Social media has diverse role

24 November 2011

NEW YORK: Brand owners around the world are adopting a wide range of social media technologies but only a small number can claim to be "fully networked", according to a study by McKinsey.

The consultancy polled 4,261 executives globally, and discovered that 50% of the firms represented now have an official presence on the networks, up from 40% in 2010.

Official blogs logged 41% in terms of uptake, ahead of video-sharing sites like YouTube on 38% and microblogging platforms, including Twitter, on 23%, all of which recorded growth year on year.

Adoption rates proved strongest in the high tech and telecoms sector on 86%, with business services on 77%, pharma companies on 74% and retailers on 69%, according to the study.

When discussing the in-house benefits of deploying such tools, 74% of contributors agreed it was quicker to access knowledge, 58% cited lower communications costs and 51% suggested it was easier to tap internal experts.

Focusing on client-facing activities, 69% of the sample pointed to greater marketing effectiveness, 47% reported higher customer satisfaction and 43% said that marketing spend was lower as a result.

Currently, 78% of companies are still "developing" when it comes to deriving an advantage from their social activities, 12% are enjoying meaningful improvements on client-based metrics and 7% have mainly seen in-house benefits.

A modest 3% of operators were considered to be "fully networked", or exploiting the complete range of favourable outcomes following on from leveraging social properties.

McKinsey also revealed there were "statistically significant correlations" between self-reported corporate performance and implementing two core business practices in this area.

The first was using these mediums to "scan the external environment", pursued by 75% of firms on at least one platform, peaking at 40% for social networks, 29% for blogs and 13% for microblogs.

But the second such discipline, "matching staff to set tasks", was much less widespread on 29%. Other common uses of social sites were finding new ideas on 73%, and managing projects on 55%.

Looking ahead five years, 35% of the panel said boundaries between employees and customers would blur, 32% thought data will become more important to decision-making, and 27% predicted organisational structures could flatten out.

Data sourced from McKinsey; additional content by Warc staff