social media researchAs businesses continue to integrate social media and become more confident and comfortable with social media tools and platforms, we’re starting to see a change in social media usage.  A new study reveals what’s changing with social media.

SmartBrief recently partnered with Summus Limited to survey more than 6,000 of its readers across a variety of industries.

They benchmarked and measured the state of social media usage among businesspeople. The data identified eight prevalent trends that give great insight into the social media behaviors, beliefs and challenges of the majority of businesses today.

#1: Companies Are Still New to Social Media

Most companies (66.5%) have adopted social media in the past 18 months. About half of the companies reported they’ve only been using social media for about a year and about 20% reported they’ve adopted social media practices in the past 13 to 18 months.

The graph above is a great reminder that most businesses are still very new to the social media arena.

#2: Businesses Focus in on the “Big 5”

Companies are focusing their energies on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and blogs. Data suggests that companies focus their time and efforts on the “big 5” because they’re able to find their customers there.

Unfortunately companies may be missing out on valuable niche groups by not extending their reach to the less-popular social sites. Flickr, for example, has a large audience even though it’s not as popular as Facebook or YouTube.

Based on the graph above, Facebook is the leader in social media platforms; however, Twitter is close behind in the minds of business professionals.

#3: The 2-Year Confidence Mark

It takes time for companies to incorporate social media effectively. The data identified a 2-year mark where businesses begin to gain confidence in their social media activity.

More than 25% of the companies using social media for 2 or more years say the tools and platforms have been fully integrated into their business model. In addition, more than 50% say they have a well-developed or fully developed social media strategy.

Note the 2-year mark in the graph above. This is where the majority of companies start feeling more confident in their social media strategies.

#4: Companies Are Broadcasting Versus Connecting

Brand-building is currently the primary purpose for business social media usage. However, the research showed that most companies are using social media to broadcast information versus using it for two-way communication.

This is unfortunate. Many companies are missing the opportunity to build stronger relationships by listening to their clients or customers, instead of doing all the talking.

As indicated in the chart above, the most popular social media goal among the respondents was to "increase awareness and interaction with our brand."

Unfortunately, most companies still continue to broadcast messages more than they use social media tools to engage and connect with their customers and prospects. Perhaps this will begin to shift as companies become more confident in their social media activity.

#5: Businesses Turn to Internal Sources for Social Media Support

Communications, advertising and marketing agencies are the leading adopters of social media. However, an interesting finding of the study showed that agencies are not the preferred source for social media support. Most of the companies surveyed have opted to create and execute their social media strategy using internal resources.

The marketing, communications and advertising agencies were the clear early adopters of social media, but businesses have been reluctant to turn to these agencies for social media support.

The resistance to look to an agency for support may be a partial reason for the 2-year "ramp-up period" highlighted in the chart above.

Perhaps the learning curve could be shortened if companies looked to the experts and early adopters for support as they build their overall strategy.

#6: Social Media Adoption Obstacles

Lack of management support and confidentiality concerns top the list of obstacles to social media adoption. There was a clear lack of management support for those companies who have not yet adopted social media. 33% of the respondents pointed out they weren’t the decision-makers and 14.7% stated “management resistance” as an obstacle to social media adoption. To add to this, 33.1% pointed to “confidentially issues” as a reason for not adopting social media.

As we’ve seen in numerous studies this last year, companies are still struggling with employee social media usage and how to manage it internally.

In this chart, it's interesting how 33.3% of the respondents saw their lack of decision-making ability as an obstacle for social media integration in their business. Likely, the majority of the people responsible for social media management are not in a traditional management role.

#7: Lack of Social Media Measurement

Less than 15% of the businesses using social media are measuring return on investment. Over 33% are not measuring return on investment at all. It seems that many businesses struggle with identifying what to measure, how to measure and how to interpret the data when they are able to gather results.

Among those businesses that are measuring their social media activity, the focus is on usage and incoming traffic. Interestingly, most are not using traditional business metrics.

As this chart shows, only 14.7% of respondents answered "yes" to the question "Is your organization measuring your return on social media investment?" This shows that businesses know they should be using social media, but they don't necessarily understand why.

#8: Companies Lack Confidence in Their Social Media Strategy

While 60% of respondents say their companies are using social media, there’s low confidence in their social media strategies. One of the most interesting findings in this report was how the respondents rated their social media strategies. Only 14.2% described their strategies as “very effective,” while a low 7.3% described them as “very revenue generating” on average.

Based on this graph, it's clear that most of the companies surveyed didn't have confidence in their social media strategy.

Based on the fact that most companies are not tracking their success (as seen above) and most are trying to build their social media strategy internally, it makes sense that most are lacking confidence in their overall success in the first few years.

