HBR Covers Social Media, The Results: Companies Still Don’t Get It

In a great whitepaper released by the Harvard Business Review there are some staggering facts about social media adoption in the 2100 companies they surveyed.

  • Three-quarters (75%) of the companies in the survey said they did not know where their most valuable customers were talking about them.
  • Nearly one-third (31%) do not measure effectiveness of social media.
  • Less than one-quarter (23%) are using social media analytic tools.
  • A fraction (7%) of participating companies are able to integrate social media into their marketing activities

Only a small group — 12 percent — of the companies in the survey said they felt they were currently effective users of social media. These were the companies most likely to deploy multiple channels, use metrics, have a  strategy for social media use, and integrate their social media into their overall marketing operations. 

Let’s dig into those sentences a little closer. First up, of the 2100 companies surveyed about 250 said they were doing social media effectively. Without knowing the companies surveyed this is tough to analyze although I’m shocked they found 250 companies that think they are doing social media right, I can only think of a few companies that are really doing it at the same level they do their other marketing activities at. The second sentence is the key here, essentially these companies are giving social media the considerations they give to TV, display, and other forms of marketing, why though is this worth a HBR whitepaper? Is it not understood that for something to be effective it needs to be well thought out, integrated into the operations, measured, and refined just like any other marketing activity?

…the majority of these companies also said they were still struggling with how to best use the different channels, gauge their effectiveness, and integrate social media into their strategies. Two-thirds of users have no formalized social media strategy in place. Sixty-one percent reported a significant learning curve before they can truly utilize social media. Many companies reported they are still searching to find the best way to demonstrate the impact of social media and the contribution to the bottom line.

The majority of the companies are struggling with social media entirely, is what this starts out saying and then gets into the specifics of their issues. The reality is these companies are struggling with shifting their marketing paradigm from an antiquated “shout marketing” strategy to understanding that conversations are the basis of social media success.

I understand that previously marketing was “let me tell you how much you need what I have” and any backlash was kept within small spheres, but now everyone has a social media soapbox to stand on, the key is to monitor and respond appropriately.

I recently found the Air Force Rules of Engagement for Bloggers and it is a great simple flow chart for managing responding to bloggers. It not only tells you when to respond but how to respond. How is something so simple so difficult for companies to understand?

According to the HBR whitepaper, “for many companies the most pressing challenges with social media are in understanding the potential to make a difference in their business, measuring its effectiveness, and aligning social media activities to an impact on company financials.”

You want to see the difference in your business? You want to see the impact on financials? Stop playing the chicken/egg game. People thought the same thing about all forms of marketing – why spend $1m on a TV spot unless I know I will see return, then someone had the audacity to take a risk and do it, now it’s standard. Take a (small) risk and give social media the same effort you give your other marketing and you will see the difference in your business, you will see the impact on your financials.

There are tons of gems in the whitepaper that I could go into but at the end of the day what needs to be understood is that social media is like all other forms of marketing, you have to approach it strategically and systematically. Create a plan, fold it into the rest of your operations, measure it and refine it. Sure the nuances are different than your other channels, but print advertising and TV spots are different in their execution – just not their approach.

You can find the whitepaper here. And the Air Force Rules Of Engagement for Blogging here.