NEW YORK: Marketers must develop a new "skill set" to thrive in the social media era, with General Motors and Ford among the firms showing how this can be achieved.
Ketchum, the agency, and FedEx, the courier company, surveyed 62 major corporations such as AT&T, Kraft, The Home Depot, Mars, Philips, Procter & Gamble and Sears.
They found all contributors were active on at least one form of social media, with aims such as generating word of mouth, strengthening brand loyalty, providing after-sales service and educating stakeholders.
Twitter held sway regarding customer care and media relations, while Facebook and YouTube were preferred for building loyalty and sharing information.
However, just 10% of companies had assumed "leadership", embedding social media in all communications, regularly integrating new tools and constructing specialist in-house teams containing a minimum of three staff.
A further 75% "participate", using channels like Twitter in some commercial output, following early-adopters onto emerging platforms, and modifying job roles or hiring a dedicated employee or agency.
The remaining 15% are "observers", occasionally leveraging social media and seeking to understand the landscape, often relying on agencies as an expert counsel.
Most of the best-performing organisations were from consumer-facing industries, and typically began by listening and collaborating, before pursuing experimentation, assessment and tactical refinement.
Managing cross-functional departments covering advertising, marketing, customer service and human resources is also essential.
Meanwhile, ensuring transparency, authenticity and ongoing participation, as well as conversation, entertainment and encouraging interest through "sneak peaks", are important.
General Motors was said to have used social media effectively in recovering from bankruptcy protection and has trained thousands of employees in this area.
"Whether you're doing social, whether you're doing marketing, whether you're doing digital, whether you're doing communication, at some point that all kind of blends," said Christopher Barger, GM's global director, social media.
"I think it's going to be a lot harder to define where those lines are and which percentage of budgets are going where."
Elsewhere, Doritos asked Canadian Facebook users to name a new flavour and create a 30-second ad, offering a cash prize and 1% of resulting revenues.
It secured 75,000 entries, 14.5m page views, 2.1m video impressions and 900,000 Facebook visitors in two months, doubling sales during that time.
Ford's Fiesta Movement gave 100 influential netizens a car to drive for six months, drawing 6.5m YouTube hits, 3.7m exposures on Twitter, and helped stimulate 10,000 purchases in the six days after launch.
"With the Fiesta Movement in the US, we built a community through a mix of digital and face-to-face experiences and then paid attention to it," said Jim Farley, Ford's vp, global marketing.
"We probably didn't even need to spend any money on traditional media, the movement was so successful."
Some 40% of responding firms have also assembled intranets boasting social media features, 50% hoped to do so in the next two years, and 10% had no such intention.
General Electric's internal service for marketing staff has yielded several benefits thus far, said Steve Liguori, GE's executive director, global marketing.
"MarkNet became the go-to place for people to develop skills and share best practices," he argued.
"The MarkNet platform connects GE marketers, regardless of region or business, by the specific work they do."
Data sourced from FedEx, eMarketer, Forbes; additional content by Warc staff