By Arun Sudhaman
Three new research studies demonstrate that, where social media are concerned, the appetite for hard data appears unlikely to be sated anytime soon.
While much of the research in this area rarely offers more than a one-day headline, at least one of the new offerings – Meltwater’s Future of Content study – contains plenty that is worth reading, including the finding that clients in Europe are considerable more risk-averse about social media than their US counterparts.
The Meltwater report is also refreshingly global, polling “marketing and social media decision makers” from 450 companies across the UK, US, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Australia and Singapore.
The social media divide
It finds that US companies are the most willing to take risks in social media, with 27 percent of its companies being classed as proactive ‘visionaries’. By comparison, Swedish companies have the highest proportion – 44 percent – that are ‘averse’ to using the medium.
Despite the UK’s image as an advanced digital market, meanwhile, the
country ranks behind Germany in its willingness to use social media. 22
percent of German companies are ‘visionaries’, compared to 14 percent of
UK respondents. 37 percent of UK companies are either ‘averse’ or
‘reluctant’, in contrast to just 22 percent in Germany.
Meanwhile, 87 percent of UK companies consider it important to monitor what is being said online about their company, yet only 16 percent of companies have invested in tools to do this. In the US, by contrast, 96 percent consider social media monitoring important and almost half of those have already invested in tools to measure this.
And only 31 percent of UK companies have seen their budgets for social media rise in the last 12 months, compared with 55 percent in the US.
The study also ranks the challenges that companies using social media face. A lack of resources and time comes out on top (38 percent). Of note, the ‘inability to measure social media’s impact on goals’ is the second most cited challenge (30 percent), while ‘lack of adequate tracking/monitoring’ comes third (27 percent).
Similarly, just over half think it is difficult to measure the true ROI of social media activities, while only only one in six are fully satisfied that they can properly measure ROI. And 25 percent view an inability to link conversions directly to social media as a significant challenge.
These findings suggest that, for all of the hype about how social media can transform measurement and evaluation, the case is not being made well enough in the corridors of power.
Then again, findings from another social media study – from Wildfire PR polling 250 marketing decision makers in the UK – reveal that just seven percent of companies are measuring the impact of social media, and generating a return on investment.
And a third report – this time from Vocus – finds that 74 percent believe demonstrating ROI will become more important next year. One hopes the other 26 percent of the 508 respondents already view ROI as a critically high priority.
The Meltwater study finds that 79 percent consider social media to be ‘owned’ by the marketing department. This result is at odds with Wildfire’s results, which offer much less consensus.
In the Wildfire report, in-house PR teams came out on top when respondents were asked which department is best placed to own social media – with 27 percent. That puts the PR department narrowly ahead of marketing departments and, more surprisingly, IT (both at 20 percent).
The Vocus 2011 Planning survey finds 39 percent saying that marketing is leading social media, while 56 percent opt for PR. When asked which activity respondents will focus more on in 2011, social media came out on top (69 percent), ahead of strategic comms (66 percent). 61 percent opted for measuring results, a frankly baffling finding, while 60 percent said leveraging video and multimedia.
Vocus also asks respondents to describe the single most important thing they will do differently in 2011 compared to this year. The overwhelming winner, with 54 percent of the vote, is social media. Judging by the amount of research out there, that is not too difficult to believe.