A new report from Altimeter Group warns companies and brands about being overwhelmed by the proliferation of social media. The study found global corporations are now struggling to manage an average of 178 business-related social media accounts, spanning Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Foursquare, among others.
It draws on input from 144 companies surveyed during the second quarter of 2011.
“Beyond coordination challenges, unchecked accounts and disparate customer interactions expose brands to a host of legal, compliance and fragmented brand-perception risks,” stated the report, authored by Altimeter analyst Jeremiah Owyang.
Social media has often been harnessed haphazardly for marketing, sales, customer support and product development. While 70% of businesses said social media efforts met company objectives, only 43% had a formal strategy to address how social will meet specific business goals.
Digitas’ Ken Burbury was quoted in the report comparing the deluge of social media to content management during an earlier Internet era. “With properties exposed, companies struggled to manage distribution of content. But now, it’s exacerbated at a scale CMS didn’t have to deal with,” he said. Companies typically oversee 39 Twitter accounts, 32 blogs, 30 Facebook pages and 29 LinkedIn accounts.
But only one-quarter (26%) of corporations offer social media education to rank-and-file employees, leaving employees ill-prepared to deal with customers. The study also found the profusion of social accounts has made it difficult to create a uniform customer experience across different tools. Less than half the companies surveyed had a coordinated approach to social media.
“At one large company we talked to, more than a quarter of social accounts had been spammed or abandoned: 50% were fledgling or slowly growing, and only the last quarter was deemed 'mature.' with sustained customer engagement and consistent content,” noted Altimeter.
What’s a brand to do to escape the social-media morass?
To help managers tailor social strategy to business needs, it lays out five use cases for social media: intense engagement (for companies that have to respond to high volume of customer posts); social broadcasting, or publishing marketing content and other media; platform campaign marketing, in the form of custom features and applications; distributed brand presence, for companies with multiple brands; and tailored customizations, required by high-end or highly regulated entities.
The report also turns a cold eye on vendors that have emerged selling expertise in social media management. Despite their claims, there is no single vendor that can satisfy all the needs of a large client. Among the 30 or so companies in this group, many are indistinguishable and lack full capabilities, especially when it comes to analytics. This has created an opening for agencies to push into the social-media space.
Among vendors spotlighted in the study for different use cases were Attensity, Shoutlet, Buddy Media, HooteSuite, One to One Global and Hearsay Social.