As companies become aware of the value of social media, more than ever they are using social media platforms. Despite their best efforts, however, recent studies suggest that at the corporate level, companies are still struggling to take full advantage of the ways that social media can engage customers, promote their brand and provide valuable feedback for the way ahead.

More Social Media Usage

According to The Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, who recently compared the adoption of social media among the 2010 Inc. 500 with previous years, more corporations on the list became increasingly familiar with and used social media more in the past 12 months. (It’s worth noting that only 171 or 34% of the Inc. 500 participated in the study.) The study also noted shifts in the types of industries using social media, most notably Government Services and Financial Services.

Because social media is such a broad term, the study aimed to narrow in on what tools and platforms corporations were specifically using. They found that:

  • Fifty percent of the 2010 Inc. 500 have a corporate blog (up from 45% in 2009 and 39% in 2008)
  • Forty-four percent say Facebook is the single most effective social networking platform they use (It’s also the tool that most (87%) are most familiar with)
  • Fifty-nine percent use Twitter for their business

As for what purpose they are using Facebook, Twitter and blogs, the study reported that

  • Fifty-seven percent report using search engines and social networking sites to recruit and evaluate potential employees.
  • Most companies indicated that their blog aimed to engage consumers through accepting and replying to comments and providing a vehicle for subscriptions.
  • Companies noted that social media is not only used for communication between business and consumers, but for communicating with vendors and partners as well.

Fewer Social Media Benefits

While this study suggests that companies are adopting social media usage more than ever before, another study indicates that some companies may be missing out on the direct benefits that social media provides. The Harvard Business Review Analytics Services released a study that examined the impact of social media (PDF) by organizations. What it found was that most companies are not using social media as a way to monitor the voice of their customers. Specifically:

  • Seventy-five percent of the companies surveyed said they didn’t know where their most valuable customers were talking about them.
  • Twenty-three percent indicated that they use social media analytic tools, while 31% said that they do not measure the effectiveness of their social media efforts.
  • Seven percent reported that they have integrated social media into their marketing activities.

Clearly, there is a significant gap between using social media and benefiting from social media at the corporate level. Both studies indicated that most companies plan to expand both their use of social media and the budgets used to support it over the next few years. Despite their best intentions, many companies have not shifted the way they think about social media.

The Harvard Business Review researchers suggest that a “shift in thinking about marketing and the measures of success” is necessary if companies are serious about implementing social media initiatives. Those who are most effective will be those who take the time to experiment, measure and re-evaluate their social media efforts as it relates to their customers, employees and partners.