What Does Data Tell us About the State of Corporate Social Media Programs?
Through years of working with companies on their social media efforts, it has always been clear that the more human resources an organization puts behind its social channels, the more successful they will be. Typically, the better-run programs have had a person who, rather than multitasking across the communications departments, has the primary job of managing social channels, regardless of whether or not they had agency help. Why does this work? It’s a simple equation (to give all of us who work in social media a respite from some of the needlessly complicated calculations being thrown around): the greater the amount of dedication and focus to a task, the better the result. If social is thrown on the shoulders of an already-overburdened PR manager or marketing manager, then no amount of agency counsel and extra hands, and no amount of “social-savvy” on the part of the manager, is going to help them execute. It’s like trying to pat your head and rub your belly constantly for 40 hours a week.
What brought this to mind was an article I saw at Ragan.com. The author cites a study that Ragan and NASDAQ OMX Corporate Solutions conducted; it showed that 65% of social media pros responding to the study juggle other responsibilities alongside their social media duties. I’m not sure that’s surprising, but it does indicate a long way to go in companies giving these important communications programs the attention they warrant. I would like to see how those numbers compare to last year, as a positive (or negative) trend would tell me more than a static one-year figure. Other downbeat figures from the study included a mere 31% being “satisfied” or better with their social media programs, and only 13% considering their company’s programs “advanced.”
The last figure alarms me a little, as if there is one thing true about social media pros, we tend not to be shy or downplay our accomplishments and affiliations.
One more figure: the study cites these organizations keeping flat budgets from social for the three years through 2013. That directly contradicts other studies indicating an upward trend in spending, such as this one quoted in eMarketer in September.
What are the takeaways? To me, they are:
- Social Media Specialists Should Be in Demand: Social media has to have its own organizational “owner” – even if you are in good agency hands, an internal champion is key to advocacy and execution. If people try to juggle tasks or hand off execution to interns (or in the case of small businesses, the founder/owner) you could get horrific incidents like this most recent by the restaurant Pigalle in Boston.
- Social Media Programs Have Room for Improvement: This is an opportunity for both agencies and in-house communicators. While acceptance of social media continues to spread and more companies and communicators become comfortable needing and even implementing programs, there is doubt about the quality of programs, even if these figures are off – and again, I have my doubts about the budget claims.
- Be Suspicious of Data, Worship Trends: I can’t take these numbers and draw definitive conclusions. It’s one study, and even if you know the biases it is hard to adjust the real conclusions to account for them (for example, the Ragan/NASDAQ survey relied heavily on small businesses). If there is one thing we all learned from the 2012 presidential race (and the FiveThirtyEight blog), it’s that data rules only in aggregate, and even then with a wary eye and knowledge it could be wrong. Data Lies, Trends Don’t.
Full Ragan/NASDAQ Report Available at: http://web.ragan.com/raganforms/Structuring_A_Social_Media_Team.pdf