Most companies are planning to invest more in social media next year but are struggling to find the time and resources to manage their activity, according to research published today.

The Social Media and Online PR Report, published by Econsultancy in association with bigmouthmedia, is based on a survey of more than 1,100 companies and agencies.

The research is the most comprehensive study of its kind around how companies are using online PR tactics and social media (including sites such as Twitter and Facebook) for marketing and customer service.

According to the report, the overwhelming majority of companies (86%) plan to spend more money on social media in 2010, and a further 13% are planning to keep the same level of budget.

The biggest barrier to better social media engagement for companies surveyed is a lack of resources, with more than half of companies (54%) citing this as a significant problem. Nine out of 10 businesses (90%) say that social media is taking up more time internally than a year ago.

“The growth of social media and online PR has been meteoric, but until now there have been very few hard facts available on precisely how UK business is using the new channel and what they’re getting in return for their investment,” said Phil Gripton, Managing Director of bigmouthmedia UK.

“These statistics - the most detailed yet available - show that while an increasing number of companies are embracing social media, many are struggling to effectively manage their engagement and are consequently failing to make the most of a potentially enormous opportunity.”

The research found that many companies are experimenting with social media without yet reaping any measurable benefits.

Only a quarter of companies say that they have gained “real, tangible value” from social media whereas 60% say that they have gained “some benefit but nothing concrete”.

However, those companies who have made an effort in this area have typically reaped some reward. More than half (52%) of responding companies who are heavily involved say that they have gained real value, compared to only 13% of companies who have “experimented but not done much”.

Michelle Goodall, Econsultancy’s social media and online PR consultant, said: “Before they think about their strategy and the best tactics, companies need to go back to basics and think in detail about how online PR and social media can help them deliver against their business objectives.

“The reality is that most businesses understand how to listen, what to measure and where to engage but are struggling to define the value of engagement and reputation in social spaces.”

Companies were also asked in detail about their use of Twitter.

The majority of organisations (62%) are using the micro-blogging site for publicising new content. Approximately half are using the channel for marketing (54%) or brand monitoring (47%).

Only 27% of companies are using Twitter as a customer service tool for reacting to issues and inquiries. A similar percentage (25%) say they use Twitter as a customer feedback tool.

There is a mixed view of the benefits of Twitter, with almost a third of respondents (31%) saying that there are “tremendous opportunities” available, but exactly half reporting that their companies are “open-minded but not fully convinced about the value to the business”. Some 7% say their organisation feel that Twitter is over-hyped and a fad.

The full Econsultancy / bigmouthmedia Social Media and Online PR Report is available for download here:

Journalists and bloggers can email or call Econsultancy’s Research Director, Linus Gregoriadis, for a complimentary copy of the report and / or further information.

Email: linus AT
Tel: + 44 (0) 207 269 1465 / 07956 564713

For bigmouthmedia contact Iain Bruce @ Revolver PR +44 (0) 141 339 4175

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About bigmouthmedia
Founded in 1997, bigmouthmedia is Europe's largest and most experienced independent digital marketing agency, rated the UK’s #1 Search agency for SEO and PPC in the 2009 NMA Marketing Services Guide. Over the last 10 years we have successfully built an innovative portfolio of integrated and standalone digital marketing products leveraged to offer our clients maximum ROI.

Published on: 4:18PM on 25th November 2009