survey graph

For the last two months I have been eagerly anticipating the results of Dr. Ben Hanna’s Business.com 2009 survey of corporate social media utilization.  Why is this report significant?  With nearly 3,000 valid respondents, this is probably the largest survey ever conducted on this subject and also represents one of a handful of social media research projects with a methodology and analytics that I actually trust.  Let’s get to some of the highlights and implications:

Where’s the beef?

Some of the most interesting findings were around the hot topic of “measurement.”  About 65% of the respondents gauge success by “web traffic” followed by engagements with sales leads (57%), brand awareness (54%), customer engagement (50%) and revenue (42%).

But as the graph above indicates, most companies report they can’t see a connection between social media initiatives and success. For even those judging success by something as simple as “web traffic,” only 15% thought they were seeing progress. More confidence was expressed in the ability to impact brand reputation/awareness (33%), and engagement with sales leads (26%). Of the 609 respondents trying to track revenue, nearly 80% could not see an impact from social media initiatives.

Lack of adequate data is a problem

Another dilemma presented by the research is that most companies don’t believe they are getting adequate metrics to even measure results.

At the top end of the scale, 65% of respondents using web site traffic as a social media success metric report that the information they need to measure results is easily accessed when needed.  Those measuring brand metrics – awareness and reputation – fall to the bottom of the scale. Only 50% believe they can measure the impact of social media initiatives on this metric. I’m actually surprised the number is even that high.

The survey also concludes that those with more experience in social media do a better job measuring impact.

Less than 10% of the companies surveyed pay to use any monitoring service. Free apps like Google Search, Google Alerts and Twitter Search lead the pack.

Surprises in user base

Nearly 65% of the survey’s respondents reported using social media as part of their normal work routine.  The results by job role were somewhat surprising in that respondents working in the IT department were significantly less likely than those from almost every other department to use social media. People associated with consulting, PR, real estate and marketing were heaviest users.

Those directly involved in planning or managing company social media initiatives spend about 18 percent of their time devoted to this. Combined with other data in the research, you might conclude most companies are still “dabbling” in social media initiatives.

High community participation

I was surprised to see that over half of respondents said they participate in online business communities or forums. This is far higher than the typical 2% participation rate among monthly visitors to online blogs and communities.  The researchers explained that this difference may be due to how study respondents understood the word “participate,” possibly interpreting it as “visit,” or that the rapid expansion in the number of niche online business communities may be influencing greater usage.

Top sites being used by corporations? Facebook (80%), Twitter (56%), LinkedIn Groups (39%), LinkedIn Companies (38%), and YoutTube (35%).

All in all, very enlightening research. What do you think?  Were you as surprised by some of thes results as I was?  What’s your take on this?

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