The full “State of Social Media for Business 2010” is available here from SmartBrief.

Now it’s your turn. Where does your company stand versus the social media benchmarks mentioned above? Are you confident in your social media strategy? Share your experience and comments in the box below.

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  • Great post! I have noticed that companies are only focusing on the popular social networking sites. However, social media is not one size fits all.

  • I’d suggest that companies are using internal resources vs agencies (finding #5) because the latter requires a sometimes significant budget. If companies are new to social media and also are having issues measuring ROI (finding #7), then getting budget approval for agency support is a tall order.

  • Great point! Businesses are going where the masses are for now

  • Hey Bo, I think you are right. Plus folks may not know ‘what’ they need at first.

  • I think if companies are having a hard time understanding strategy (#8) and measurement (#7), hiring a consultant to help them establish a plan and ROI benchmarks could be worth their time/money. Then they can run with it for 3-6 months, and if the consultant is doing their job, they will check up on the progress.

  • Yes, the state of social media for business is beginning to evolve. It’s no longer a question of who’s in the game, it’s how they’re playing. Jesse Stanchak released news of a similar report today, with similar results. The growth period for these strategies is in the works, and I will re-iterate that it will be interesting to see the results next year.

  • Amy this social media thing has spun out of control, and many companies are now realizing the big picture now. I always suggest to my offline clients that social media is something we should be implementing into their businesses if they want to brand themselves world wide.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off

  • It would seem to me that #4 “Companies are broadcasting rather than connecting” could be a direct result of #5 “Marketing, Communications and Advertising agencies are not the preferred source for Social Media support.” The role of agencies is to help businesses, brands, associations communicate effectively. The transition from communication to engagement is something they are better equipped to understand and implement. It seem to me that potential for money left on the table is huge if businesses don’t reverse #4 and #5.As an agency, this raises several questions for me. Are we (agencies) not effectively demonstrating our capabilities? Is there a lack of trust between agencies and business? Are businesses just trying to save the bucks? Or, referring back to yesterday’s post, are businesses uncertain of how to move from social media marketing to doing social business?My favorite quote of the Facebook Success Summit 2010 comes from Jay Baer, “The goal isn’t to be good at Facebook. The goal is to be good at business because of Facebook.” Wisdom for the relationship age!

    Mike, just curious, what was the size of companies taking part in the survey?

  • I can confirm these trends in my personal experience. Especially mid-to-big-sized companies lack trust in social media, mainly because it’s pretty much a new thing for big brands and – traditionally – old-school managers tend to be worried about change in first place.
    The other very true point is broadcasting vs connecting. Most of the Twitter accounts of local businesses in my area (where most = 99.99%) are just Tweeting about promotions and stuff strictly related to their own company, not connecting and/or relating with people. Shame indeed, but after all, everyone has to start from somewhere.

  • catherinetatum

    I agree with all of these comments and I am looking forward to “The 2-Year Confidence Mark.”…..and I very much feel like it is coming. I just began using social media about one year ago for my business

  • This is a great post. I tend to agree with point #5 – outsourcing our efforts for social media would be like sending another person to make friends for you at a party. That being said, it isn’t always easy to follow through with #5 because of #6.

    Quite often people will agree with participating in social media in theory. But when it requests and investment of time or money, the support may dry up.

    Thanks for sharing this post.

  • Great stats work here re social media and businesses. The same applies almost identically for law firms, if not more so given their conservative nature

  • Really an awesome an informative article Amy.

    Many small businesses are in Reaction Mode vs being in Response Mode when it comes to their Social Media Strategies. Few has prepared Social Media Guidelines.

    I really loved the Jay Baer quote here; “The goal isn’t to be good at Facebook. The goal is to be good at business because of Facebook.” This hit the nail on the head.

    I will for sure digg into to the data here. We are already seeing a trend where more small businesses is starting to be in Response mode. This trend will be even more visible in 2011.

    Thanks for sharing this info.

    Cheers.. Are

  • Elena

    Hello – This is Elena from SmartBrief, one of report creators. The survey covered all sizes of companies – from less than 10 employees to more than 50,000 employees. Agencies are definitely more popular social media resources for very large companies versus smaller companies.

  • Outer Banks Publishing Group

    Your article is very interesting, but not surprising. If you recall the onslaught of fax machines a while back, every business had to get one or you weren’t considered “in business.” It’s the same with social media. Many businesses are “jumping on the proverbial social media band wagon” because they believe they should be there, but they have no idea what to do next. The same is happening with SEO with some business owners not knowing what the initials stand for.

  • Susan Jacobs

    You always have great info. It wasn’t until I hired a consultant to bring the big 5 together did I understand what I was suppose to be doing and when. Im only 6 mths in but I know I’m connecting based on what friend / fans are saying. Thanks for all the good info. You have helped me in understanding and exploring other social sites.

