Nearly one-fifth of large organizations are still determining their approach to social media, and only about a third say they are proactive in their social customer care. Those are some of the takeaways in a new report, "How Companies Are Supporting the Connected Consumer."

The report, conducted by customer experience professionals firm Execs in The Know with customer care solution provider Digital Roots, establishes an average profile of the Connected Consumer for better visualization. On average, this person is 35 years old and over, has more than US$ 60,000 in annual household income, owns 3 or more smart devices, often uses the major social media networks, and typically researches and then makes purchases online.

Social Owners

While Marketing departments are generally the “owner” of their company's social media -- more than half of those surveyed -- the study found that PR departments are in charge in 28 percent of the responding companies, with 10 percent assigning the responsibility to Customer Care and 10 percent to some other organizational section. But about 35 percent centralize the social customer care management, using personnel often drawn from several departments, including Marketing and Customer Care. Forty-nine percent handle the management within a given department but with cross-functional collaboration, 5 percent manage it in completely independent departments and 11 percent other.

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Over the next year, a plurality of organizations -- 37 percent -- intend to emphasize a more proactive approach toward the Connected Customer, with an increase in the level of activity through the use of better tools and strategies. About one third expect to increase the volume of their social program and coverage through a website, and 16 percent want to increase the integration and standardization of their efforts.

The report pointed out that, “surprisingly,” only 4 percent of organizations are planning to obtain higher levels of quality and consistency. “This could mean,” the study said, “that companies are choosing to get comfortable with social before they get better at social.”

Proactive, Reactive

It’s no surprise that the two leading social sites where companies are currently participating are Facebook and Twitter, by far, with 84 percent of organizations and 80 percent, respectively. Community forums, YouTube and Blogs have participation in the 47 to 51 percent range, LinkedIn scores 41 percent, and others include Q&A sites (28 percent) and Google+ (19 percent).

In the coming year, those sites will be added to by many organizations currently not present, while less than 4 percent intend to venture out and add Pinterest, Dig, Instagram or “the Next Big Thing.”

The report indicates that more large organizations represented in its survey are still in a reactive, listening approach to social media, instead a more active one. Proactive programs, defined as ones that actively search for engagement opportunities, are currently being undertaken only by about 33 percent, while nearly 42 percent say their approach is reactive and 26 percent other.

Mobile Lagging

“As social media continues to expand its role in the everyday lives of consumers,” the report said, “companies that actively seek opportunities will have a leg up on those that take a more passive, reactive approach.” For those that do both, it said, there’s “greater volume” in proactive. Additionally, such metrics as the number of “likes” or “followers” are now being replaced by engagement volume, timeliness, response quality and other measurements.

A lot of these organizations still see mobile social care as a frontier. For instance, the vast majority -- 71 percent -- of the large companies surveyed say they did not have a mobile customer care solution, even as mobile devices have grown in importance for shopping and research of products. Only 27 percent said they did.

The study presented more than 100 questions to over 80 organizations in 20+ industry sectors. Most of the organizations had annual revenues in excess of US$ 750 million and employ large-scale customer care operations.