Jan 15, 2013 (07:01 AM EST)
U.K. Companies Graded For Social Media Use
Read the Original Article at InformationWeek
The study, conducted by U.K. communications agency EML Wildfire and now in its third year, reveals a dip in blogging and use of Facebook over the last 12 months, and widespread failure to exploit the community aspects of social media. Among its findings:
-- Only 83% of B2C companies used Facebook in 2012 compared to 100% in 2010 and 2011.
-- LinkedIn comes out on top, as in previous years. The social network remained the most popular amongst technology companies (98%), followed by Twitter (82%). However, only 22% of businesses on the network advertised job vacancies on their page, despite being a highly used part of the LinkedIn experience.
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-- Engagement levels on Twitter have fallen. Although the use of Twitter for customer service by many major brands continued in 2012, customer engagement among technology companies fell by almost two thirds to 24%.
-- Google+ has struggled to capture companies' interest. Although 42% of the companies studied had Google+ accounts, more than half (57%) of these were no longer active.
-- Blogging in general saw a decline, actively pursued as an activity by just 28% of companies
-- Business-to-consumer brands continued to be more likely to engage with users than business-to-business organizations. Of the B2C companies with a Facebook page, 38% used it to engage with consumers compared to 36% of B2B companies. However, this gap continues to narrow.
Commenting on the dwindling use of Facebook, Danny Whatmough, director of digital strategies at EML Wildfire, said, "Use of social media is maturing and businesses are realizing that, while there are benefits, it is not the silver bullet. As a result there has been a shift in behaviour as companies put more thought into the strategy behind it."
Although consumer-facing sectors, most notably retail, continue to lead in innovation -- most recently experimenting with platforms such as Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr -- many technology companies, especially those with a business-to-business focus, are consolidating their activities in fewer environments.
"Companies are looking at what they want to achieve and then ensuring that everything they do is optimised for these purposes," Whatmough said. He highlighted the example of flight search engine business Skyscanner, which the report ranked top for its use of LinkedIn. "[Skyscanner] has taken the time to think about the target audience to ensure that the content it shares is useful and of interest to the associated communities, such as corporate updates and details of available jobs."
Similar discernment is becoming evident in company blogging, he said. "Fewer companies are doing this now, but those that do are producing better-quality content," Whatmough said. This reflects businesses' desire to promote expertise, knowledge and experience within their organizations, by positioning senior personnel as 'thought leaders', he said.
A significant development that could significantly help lift organizations' profile is the move by Google to provide author rankings in addition to company rankings in its search results. "This will provide an opportunity for individuals to be singled out as experts," Whatmough said. "We expect this to be a major focus in 2013 as companies try to strengthen their perceived credentials in particular areas."
Businesses need to beware of using social media to indiscriminately push out one-way broadcasts, however, he warned. "Too many companies are still using these channels to issue their latest press release or company updates," he said. "If that's your focus you will never benefit from the unique community aspect of social media. If you fail to put out valuable content in context, or to engage with your target audience, you shouldn't be surprised if you're not getting the followers or comments you expected."
Even blogs are too one-way, said Whatmough. "A better way to engage people is to harness Twitter, LinkedIn and increasingly Google+ to share content and start a dialogue directly within a community," he said.
Meeting customers' expectations is important, too, Whatmough saod. That means monitoring social media for mentions of the company and having mechanisms in place to address customer complaints, suggestions and other comments promptly. "Tracking social media for mentions of your company is absolutely crucial," he said. "Reputation is much harder to manage now that everything is online. It only takes one negative tweet from someone influential and a business could find itself in a lot of trouble. Everything moves so fast in the social space that a real-time response is vital. Customers expect this -- if they post a grumble and the company doesn't pick up on it, their experience immediately becomes worse."
Company-wide ownership of social media is essential then. "Social media cannot be treated as a silo," Whatmough said. "It must be tightly integrated right across the business, from marketing, PR and communications through to customer service and IT. No single discipline can own it, but everyone needs input into it."
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