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The value of social media is unquestionable – but there’s still a lot to learn about the extent of that value within the corporate setting. Incite Group’s recently released white paper, The State of Corporate Social Media 2016 offers a revealing look at where businesses’ use of social media is headed.

Social monitoring is being embraced, but there’s still a learning curve

Even as social is becoming a bigger part of corporate strategy – as three-quarters of respondents claim – one surprising finding is 67 percent still feel it’s not being integrated well enough. And that may be partly due to a knowledge gap. The report states “people are in almost universal accord that learning how to use [social] in meaningful ways that get tangible results is what needs to happen next.”

That education may need to reach farther than expected as well. In looking at where social sits within the companies surveyed, social media teams are breaking out of their silos and branching out to share their expertise across more departments. This is great news – but every cook in the kitchen needs to be worth their salt.

There’s something else interesting about where these teams sit and report. An expected 63% of social media teams sit within marketing departments, with 41% reporting to that same department. However, 37% are not under the marketing umbrella, and 59% do not report to marketing.

Broadening the scope of social expectations

This is encouraging – because there’s a lot more businesses and brands can do with social data beyond marketing. Some are realizing this and have started to use social insights to impact product development and commerce. It’s true that “at 22% and 27% respectively, the figures are still pitifully low when viewed in light of their potential significance for corporate growth and their ability to galvanize teams” – but it’s a step in the right direction.

In the meantime, the report shows marketing and employee engagement as the top two uses of social media. Customer insight took the third spot, with just 58 percent of respondents saying it was social’s primary use. This is concerning, because consumer insight and marketing must go hand in hand. Consumer insight is marketing in the current digital environment.

But it’s even more than that. Consumer insight is the heart of social data – and it’s what drives business strategies, not just marketing campaigns. Social listening and consumer sentiment analysis are the tools that show brands they’re on the right track – or not – in all aspects of their business by:

  • Informing on audience adjacencies to extend reach
  • Alerting the C-suite to campaigns in need of course correction
  • Revealing emerging industry and consumer trends that can impact your brand
  • Identifying customer service issues and reputational risks

Reputation preservation was also low on the priority list. Surprising again, but less so when you realize only about 30% said using social media for customer service was important. This is an attitude that requires adjusting. Without social customer service as a priority, small issues can fester and explode – and that’s when reputational damage occurs.

This is why the importance of real-time social listening can’t be overstated. Finding out too late about an ineffective marketing campaign, or a customer complaint gone viral because it was ignored in the early stages, is costly.

The outlook overall is positive

Despite the work that remains to be done, 74% of respondents believe social has “meaningfully changed” things for their company. As businesses realize how much more they can gain by further integrating social into their overall strategies, and when they truly understand why and how they’re getting results, that percentage will increase. I can’t wait to see what next year’s report has to say.

To find out how to integrate social listening across your company, get in touch for a demo of the NetBase platform today.

Image from Andrew K.