Most companies can’t connect social media efforts to success

survey graph

For the last two months I have been eagerly anticipating the results of Dr. Ben Hanna’s 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?

All posts

  • The relative low cost of entry for social media has a big impact on tracking and measurement. It’s so easy to create a twitter account, a facebook page or a blog that often the real planning gets short changed in the name of “showing progress”.

    A solid social media plan should include a definition of measurement and metrics, but many of them don’t. The metrics do several things. In addition to gaining consensus among all parties, discussing and thinking about measurement/metrics often results in the modification or addition of tactics, and force us to have the conversation “how do we measure it and can we track it?”

    Doing so *before* the plan is implemented also allows us to collect baseline metrics – crucial to demonstrating impact.

  • Mark

    Jody, you have become one of my favorite commenters. Of course I agree with you on almost everything but that is beside the point : )

    I’m a measurement fanatic and always insist on measurement … even when the customer doesn’t thing they need it. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

  • The findings about participation is indeed interesting but not really surprising to me. Forums and communities actually engage readers and are driven by people asking questions and getting information. They are far more interactive than blogs. Most blogs (this one is a somewhat rare exception) are one directional and comments are typically just that (left without response). They rarely engage readers into conversation like communities do.
    I’d like to see a study done on engagement that shows the number of views social content gets as well as the number of engaged participants. From a pure data perspective, on a daily basis, there is far more forum, community and review data created than there is blog/comment data created.

    As far as measurment is concerned, I believe we are about to see an whole new evolution of systems that will truly provide business impact measurement. It’s only a matter of time.

    BTW, welcome home…you’ve been missed!

  • I am also a measurement fanatic, but it is very important to remember that it is better not to measure at all than to measure a wrong thing. Measuring impact of Social Media on website traffic is a good example. What does it really mean without measuring quality of the associated Social Media content?
    “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” Geroge Carlin

  • Mark,

    Thanks for sharing this post! Like Steve, I found the participation numbers quite interesting.

    I wondered most about whether your posts gleaning excluded the competitive and industry/trend watching, or whether they just weren’t a part of the study.

    IMHO, those are two important categories (along, if not on equal footing with brand awareness) in addressing the SM measurement vs. success conundrum, not to mention the fact that conversations/trend/topics targeted social media is where most people’s participation will likely be found (now and in the future).


  • This post being greatly helpful in making my SM plan for a consumer brand. Thanks a lot.Keep sharing your views.

The Marketing Companion Podcast

Why not tune into the world’s most entertaining marketing podcast that I co-host with Tom Webster.

View details

Let's plot a strategy together

Want to solve big marketing problems for a little bit of money? Sign up for an hour of Mark’s time and put your business on the fast-track.

View details


Send this to a friend