  • Great article! Good work.

  • Claudia

    Great information. I work for the Communications dept. for a b-to-b company that is just venturing out into the social media realm. I’ve spent months putting together a strategy that dovetails into our marketing/communications plans. When finished, I showed it to our PR agency and received very valuable feedback. Yes, consulting with them did cost a bit of money, but they provided me with excellent advice. Now I’m confident our strategy is on target.

  • Great article Amy. I really resonate with number 4. If you want to build your business through social networking, you need to connect with your audience. You need to build trust, show your personality and create some sort of bond. When someone leaves a comment on your profile or business page….(as long as it looks legit…not spam) comment back….say thank you….just coming back with a simple acknowledgment goes a long way. 🙂

  • Awesome article! I wonder if this will go the same route as adoption of the Internet/Web. That is, there was a time when there was a debate internally at places of employment, regarding who and who should not have internet access from one’s desktop/office. Seriously – anyone remember that debate? Businesses who see socmedia as one aspect/channel within one’s marcom plans tend to have more two-way communication via those channels (at least, that’s been my experience).

  • This is really interesting data Amy, thanks for sharing it.
    I’m still amazed at the amount of companies that aren’t measuring any part of their social efforts. I always recommend to people when going into social media to clearly define what their goals for using the medium are and how they’re going to measure that they’re achieving or failing at reaching that goal. It’s true that sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what to measure, but to not measure anything at all just doesn’t seem business-wise.

    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos (

  • Thanks for the summary. I’m not surprised businesses are sticking to the core 4-5 high traffic sites (#2) or that they are predominantly broadcasting and not engaging (#4). Though I get the social media optimisation benefits of putting a business profile on Facebook, it still mystifies me so many dash headlong into Facebook just because its the biggest. If you’re a widget manufacturer, is your audience grazing there? And who wants to be doing work and be contacted by brands when you’re socialising on Facebook? But its a self fulfilling prophecy – more people use it, more people will use it.
    It demonstrates there is still much to do.

  • This is a fantastic article!! I feel that it’s so important to use Social-Media to engage and connect with our customers/followers to find out what their needs are first so that we can then in turn offer them “valuable” information (solutions) that they may be in search of. By offering them “value” first vs. “broadcasing” they’re more likely to listen to us. However, over time once that relationship is built then they’ll be more likely to pay attention to our broadcast messages. 🙂

  • Very interesting stats. With most companies new to the social media arena, it is especially disheartening to see how many jumped in and now have abandoned their profiles and pages. One of the litmus tests I conduct for new clients is to approach their website as a customer would. Many times, my first recommendation is to remove the Facebook and Twitter icons from their home page. Why send potential customers to a “dead” or inactive Facebook page or Twitter account? In the short term, it’s better to reinvigorate those social network accounts — and create a workable plan to keep them active — before driving traffic to them.

  • Very thoughtful article, Amy. I think most businesses are simply overwhelmed by all the changes taking place in social media. A lot of businesses seem to be sitting on the sidelines, waiting for the dust to settle. With the escalating battle between Google and Facebook (i.e. Google Hotpot), it looks like they may be in for a long wait.

  • Bob

    Great post, No. 4 seems to be hard form many smaller firms, as they lack the time and resources to really connect. Great job!

  • Great post – well done. I think a key consideration for agencies when trying to work with bigger, more conservative businesses to enter the social media space is using language and developing strategies in line with or complimentary to their traditional communications channels. A key I would think is helping them to establish social media specific policies as a priority. With the fear of losing control often top of mind, a policy would help to allay this fear somewhat. And what’s more corporate than a policy? This would help them to see what controls they have under this new way. They may also be able to “dip the toe in” so to speak by focusing specific elements of their business on social media – one that comes straight to mind is recruitment.

  • IMHO, the primary reason most businesses are broadcasting instead of interacting is that one can be automated and the other can’t. It takes personal involvement by someone who can properly represent the company to the public and many businesses either are afraid to give their employees that much leeway to represent them OR they just don’t have the time to do it themselves.

    Social Media is one of those things where you have to just jump in and eventually the correct path is revealed. That said, instead of taking two years to figure it all out yourself why not collaborate with those who have been at it longer to see what they have to share?

    For a large company that could mean consultating with an agency or individual. Smaller companies – even those with no budget – can get assistance too. Just see who is on Twitter or Facebook in your niche whose actions you would like to emulate and strike up a conversation. Many of us are willing to assist without expecting renumeration.

  • Oh yes, how can I forget that Flickr still exists, might just add that one up in the social media roster. It is quite unfortunate that up to now, most business that established a twitter account are barely communicating with their core audience. As social media is really rooted on genuine connections, a company that doesn’t take the time to be personal might see their social media campaign as a total failure.

