Social media strategies start to mature

16 July 2012

NEW YORK: Major brand owners are taking an increasingly dynamic approach to using social media, reflecting their evolving priorities in this space, a report has revealed.

FedEx, the delivery group, and Ketchum, the communications firm, polled 55 major corporations, and conducted 24 follow-up interviews with companies like Cisco, IBM, Procter & Gamble and Xerox.

In all, 69% of firms used social media to build brand awareness with clients, as did 68% with consumers. Another 52% enhanced relationships with the public via this route, hitting 51% for clients. Some 44% encouraged employee interaction in the same way.

"The rise of social media is both the biggest business communications challenge and opportunity in decades," said Bill Margaritis, senior vice president of global communications and investor relations at FedEx.

Nearly 90% of businesses now use, or plan to use, social sites to engage stakeholders outside their home region. Some 80% of organisations doing so today adapt their approach by market, and 73% rely on local teams or agencies to run country-specific strategies.

"The content is 50% US and 50% international. We help feed it to their platforms, but we rely on the regions' expertise because we don't have the specific on-the-ground knowledge that they have in their countries and theatres," said John Earnhardt, Cisco's director of corporate communications.

Currently, 80% of brands owners track social media effectiveness. Of these, 84% monitor engagement and 69% look at impressions, while 53% leverage influence metrics and 51% assess the tone of buzz.

"Lots of free tools exist, but they can't take you very far. We are moving towards getting social business intelligence at the touch of a button," said Frank Helmert, AON's VP, global interactive marketing.

More broadly, 88% of corporations monitor online feedback and conversations, but 84% thought some aspects of marketing "cannot be measured".

A desire for more concrete data was also common. "I think all of us would love to see some more direct evidence of social media on ratings," said Gayle Weiswasser, vice president, social media, at Discovery Communications.

Elsewhere, 64% of communications, marketing or human resources teams had changed due to the advent of "social business". In demonstration of this, only 38% of firms now had a central social media model, while 48% leveraged a "matrix" approach."

"We see the digital team as a force for integration. There will always be people who crave ownership, but to say you declare ownership over social ... well, then you can just manage a Twitter feed. No one can 'own' this capability," said Ethan McCarty, senior manager, digital and social strategy at IBM.

Data sourced from FedEx; additional content by Warc staff