If social media is so big and booming and awesome, why are companies still struggling to effectively make use of it?

The Access Communications surveyed 80 senior-level corporate communicators at companies with annual revenues of US$ 2 million to more than US$ 100 billion. Areas of expertise brought to the table by these companies ranged all the way from finance to technology to retail.

The two key findings aren't surprising:

  • 87%  expect social media to significantly or dramatically change how corporate communications teams communicate with target audiences
  • 89% intend to increase their investment in social media in the coming year

Obviously the need/want for a voice on social media solutions is not only prevalent, but poised to grow even bigger within the coming months. So why do keep hitting a brick wall? "One of the major obstacles communicators face in the adoption and usage of social media is a lack of understanding among internal stakeholders within their organizations," wrote Brian T. Regan, GM New York, and Access Point's Senior VP, Michael B. Young. "Most feel they have mastered the social media basics (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn) and are seeking to take social to the next level."

Old Habits Die Hard

For some perspective, let's reflect back on this same sitch last year. Amber Naslund was asked in an episode of SocialMediasphere.tv what would she look for if she had to replace herself as the Director of Communications at Radian6.

"I actually probably don't want somebody with a communications background," she said. "...the truth is there's a lot of preconceived notions in corporate communications that are very, very difficult to undo, and part of the reason that social media is struggling for adoption inside established companies is that they're having trouble jettisoning old ideas about how and what to communicate to their customers."

And the blame doesn't just fall on wrongful Twitter and Facebook users, either. Another report from last year indicated that bloggers are no better: “Few Australian blogs are getting the full benefit of publishing a blog and instead seem to have simply ticked the blog box as part of some PR / marketing checklist,” said Salinet Point co-founder Ben Dunscombe.

It's a bit disturbing to hear that companies like Access Point are finding the same problem a whole year later-- especially during an era where things often change dramatically at the blink of an eye. 

"It's not the communications background that's the trouble," offered Naslund. "What's at issue is the mind-set: The idea that old ideas can and should be challenged, and sometimes changed. Not blindly holding on to the ideas behind traditional communications simply because they're established."

The Next Level

If the next level for employees is to change their mind-set (enter successful community mangers) the million dollar question, then, is: What is the next level of social media?

Accordingly, the Web's two most ubiquitous platforms have upped their game in recent times. Twitter recently rolled out several new options for advertisers, including Promoted Tweets which Twitter tracks a user's interests. Meanwhile, Facebook unleashed Groups, a feature woven into the Graph API that allows users to engage in an open forum with others that share their interests. The tight integration means apps can make use of Groups for handy concepts like presence management and feed filtering.

But let's get away from the popular pool and the typical disposition. A voice is more than about how many followers or likes you have, isn't it? Let us know in the comments below which lesser known methods and tools you use to communication with your audience and why.