More than 90% of companies now have at least one staff member with “social media” as part of their job description. Nearly 60% have at least four employees who use social media professionally. Those takeaways in a new report on the State of Corporate Social Media, from the Useful Social Media group, give some idea of social media’s penetration into company culture.
The report said that the professional use of social media by employees, even when it is a not a key part of their job, shows that the journey toward becoming a “social business” is organic rather than top-down in many companies. In other words, social media has become a useful tool, even for those who are not specialists or who are not told to use it.
Interestingly, the study found that this kind of social media use-as-tool is somewhat higher among B2B companies than for B2C, suggesting that social communication with vendors or corporate customers is really taking hold.
Rise in Teamwork
Marketing departments are most often the owners of social media, although Useful Social Media notes that “the dictatorship is weakening.” In the 2012 report, 57% of corporate social media experts were based in Marketing departments, but only 51% in the 2013 study were.
Another indicator -- 18% of social media experts now report directly to the CEO, an increase from the 14% in last year’s report.
Again, there is a discrepancy between companies that primarily sell to businesses, and those that primarily sell to consumers. In B2B companies, 60% of social media experts report to the head of Marketing, while only 43% do so in B2C. Only 15% of social media executives report to the board or the CEO in B2Bs but 28% do in B2Cs. This data suggests that B2C companies are further along in seeing the overall corporate value of social media.
That value includes an increase in teamwork, as well as a reduction in silos, which the report attributes to social media adoption. The study cites one respondent, who said that social media had required “several of our divisions to take a more collaborative approach.”
But there are indications that the impact could be even larger than that. The report said that companies are being required by the use of social media to “re-think how, when, where and why they communicate with their customers.” The consumer, the authors said, now “expects social proficiency and one-to-one communication.”
Although Marketing has been king of social media, social channels’ utility is leading to a growth of its use in other departments. The key beneficiary, according to the report, is Customer Service, with an impressive 53% of surveyed companies adding social media elements to their Customer Service efforts. For Customer Service, social media can show the company’s responsiveness, help share positive and brand-reinforcing stories and help spot issues that are bubbling up.
Again, there’s a B2C/B2B discrepancy. Fifty percent of B2Cs use social media for customer service, while only 36% of B2Bs do.
Another big area of usefulness is what the study calls “reputation preservation and crisis communications.” Echoing another recent study that advised companies to use social media to build an army of brand advocates who could carry the ball in good times and go to bat for the brand when there’s a crisis, Useful Social Media points out that social media can help companies in the new environment, when Marketing or Communications departments are only one voice in the conversation.
Overall, the report paints a picture of social media moving past its initial, wary adoption phase and steadily becoming part of companies as it proves its usefulness. One key area for improvement however is metrics, where such flawed measurements as “increasing follower numbers” are still being emphasized. But, as they say, Rome wasn't socialized in a day.