Social media is transitioning from a tool used by companies for a limited number of purposes, mostly involving external communication, to an integral part of the business environment, which is transforming the internal dynamics of major corporations, according to a new study by FedEx and Ketchum, titled “From Social Media to Social Business.”
The study is based on quantitative surveys and telephone interviews with a total of 85 executives and communications “thought leaders.” The list includes well-known social media pontificators like Jeremiah Owyang and Brian Solis, and execs from companies including IBM, Southwest Airlines, Bank of America, AT&T, Chevron, G.E., Cisco, and Time Warner Cable. On the executive side, the majority of participants were from large companies: 88% had 2,000 or more employees, and 68% had annual revenues over $2.5 billion.
Overall, the study found that “the impact, value and reach of social tools is expanding beyond the realm of consumer/brand management, and transforming organizations into social businesses. Social tools are increasingly being leveraged inside organizations, impacting internal interactions, culture and structure.”
There is still something of an external/internal divide in how social media is used. On the external side, 69% of execs said increasing brand awareness among clients is a major social media goal, while 68% said they aimed to increase brand awareness among the general public. This is still a work in progress, however, as a somewhat smaller proportion -- 51% -- of execs feel their companies are using social media effectively to strengthen relationships with clients.
Encouragingly, however, 88% of companies monitor online feedback and conversations, and 80% of companies surveyed say they are currently measuring social media, with 84% focused on engagement, 69% on impressions, 53% on influence, and 51% on tone. At the same time, it’s true not everything can necessarily be quantified: 84% also agreed that there are some aspects of marketing that cannot be measured, but are still important.
Internally, 85% of companies surveyed have seen employee participation in social media increase over the last year. In terms of goals, 46% of companies are using social media to strengthen relationships with employees, 44% use it to share expertise and foster collaboration, and 38% use it to increase employee participation in programs or initiatives. 64% of execs said their companies’ communications, marketing, or HR teams have changed the way they practice as a result of social media.
Of course the growing role of social media, both internally and externally, is also raising concerns: 27% of companies are more concerned about transparency issues, including employee privacy, legal and compliance issues, and addressing misinformation that appears on the Web (and lingers even after the correct information has been disseminated).