Social Media a High Priority for German Companies
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

Social Media a High Priority for German Companies

Social media rank high on the agenda for German corporations, in communications departments and beyond, but many companies face challenges in dealing with the new information channels, according to a new report.

Paul Holmes

Social media rank high on the agenda for German corporations, in communications departments and beyond, but many companies face challenges in dealing with the new information channels, according to a new report, Social Media Governance: How companies, The Public Sector, and NGOs Handle the Challenges of Transparent Communication on the Internet, produced by German public relations firm Fink & Fuchs in partnership with the University of Leipzig and Pressesprecher magazine.


The survey found that hile 54 percent of the surveyed organizations already utilize social media, so far only 16 percent have done the necessary groundwork to estrablish strategic measures for good social media governance.


The survey found that social media are generally considered to be relevant for the future design of corporate communications, with enthusiasm for the role of social media increasing significantly in line with social media expertise. Social media are seen by most respondents— communications professionals from joint-stock companies, private enterprises, government institutions, associations, and NGOs—as a strategic component of communications, either as an additional channel within the media mix, a driving force for change, or as a key to a paradigm change in corporate communications.

Social media are particularly well-suited for the quick dissemination of information, respondents say: 82 percent of participants considered this to be their major advantage, followed by improved services and customer loyalty (46 percent). The most frequently stated risks of social media can be summed up under the heading of "loss of control." Most frequently stated were difficulties in controlling communication processes (66 percent), and the need for rapid response (64 percent).


Currently, one in two organizations utilizes social media for communication activities. Just under half of these have only become active within the past 12 months, a further 41 percent more than one year ago, and only 11 percent have more than three years of practical experience in the area. The most frequently applied tools are video sharing, microblogging and blogging; the most popular communities are Facebook, Xing and own social networks on the intranet/extranet.

A survey of the social media applications in public relations departments showed similar results: 31 percent of PR professionals in Germany operate official Facebook profiles or pages, while another 21 percent plan to do so by the end of 2010. One in four PR departments already uses Twitter and one in five includes social media elements in the corporate website. However, the use of corporate blogs (11 percent) and social media newsrooms (5 percent) remains rare.


Other interesting findings:

·         The best prepared when it comes to social media are joint-stock companies (37 percent) and non-profit organizations (46 percent). The majority of these have been active from one to three years in Facebook, Twitter and other interactive platforms.

·         Respondents evaluated their own social media skills to be low (41 percent) or medium (42 percent). The most deficits were stated to be in the areas of technical expertise, evaluation, strategic development, and the management of web communities.
The list of departments utilizing social media is topped by communication departments (46 percent), followed by advertising/marketing communications (37 percent), sales (12 percent), and human resources (11 percent). 

·         There is a lack of key performance indicators for social media (87 percent), specific budgets (88 percent), social media guidelines (81 percent), professional development opportunities such as seminars and training courses (78 percent), or staff resources (72 percent).

·         In the majority of organizations (more than 50 percent), the overall responsibility of many tasks related to social media is allocated to the PR department. 


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