put a lot of effort into this research, for which we are thankful.
    However, the credibility of such online research stands or falls with how those companies interpret certain questions. If the interpretations are left open to the companies it would be meaningless to make conclusions about the outcome and how it links to business strategy. Specifically in the case of social media there are many gray areas and most companies would probably not even know what it means to integrate it. Also keep in mind the survey was done in June 2011 which is light years away, in social media years.

    It would be really helpful and appreciated to have InSites or MarketingProfs shed some light on this to make the data more useful.

    We need to understand what the companies meant when they answered "Yes we have fully integrated social media into our business" or "We are integrating social media".

    Based on my own experience, companies mean one of the following by integration of social media into their business, non of which is linked to any specific long-term business strategy and are purely tactical:

    1- "We are pushing our digital marketing content also to our followers on Facebook and Twitter and have occasional surveys to engage our customers"

    2- "Yes, our HR and majority of our employees are on linked-in and we encourage them to connect with their customers and find prospects"

    3- "Yes, we have got Help Desks on both Twitter and Facebook". This can clarify the high percentage for Tech & Telco their understanding of full integration and customer interaction. Telco's are notorious for their lack of quality customer support. To avoid bad publicity online they use social media for customer support while customer support on other channels still lacks quality.

    I am curious about other interpretations and views.

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