The New Conversation
The exponential growth of social media, from blogs, Facebook and Twitter to LinkedIn and YouTube, offers organizations the chance to join a conversation with millions of customers around the globe every day. This promise is why nearly two-thirds of the 2,100 companies who participated in a survey by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services said they are either currently using social media channels or have social media plans in the works. But many still say social media is an experiment, as they try to understand how to best use the different channels, gauge their effectiveness, and integrate social media into their strategy. Despite the vast potential social media brings, many companies seem focused on social media activity primarily as a one-way promotional channel, and have yet to capitalize on the ability to not only listen to, but analyze, consumer conversations and turn the information into insights that impact the bottom line. For instance: 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. While still searching for best practice and measurements, two-thirds of the companies surveyed are convinced their use of social media will grow, and many anticipate investing more in it next year, even as spending in traditional media declines. 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. Clearly, most companies are still searching for the best practices and metrics so they can understand where to invest and target their social media activities and build their own competitive advantage. It will take those new tools and strategies to create what Avinash Kaushik, Google's Analytics Evangelist, describes as a new reality in harnessing the power of social media. "Too many companies have not evolved from what I call 'shout marketing' - think TV, newspapers, magazine ads - to influence by initiating and participating in conversations with consumers," he said. "There needs to be a generational shift."