Social Media Will Be Primary Channel for Engaging Customers, CEOs Predict

Social media will be the most important technology channel used by companies to engage with their customers within three to five years, according to a survey of 1,700 CEOs from around the world conducted by IBM. Currently just 16% of companies use social media as their primary means of interacting with customers, but that proportion will rise to 57% three to five years from now.

That increase will put social media ahead of Web sites, call centers, and traditional media. Over the same time period, CEOs see Web site utilization increasing from 47% to 55%, while call center utilization will drop from 40% to 31%, and utilization of traditional media will plunge from 39% to 15%. The only channel outranking social media is face-to-face and sales representatives, although this too will drop from 80% today to 67% three to five years from now.

The rise of social media as a channel for customer interaction goes hand in hand with growing concern among CEOs about gathering customer and market insights. According to IBM, 72% of CEOS surveyed said they need to improve understanding of customer needs, and the same proportion want to improve their response time to market needs. Meanwhile 66% said customer relationships are a key source of economic value for their companies.

Towards that end, 73% of CEOs surveyed said they are making significant investments in their organizations’ ability to draw meaningful customer insights from available data. The proportion is even higher in some industries – 86% in electronics, 80% for automotives, and 78% in both media and entertainment and consumer products.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that companies are doing a good job gathering customer insights: currently only 25% of CEOs identified their companies’ capabilities surrounding data access and data-driven insights as a key source of economic value. The IBM report quoted one North American consumer products CEO as saying: “We have lots of data, but only 10 percent of it is useful information. And even within that 10 percent, we are not using it effectively.” And an insurance CEO from Hong Kong remarked that “Initially, it feels like you’re drinking from a fire hose.”

4 comments about "Social Media Will Be Primary Channel for Engaging Customers, CEOs Predict".
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  1. Robert Gilmour from Innfinite Hospitality Ltd, January 17, 2013 at 6:47 a.m.

    Really a bit of a no brainer this.

    But have they (CEO's) thought about how they'll manage it, how much will it cost, &c and the effect on and change required to corporate strategy?

    If you say it quickly, it sounds fine!

  2. Steven Arsenault from, January 17, 2013 at 11:09 a.m.

    Engaging in social media is now a business reality not just a 'laughed out of the board room event' (been there). Businesses and organizations will now start taking steps to align, manage and measure the effectiveness of their content distribution from all their departments and stakeholders using a holistic approach to attract value back to their branded web presence while engaging in the so many ways with their customers.

  3. Robert Gilmour from Innfinite Hospitality Ltd, January 18, 2013 at 8:29 a.m.

    Partially right, not always. In my industry, hotels and travel, where budgets are very tight right now and priority decisions must be made, mobile takes it over social media by miles - problem is hotels are wasting a lot of time trying to do social, and ignoring mobile - totally wrong call and plain stupid in the priority order. 'Social' as everyone now calls it (but never really defines it) is not a compulsory, but a horses for courses strategy, and MUST be justified commercially

  4. Anil Jaising from EkoBuzz Inc, January 18, 2013 at 10:16 a.m.

    A lot of B2B companies are asking us, how to leverage social media effectively. I do agree with this post. Social media will become a customer service portal for all companies and serve as an effective external facing communication tool to bolster the company brand

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