Reading the newly released report on Danish companies use of social media, several findings seems extremely contradictory. And those contradictions are what’s keeping the Danish companies from turning their huge expectations into real results. In the following I’ve listed the 5 biggest challenges the report reveals.
Social media in a Danish context – some facts from the report
When asked “Have your organization used social media in order to create business value within the past year ? 66% said yes and 34% no. The social media outlets used by the 66% are Facebook 80% (2,6 million Danes are on Facebook – there’re 5,5-6 million Danes in total). Second place goes to professional networks like LinkedIn 61%, third are video services like youtube 54%, fourth goes to blogging with 43%, and micro blogging services like twitter take fifth place with 38%.
This correlates with the latest data on the average Danish internetuser use of social media. An internetuser is defined by Statistics Denmark as someone who have been online within the past 3 months, which back in 2009 was 87% of the population. Half of them were on Facebook, 33% stated they read blogs and 18% published on a blog. But apart from that, our knowledge of how the Danes use social media is still quite scarce. This report on the companies usage is therefore groundbreaking.
And the companies have been slow movers compared to the Danes themselves. 45% state they’ve been using social media in a year or less, while 33% have been at it for 1–2 years, 11% for 2-3 years and only 11% claim to have been working with social media for more than 3 three years.
The social media budget is therefore virtually non-existent – it’s still viewed as something free. 25% state that their current annual social media budget is 0 danish kroner, 22% uses 0-5.000 Dkr. (roughly $0 – $833) while 18% have no idea if they have a budget or what that would be, if there were one.
Put differently: We’re newbies to this game compared to the US or Asia.
Good news: People are optimistic about the power of social media
The Danish companies who participated in the survey have a overwhelmingly positive outlook on social media and it’s effects. If you pull some of the numbers together (thank you @ernstpoulsen, co-author of the report) you’ll find are some pretty high expectations:
- 91% state that they already have or expect to get greater exposure/ branding of their products.
- 88% have or expect to get dividends from social medias ability to get their own message out.
- 71% state that they already have or expect to have increased efficiency in campaign launches.
Not bad! But this also makes me a bit weary. My greatest fear is that “social media” won’t be able to live up to these expectations, unless the companies start making a real effort and start taking it serious.
Bad news: People aren’t ready to put their resources where their expectations are
The report reveals a huge gap between the buzz and practice – between getting your hopes up, when one guy from the PR-department get’s you convinced you need to do this, and actually allocating resources, man power and funding to the project. And demanding something in return.
This is where you go from happy amateur to professional: you test the platforms, you determine your realistic goals and set a strategy aligned with the company’s overall strategy, and take it from there. Evaluating, measuring, engaging and learning about your customers as well as yourself. And getting that knowledge back in to the organization, creating a constant feedback cycle to the benefit of the user as well as the company.
Which brings us back to the contradictions and the challenges they represent. These are what the businesses need to overcome in order to meet their own expectations.
#1 Challenge: Start listening!
66% of the recipients stated that their companies use social media. But only 50% of those claim to monitor the conversations about the company on the (social) web. Only 30% use Google Alerts, 19% use twitter or twitter applications to monitor conversations, 1% use HubSpot, 8% say they’re using something else, while 34% state “probably none” and 28% “don’t know”.
If you’re not listening to the conversations happening around your company, you’re not using social media – You’re just on the social media platforms, and there’s a huge difference.
Having a facebook-page, is swell if you give people what they want on a regular basis – feed them the info they want, entertain them, engage them and join in the debates elsewhere on Facebook relevant to your strategy. Then you’re using Facebook, you are not just on Facebook.
#2 Challenge: Get a strategy!
A whooping 87% state social media is viewed as something that will have a positive impact on their businesses reputation, and 62% state social media is viewed as a tool, we can use to create value for the business throughout the organization. But on the other hand 58% state, they don’t have a plan for their test-period or a strategy for their social media activities.
I’m all for testing and seeing how it goes. Learning by doing can do wonders for a company. But if these new learnings aren’t given a deadline (for instance three months) and a goal (X Re-tweets in a week), there is no direction. If there is no direction and clearcut goal, there’s no success. You’re just exploring new land. Again, nothing wrong with that, but unless the exploring is given a goal it’s just meandering without a map. You need a strategy for you digital communication, and you need to see the digital communication as an integrated part of your business. As long as it’s just something on the side, you’re not getting the full potential (and thereby fulfilling the high expectations). It’ll be fun or a learning experience, but it won’t influence your business because it’s not an integral part of the business itself.
