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I have a firm belief that in five to ten years time, we’ll no longer refer to media as ‘social’. That’s because everything we do will be social by its very nature.

We’re already seeing social functionality dominate much of what we do online, from shopping, consuming news to listening to music. But how equipped are brands to cope with this uber social future?

Not very! That’s if the results of a recent study we have conducted are correct. For the second year in a row, we’ve taken the fastest growing technology companies in the UK and benchmarked how they are using social media.

We found that, despite an increase in the number of social channels that are being used (and, in particular, a substantial take-up of Facebook amongst B2B companies), the vast majority of the companies we looked at are failing to use these channels to actually be social.

Only 31% of those with a Facebook account used it to engage with users. And of companies that had a blog, only 20% received comments and only one company replied to comments received.

Twitter saw the highest levels of engagement overall. Of the 41 companies with a Twitter account, 68% used it to build relationships with followers. However, on average, only 14% of tweets were replies and 14% were retweets.

Stuck in the one-way push marketing techniques of the past, it seems brands are still largely ignoring the opportunity to use social media for the explicit function that sets it apart.

So what is the answer?

Going back to basics with your social strategy

Anyone tasked with managing social media will be familiar with the feeling when a client or CEO comes and says, ‘I think we need to be doing more on social networks’. The easy answer to this quandary is to set up an account and just start sending out the odd message every now and again. And it seems as though that is exactly what many companies have done.

But, I’d suggest a more strategic approach is needed.

Here are the key questions to ask:

1. What’s the objective?

From customer service and customer engagement to driving sales and media outreach, social media can be used for a vast array of different business tasks. So it’s important to think about which one/s are important to you.

2. How will you build a community?

Having an objective is one thing, but if no one is listening to you, you’ll never achieve it. Building or tapping into a community is therefore an important first step. So find where your audience is, listen to what they are saying and begin to reach out to them.

3. What are you going to say?

Content is key. You could have the best community in the world, but if you’ve got nothing to say, you won’t be able to engage in conversation.

4. Who’s going to manage it?

Deciding who will run and manage your social media activity will again depend on what you are trying to achieve and who your audience is. Invest in training and find the right people – internally and/or externally - for the job.

5. How will you measure success?

As with all types of marketing and PR, if you can’t measure outputs, outcomes and impact, you’ll never know whether it is working. Agreeing metrics in advance and review them on a regular basis to help you work out whether it’s working.

There’s no silver bullet when it comes to social media. It takes a carefully thought through strategy and equally considered execution. Get this right and you’ll be well on your way to capitalise on the social future that is just around the corner.

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Published 7 November, 2011 by Danny Whatmough

Danny Whatmough is Head of Digital, EMEA Consumer at Weber Shandwick. He can be found on TwitterGoogle+  and blogs at dannywhatmough.com.

21 more posts from this author

Comments (8)

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Adi Gaskell

I'm surprised that LinkedIn doesn't come higher, especially for B2B marketers. That would seem a much more fertile market than either Facebook or Twitter.

almost 5 years ago

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Danny Whatmough, Associate social media and digital director at Ketchum

Hi Adi

Linkedin was top - used by 92%, up from 72% last year.

Danny

almost 5 years ago

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Adi Gaskell

Ah, apologies, I skipped the infographic (infographic fatigue) so missed that. Good to see though.

almost 5 years ago

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Colin Millar

A great article and some basic business planning tips in there.

I was particularly interested after reading the opening line and the suggestion that in 5-10 years we'll no longer be referring to it as 'social' media.

I don't think it is truly 'social' media at the moment and not because everything being done is 'social' in nature at the moment. I think these conduits are often used as a platform for 'me' to tell 'you'.

The findings back that up - 14% of tweets are responses everything else is 1 way traffic (even the RT's). That's not a good conversation!

It's just media with the option of 'social' available if you so choose it making the user 'social' and the media remaining media?

almost 5 years ago

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Danny Whatmough, Associate social media and digital director at Ketchum

Yes you are exactly right Colin. Social media isn't being used in a social way at the moment by many brands. However, I do think this will change (there has been an increase in the last 12 months already). It will get to the stage where 'social' functionality becomes a part of the entire fabric of what we do online. Take Facebook's automated sharing features rolled out recently.

almost 5 years ago

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Nick Stamoulis

It always amazes me when I'm speaking with a client about their social media objectives and they can't really define what they are! What other marketing tactic do you use where you don't know what your end game is? Social media marketing needs a solid plan, just like anything else.

almost 5 years ago

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Keith Finger

Nice post. Here's a sixth question: What's your time frame for results? Too many people see social media as a silver bullet, and think that having a company FB page will solve their problems. Like so much in marketing (especially in B2B marketing with long sales cycles), social media takes time to research, plan, implement and evaluate.

almost 5 years ago

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Dan Spring

To me this infographic backups my thinking - majority of brands still don’t get social media.

I can see people unfollowing or unlinking brands in the near future. I know I have. I want dialog and I want a response to my questions. If you can’t provide these services I don’t see the point of creating a social profile.

An example: I sent @Ted_Baker several tweets yesterday commenting on my customer experience (a bad one). I have yet to receive any acknowledgement.

almost 5 years ago

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