Most businesses “don’t have a handle” on social media marketing

The value to the average company of using social media in marketing has yet to be proven, recent studies show.

While business executives realize they may lose out on opportunities by failing to incorporate social media in their marketing strategies, lack of knowledge about the new trend is discouraging decision makers from integrating social media technologies.

Seventy-five per cent of 139 global marketing executives (75 per cent) surveyed by Old Saybrook, Conn.-based Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG) defined social media as media based on conversations among their users.

While 58.5 per cent said less than five per cent of their total advertising and promotion budget is dedicated to social media marketing, more than half the executives surveyed felt it’s “absolutely critical” for marketing professionals to be proficient in use of social media.

At the heart of this apparent contradiction is the great difficulty in estimating the return on investment (ROI) from social media marketing initiatives. This was a challenge for more than 58 per cent of the MENG survey respondents.

For instance, 33.1 per cent of them said they were never able to determine ROI, while an additional 25.6 per cent said they “hardly ever” knew if their social media efforts were worthwhile.  In addition, only 26.3 per cent thought social media marketing was more effective than using other online media tools for marketing, such as search advertising or display ads.

Whether or not they are able to measure the ROI of their social media campaigns, the respondents’ replies were disappointing for those pushing social media marketing as a required component of marketing campaigns.

A separate poll conducted by Seattle, Wash.-based Avanade Inc., a global IT consultancy, seemed to mirror these findings. Among other things, the firm provides advice and assistance to businesses in setting up social media programs.

Decision makers are still undecided on the merits of using social media, Avanade’s survey indicates. The poll covered 541 senior management executives, line-of-business and IT managers, and sales and marketing executives from North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

“More than half the senior executives and IT staff resist adoption [of social media] out of fear it will sap worker productivity,” said Mike Pazak, vice-president of enterprise business solutions at Avanade.

He said “60 per cent of the respondents believe management does not understand the potential social media offers.”

Other Avanade survey highlights are:

  • More than 75 per cent of companies believe social networking will come into their business “by stealth” or unsanctioned employee initiatives


  • Nine out of 10 respondents said new employees will usher in social networking in the workplace
  • Only 18 per cent have a strategy to integrate social media techniques into their business


  • Sixty per cent say integration of social media technologies is not even on their agenda

Barriers cited to adoption of social media technologies include: security (76 per cent); senior management apathy (57 per cent); and fear of using unproven technologies (58 per cent).

“Clearly people are concentrating on the perceived negative impact of social networking,” said Pazak.

Decision makers are likely worried that setting up corporate wikis, allowing employees to join social networking sites and write blogs will open the company to numerous security threats, distract workers from their duties, and even open the firm to potential legal suits, the Avanade executive said.

He said social media technologies are reaching a turning point, and cautioned that as more consumers adopt the technology, companies that fail to switch over fast enough will lose customers.

Pazak urges business to start using corporate wikis to improve collaboration and communication among internal employees or partners. He said corporate sites that encourage feedback and engage customers are also ideal for boosting a firm’s relationship with clients.

Key executives can also better disseminate company information by hosting an in-house blog or open lines of communication with customers through a public blog.

What do you do when you see employees logged on to Facebook? An outright ban on social networking might not be the answer.
Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social networking sites practically lead you reveal even more information about yourself. Log on and you’re asked: What are you doing? What are you doing right now? What are you working on?
For CIOs trying to get a handle on social networking practices by employees, Tom Mighell, a lawyer and senior manager at Fios Inc., an electronic-discovery consulting firm in Portland, Oregon, offers some starting points:
1. Accept and train –  Many employees will use social networking tools regardless of what you want them to do. Instead of trying to stop them, teach them what or what not to say about work. For example, employees might be tempted to promote features of a new product. But should that product become the subject of a liability claim, those statements could be used as damning evidence, Mighell says. He says senior management should talk frankly with employees about the legal risks.
2. Influence the socializing – Show how to use social networking tools productively and creatively for work without giving away too much information. For example, solicit expertise, but don’t get too specific.
Wrong: “About to blow major deadline for Project Anaconda. Any SAP Netweaver experts out there? Help!”
Right: “Looking for an SAP Netweaver expert.”
3. Consider the complexities – If information posted on social networking sites becomes relevant in a lawsuit, you will have to collect, review, and search it so you can comply with discovery requests. That may mean your social-networking employees may have to give up some privacy – their site passwords, for example. This particular situation hasn’t yet come up in court, but it could get messy if the employee refuses to co-operate, Mighell notes.
4. Monitor. Designate a couple of people from the tech or legal groups to do sweeps of Facebook, LinkedIn and other known employee hang-outs, to see who is saying and doing what. Talk to those who aren’t following policy, and keep records to prove regular monitoring and enforcement of your rules, he says. You can’t defend yourself if you set policy but never enforce it.
(With files from Cyndy Aleo-Carreira and Kim S. Nash)

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