Thursday 10 November, 2011

Companies have moved from experimentation with social media marketing to a range of activities which are more likely to be integrated with other marketing channels and across business functions, according to research published today.

The State of Social Report 2011, in partnership with LBi and bigmouthmedia, found that almost two thirds (64%) of companies say they are now beyond the experimental phase compared to 54% a year ago. The report is based on an online survey of more than 1,000 businesses carried out in September and October 2011.

Since last year, companies surveyed are much more likely to be using Facebook and Twitter for a range of different purposes, including for marketing and publishing new content but increasingly for customer service and getting customer feedback and market intelligence.

More than half of company respondents (52%) say their organisations use Facebook for reacting to customer issues and inquiries compared to only 29% last year. Similarly, 50% of companies now 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.

Econsultancy's Research Manager, Aliya Zaidi, said: “The findings show a change in social media focus. In the last year, more companies have set up a presence on social media channels and in some cases, social media has become a priority as organisations have started to see the potential benefits.”

She added: “There has been a marked increase in the number of companies using social networks for a range of business functions, including a step change in the extent to which organisations are using Facebook and Twitter for customer service and gathering customer feedback.

“Where previously the focus for companies was on getting started with social media, more marketers are now focused on optimising their social media strategies by heightening engagement and listening and responding more effectively across social media channels.”

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

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 research has found that the vast majority of companies surveyed are using 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.

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

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.”

Other findings:

- More companies than last year are integrating social media activity with other channels such as email marketing (up from 76% to 80% of businesses), print media (up from 21% to 32%) and mobile marketing (from 9% to 16%).

- Despite social media heading towards maturity, 60% of organisations have not yet implemented internal social media training and governance models. Although social media is becoming an important part of the organisation’s marketing toolkit, there is an on-going need for more formal social media processes and policies.

- It is clear that many companies still have a lot to learn. Apart from use of Twitter, less than a third of companies say they are doing ‘well’ at a range of social media-related activities, including listening and monitoring, engaging customers in dialogue, having a content strategy and working with bloggers and influencers.

- Another recurring trend is the difficulty with measurement, but it is encouraging that significantly fewer marketers now say they are unable to measure. When asked to describe the value from social media, some 37% of companies report they are unable to measure, compared to 47% in 2010.

- Organisations are using a wide range of different types of content in their social media marketing. Over half of organisations (57%) have a company blog as part of their social media activity, while 55% have used video.

- While there is much room for improvement, more companies are reporting they do social media well, an indication that businesses are becoming more confident about best practice and increasingly familiar with how to optimise social media activity. Over a third of companies (37%) now report they use Twitter well, compared to 27% last year. Over a quarter (27%) report they are using Facebook well.

- The main use of Facebook is as a marketing channel. Two-thirds of respondents (67%) cited this last year, compared to three-quarters (75%) in 2011. Over three-quarters of respondents (77%) now use Twitter as a marketing channel.

- Over half companies (56%) feel that their organisation has not moved quickly enough on Google+, while 16% say their organisation has moved quickly enough.

Get this report:

The State of Social Report 2011 supersedes the Econsultancy / bigmouthmedia Social Media and Online PR Report, published in 2010 and 2009.

The full 2011 report is available to Econsultancy subscribers here:

http://econsultancy.com/reports/state-of-social

For more information about this report, contact:

Aliya Zaidi, Research Manager, Econsultancy

aliya.zaidi AT econsultancy.com

+44 (0) 207 269 1450

About Econsultancy

Econsultancy is a digital publishing and training group used by more than 200,000 Internet professionals every month. Econsultancy has offices in New York and London, and hosts more than 100 events every year in the US and UK. Many of the world’s most famous brands use Econsultancy to educate and train their staff

About LBi and bigmouthmedia

LBi is a global marketing and technology agency, expert at blending strategic, creative, media and technical expertise to build business value. We help companies of all shapes and sizes decide what’s next for their business - and then we take them there.

Along with our media arm bigmouthmedia we define and execute transformational digital strategies for clients including BT, Coca-Cola E.ON, Lloyds TSB, Play.com, SAB Miller and Virgin Atlantic. Across our 24 offices in 16 countries, there are more than 1,900 digital specialists collaborating with brands to enrich people’s lives via service design, branded content, mobile, CRM and social media.

We also set the pace in digital display, search, affiliate marketing, usability and analytics. There are many things that make LBi unique, but if we had to choose one it would be our ability to bring together diverse teams of experts to suit any brief. We call this blending, and it’s the reason why all types of organisations – from famous global businesses to disruptive start-ups – choose LBi to help make their brands desirable wherever, whenever and however people choose to engage with them.

Published on: 5:03PM on 10th November 2011