According to Econsultancy’s State of Social 2011 report, produced in partnership with LBi and bigmouthmedia, two-thirds of companies have moved beyond the experimental phase of their social media strategies. 

Following similar surverys in 2009 and 2010, this year’s research also shows that companies are now focused on the ‘big four’ networks. Not only this, but social media activity is more likely to be integrated with other marketing channels and across business functions.

Based on a sample of more than 1,000 businesses online, the report highlights that almost two thirds (64%) of respondents said that they are now beyond the experimental phase compared to 54% a year ago. 

Lyndsay Menzies, CEO of bigmouthmedia and CMO of LBI International N.V., noted that since social media has moved well beyond the land-grab phase, this latest research underlines the fact that brands are now taking this seriously:

Businesses are embracing the opportunity that this presents to connect to their customer base. The increasing convergence of the channels, in particular search and social media, is fuelling adoption as awareness, advocacy and acquisition become intrinsically linked.

More than half of respondents (52%) said that their organisations use Facebook for reacting to customer issues and inquiries compared to only 29% last year.

Similarly, 50% of companies use Twitter for customer service, compared to only 35% in 2010. Half of organisations (51%) are also using Facebook for gathering customer feedback, compared to 37% last year.

The vast majority of companies surveyed use Twitter (87%) and Facebook (82%) as part of their social media marketing or online PR activities. More than two thirds of companies (69%) are using Google’s video-sharing platform YouTube and 57% are using business network LinkedIn.

Econsultancy’s research manager Aliya Zaidi added:

When social media industry was in its relative infancy, there was much talk about the wide range of social channels available, including smaller platforms and the rise of niche social networks. In 2011, the social media landscape is dominated by the established ‘Big Four’ social networks, with the majority of companies using Facebook and Twitter for their social media activity.

Relatively small numbers of businesses are using other networks or web properties for social media activity such Google+ (14%), location-based platform Foursquare (15%) or question-and-answer network Quora (3%).

The research has also found that the trend expected to have the biggest impact over the next year is the increased use of mobile and smart devices such as tablets, deemed to be ‘highly significant ’by more than half of responding companies (54%). 

The smartphone is overwhelmingly deemed to be the ‘most persuasive’ device for social media, according to 73% of respondents. Significantly fewer respondents cite other devices, such as the laptop, tablet and desktop computer.

The full report is available to Econsultancy subscribers here.