  • Ginarti Budiman

    great article…. yes …. social media should be used as a media to communicate with the consumers and not only for broadcasting message ….. but of course in doing so, company policy should support that direction and human resources should be ready. We find difficulty however in finding the tools to measure the effectiveness of social media marketing … this sometimes make the management does not give a full support to do so

  • I’m a graphic designer for a small company, but social media marketing has always been an obsession for me. I’ve just recently started to try to convince my boss that he needs to step up his business and how social media can help. It’s been a struggle, and I find myself having to prove its worth. It’s a frustrating road because he doesn’t see the legitimacy of the field and at times feels like “anyone” could do it and “everyone” is doing it so it is diluted.

  • Great article. Amazing how technical these people can get and still can’t get more than 700 followers on any network!

  • Broadcasting vs connecting absolutely sums up the key advantage of social media over traditional channels. I think the fear of engaging with the audience and receiving a negative (and very public) response is still a major deterrent for many. With appropriate planning in advance, this can be overcome. Very interesting article.

  • Great post. So many key areas identified that resonate with the trends amongst my client base. I think the focus on the ‘big 5’ is a reflection of caution as much as anything else. This is compounded by the trend towards the use of internal resource, which I also see as a major influence in the broadcasting approach so many use. Interestingly my most successful client in this arena has executive level buy in and sponsorship (CEO and Finance Director), they have made extensive use of Flickr, and they truly understand the need to engage. They are also open to experimenting with measurement techniques to see waht works for them!

  • Loved the post! Very interesting findings indeed! Lots of business in the MENA/Gulf Region are embarking on online social media esp small businesses. i would love to repost the article on if u dont mind.

  • Great post! All these things really do ring true when it comes to social media. I tend to run across the “convincing of the boss” scenario more often than not when discussing social media efforts with clients. The marketing person understands wholly what the efforts of social media can do for business, but the higher-ups need more convincing, need tangible proof to wrap their heads around it.

  • I just got my business started and focused the socia media work on Twitter, but from your article, I found that Facebook is even more famous that twitter, so it seems that I should share my energe with facebook now. Thanks for your meticulously prepared data:o)

  • Elena,

    Not sure if this will get to you. But if it does, thanks for the feedback.
    That was really helpful info.

    Best regards,

    Kathi Rabil
    Vice President

    20301 Highland Hall Dr
    Montgomery Village MD 20886

    P: 301.519.8101 x112
    F: 301.519.8104
    C: 240.888.2841

    “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working
    together is success.”

    — Henry Ford

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  • AshleyForrester

    This has been one of the most informative articles that I had come across. I staunchly believe in #8 – though social media can enhance business performance to a great extent, but enterprises run out of confidence when it comes to social media strategies.

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  • Jeff Chinman

    I was early in setting up a web site and have updated it a few times since. I’ve joined linkedin and facebook, and I was leaning toward a constant contact, but never followed through. I need more sales, which means more traffic. I’ve heard the story about a Russian woman who comes to America. She wants to buy cereal, but when she get’s to the isle, it’s too overwhelming. Does facebook and linkedin really drive you business, I’m from Missouri?

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  • So true! I think some of the less popular networking sites could be goldmines for companies if they knew their audience was spending time there. The research to really understand where your audience is spending time is well worth the time and effort!

  • Nick, I think you are spot-on with that for sure. A consultant is best used for strategy and measurement. When a company hires an expert in these area, they can see huge returns, even after the consultant has handed back the reigns….

  • You are right–I don’t think offline companies can ignore it anymore. If they do ignore it, their competition would be more than happy to take the lead 🙂

  • Great visuals! Thanks for the post. Mycompany just hired me as social media manager and it has been a challenge to get them to think “integrated” and that social media isn’t just a digital megaphone. Thanks for the stats. Good stuff.

  • I agree, if companies would truly understand and appreciate the minimal cost social media would cost them but the big impact it could bring, if used properly, would definitely do great business in the business. Yes, I mean could either make or break them.

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  • cynthiacosco

    Thanks for the great article….great information ..I think we are just getting started…

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  • Dana

    Thank you for this article. It’s helpful. I wonder if you have suggestions for where to learn more about measurement.

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  • Jim Clawson

    We can never get enough of this info about social media marketing. Great Job!

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  • Kate-hamilton

    Thank you so much for excellent information, haven’t started using social networking yet and want to do it properly. This information is so vital for new and existing businesses. Really appreciate all the hard work involved in diseminating this information.

  • I think your data proves an important point. It takes time to build an effective Social Media marketing program. Too many people abandon the medium after a few weeks or months. 

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