51% find that the inability to show some tangible results is a great challenge to the organizations use of social media. I can’t blame them. If you don’t have a plan laying out how that’s going to come about, then you won’t have a goal, a way to get there or results to show.
#3 challenge: Spend time!
“Time and resources” is the no. 1. answer to the question: What’s challenging the company’s use of social media? If the majority is working without a plan or a management backed strategy then it’s no wonder that 56% state it’s lack of time and man power that’s getting in the way.
As a result the company’s social media activities is mainly maintained by employees on their own initiative – 67% say yes, it’s mainly employees who willingly participate on platforms with work related posts or information. 21% say no and 12% doesn’t know.
The vast majority rely on driven employees, to handle social media on their own between other assignments. The result: 46% of the participants say they use less than 5 hours per week on social media.
I recognize these findings from Lois Kelly’s presentation at Community Conference back in 2009. Most companies only have one person allocated to social media – and not as their only work assignment, but one among many. The same is true for the companies in Social Semantics survey.
#4 challenge: Get everyone involved!
55% of the recipients state that only 1-4 people are working with social media in the organization. Again: Social media is the love of a few – mostly just one single person – who dedicates a small amount of time to the social media activities.
But those numbers fall short, if you’re planning to use social media for R&D or anything else not related to marketing (which 33% already do, and 37-40 are expecting to). The idea to get the company involved in social media often derives from the department of communications or marketing, but it’s rarely these departments, that people want to talk to or engage with – they want customer service, the R&D unit or HR. Therefore, getting involved in social media often requires resources from other units, forcing people to cooperate across the organization. Often challenging (and sometimes changing) the face of the company.
This is why it’s essential that your company has a (digital) strategy and management’s backing. You can not just increase the amount of work people are supposed to do, without taking a look at the existing tasks. Unfortunately, the report shows that only 33% started working with social media plan in hand. The rest are testing haphazardly or they’re involved in sporadic activities.
This explains – perhaps – why 21% state, it’s not their priority to keep up with the conversations around their brand. They’re just not there yet.
#5 challenge: get the skills
47% say they lack the skill/ knowledge to get the most of social media, and 46% say it’s the organization, that isn’t able to grasp social media’s potential. One of those groups are going to make decisions about the future of they company’s social media activities. Because 93% statethat they expect their company to increase their use of social media in the near future.
Hopefully that means they’ll get help from outsiders, let employees undergo training or hire in new people, so the lack of knowledge and skills can be removed from the list of challenges. It’s seemingly the easiest to overcome, yet it might also be what’s required in order to overcome the other four challenges I’ve listed, making it the first and not the last on the list.
Learn from the best
The report also show that there’s a few hardcore companies, that seems to have taken a textbook approach to social media.
- 21% say the initiatives isn’t driven by employees on their own initiative,
- 20% say 10 or more individuals are engaged in social media in order to derive business value,
- 14% say the Danish part of the organisation use more than 15 hours a week on social media in order to derive business value,
- 27 % characterise their activities as having a central coordination, founded on a clear and goal orientated planing where everyone knows their responsibilities . 6% are in the midst of a carefully planed test period.
- 50% have checked how the company is discussed in social media.
- hiding in those numbers are probably the 21% stating that their company is using social media to a higher degree than their competitors. Hopefully they’ll share their casestories – good as well as bad – so the mystery of social media can be unraveled. 48% of the people who stated that their company didn’t use social media (34%), state that the main reason is the lack of knowledge.
We have a saying in Denmark that reads: “Her går det godt, send flere penge” roughly translated to “All good, send more money”. But reading the report, money is the least of the recipients worry (only 23% mark it as a challenge). Instead it’s the difficulties they face showing tangible evidence testifying to social medias greatness; it’s not having the skills or the knowledge to redeem the potential benefits of social media, and not having the time, the man power or managements backing thats’s viewed as the major obstacles.
To me the lack of strategy is the biggest problem. But how do you get a strategy, if management isn’t willing to back the efforts? It’s a leap of faith when you test new forms of communication and new ways of engaging with your customers. But lack of knowledge doesn’t mean you can’t ask an outsider to do some research for you, or ask employees to do some research on the matter.
That said, it’s great, that so many feel they get something out of social media, even when it’s managed by a few people on a shoestring.
33% state they’ve gained value from using social media – increased inspiration for their R&D, improved acces to customer feedback, increased knowledge on trends via the direct dialogue.
58% say they’ve gained a positive outcome from social media regarding exposure of their brand and products, 55% say they’ve achieved it from getting their message further out in the market, 44% from insights into the dialogue regarding their market and 41% from an enhanced communication related to product launches.
What will happen if they actually get more resources, more time and a strategy?