Only just over a fifth of organisations have embraced social media as a core part of their communications strategy because they are unsure how to prove return on investment cases, measure value or even how to employ it.
The study found that social media played a key role in the marketing campaigns of a mere 22% of companies, although a further 20% indicated that it currently played some role in most of their activities. Another 23.5% said that they tended to use such services on an ad hoc basis, while 27% of respondents had undertaken trials.
Although about a third planned to allocate between six and 20% of their digital marketing budgets to social media over the year compared with only 14% last year, 7% said that they had not touched such technology at all.
The main challenge in the social media context, according to almost three quarters of respondents, was in proving that it could generate a ROI. Another 64% said that measuring value was a problem, while 57% felt that they needed more education on how best to use such offerings.
A mix of skills
There was also uncertainty as to where social media activity should sit within the business. While three quarters of those questioned felt it should reside within the marketing department, a third felt it fitted best within the PR function. Some 12% felt that researchers should have responsibility for it, 16% customer services and 7%, IT.
Simon Rutherford, former head of digital at Toyota who is in the process of setting up a social media agency, said: "Social media has the potential to confuse organisations because it requires a mix of skills, which have traditionally been exclusively contained within individual departments."
It would differ from organisation to organisation as to whether they should set up a new dedicated team or re-skill staff but keep them in individual departments. But it was important to clarify current strengths wherever they were located and map them to requirements, not least in order to establish skills gaps so that expertise could be hired in from outside, he added.
Among those organisations currently using social media, meanwhile, the most popular application was as a tool to help boost brand awareness (77%). Three quarters had used such services to drive engagement or for advocacy purposes, while 60% had employed them to undertake market research. About half had also used the technology to try and increase product sales.
Twitter and social media monitoring tools were the most popular offerings, however, with just over half of brands citing them as very important. Other appealing services included Facebook (47%) and own-branded communities (39%), but 27% of respondents were unaware of what such terms as crowd-sourcing meant.