Up until this point, it’s understandable why many brands have chosen to avoid social media. Quite frankly, there haven’t been many meausurable success stories beyond those of the usual suspects like eBay, Best Buy’s internal Blue Shirt Nation community and Procter & Gamble. For the most part, it’s because many companies social initiatives have lacked a strategy, key performance indicators and overall community management. However, it’s hard to ignore some of the consumer driven data coming out of Cone Research’s latest 2008 Cone Business in Social Media Study (requires free signup to download).
For starters, Cone’s report tells us that almost 60% of Americans interact with companies on a social media Web site, and one in four interact more than once per week. More importantly, the study shows that 93% of Americans believe a company should have a presence in social media, while 85% believe a company should not only be present, but should also interact with its consumers via social media.
If that’s not enough to whet big brand’s appetites:
- 56% of American consumers feel both a stronger connection with, and better served by, companies when they can interact with them in a social media environment.
- 43% say that companies should use social networks to solve my problems
- 41% want companies to solicit feedback on their products and services
- 37% feel that companies should develop new ways for consumers to interact with their brand
- 33% of men and 17% of women interact frequently (one or more times per week) with companies via social media
I don’t know about you but if I’m the CMO of a big brand, I’m looking at these numbers and shaking my head. What? You mean my customers actually want to talk to me using social media? Yup, they do. And they are already doing it with some of the other big brands they know and love like Starbucks, HP, Saturn and Sony.
So guess what Ms. or Mr. CMO, you have two choices at this point. You can continue to ignore social media and hope that smart people like Cone Research are wrong (hint: if Cone is wrong, so are the same smart folks at Forrester Research, Gartner, Sirius Decisions and Deloitte) OR they can embrace the “Groundswell” and start to think about a social media strategy and implementation plan in 2009.
Thanks to the folks at Cone for continuing to provide great research in this space. For more information on the Cone Research study, please visit their site.
This post was cross-posted on http://theengagedconsumer.powered.com.
Rather than bog down the rest of my colleagues with lots of text, I thought about getting my thoughts down in an Utter-cast. What do you think? Should companies participate in third party communities instead of building their own? Should they only build their own and eschew third party efforts? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts…
Last Friday morning, I had an informative conversation with new friends Paul May and Jeremy Bencken of BuzzStream. The topic was return on investment (ROI) in the world of social media/social marketing and whether companies will continue to spend money on social endeavors without a demonstrable return on their investment. What spurred the conversation was Paul’s recent blog post inspired by friend and fellow blogger, Jason Falls, similarly focused post.
What I liked about our discussion was the fact that Paul, Jeremy and I were all completely aligned. While we appreciate the “Clue Train” mantra that many folks cite these days about social media/social marketing being able to put a “human face” on a company, at the end of the day a company needs to be able to be capable of demonstrating real results from their social efforts. What this doesn’t mean is that the two goals need to be mutually exclusive and in fact, when done correctly, a company can enjoy greater results by being human AND tapping into the power of social
This is reinforced by what we’re seeing in terms of results from some of the companies that our company, Powered, helps our customers enjoy (yes, I know I promised I wouldn’t talk too much about Powered but the results we’re seeing from our customers social marketing/elearning programs reinforce my point). As we wrap up our annual ROI report, here are just a few of the preliminary results our customers experienced in 2008.
Of our customers’ web site visitors who participated in one of our “Powered” learning centers/managed communities:
- 92% would recommend our customers’ site to a friend
- 95% would visit our customers’ site again
- 85% would recommend our customers’ brand to a friend
- 66% would be more likely to purchase from our customers’ brand
- 63% have a more positive view of our customers’ brand
Yeah, I was impressed when I first saw these numbers too, but what I really liked was the fact that our account services and content teams here make a point of regularly encouraging our customers to be open, honest and transparent with their customers. One might think this is a no brainer given the fact that our customers are investing time and money into these programs but that’s not always the case (as evidenced by Gartner’s recent report). Even better, most of our clients actually listen to us.
So is your company measuring ROI around its community efforts? Does your community tie to specific business goals like engagement, loyalty, purchase intent or other traditional marketing metrics? If not, you may want to start thinking that way. While it’s important to put a human face on your brand (and that can likely be the BIGGEST area of impact for your company), having measurable programs will be critical in helping protect your social marketing/social media programs in tough times while the world sorts through its current credit/financial mess.
If you have examples of companies that are doing a great job of growing and measuring their “social” efforts, please include in the comments below.
Cross-posted on http://theengagedconsumer.powered.com/