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Get Your Social On: New Survey Suggests A 'Digital Gap' In Companies Is Growing

A new international survey of companies identifies some unique and surprising social media trends. InSites Consulting recently queried 1,222 managers and business owners from companies (with more than 20 employees) in the U.S., Great Britain, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and France.

Among the survey's key findings:

  • High social media usage in American companies. The usage in the United States is higher than in Europe.
  • Six out of ten American companies listen to consumer conversations on social media. Eight out of ten American companies answer client questions and complaints via social media.
  • High usage does not imply true integration; the social media approach is too often disconnected from general company management.
  • A digital gap is growing in the corporate world. Companies that are already investing a lot will do so even more in future. Companies that are currently not investing in digital media are also not planning to do so. These companies need to engage with their target audiences in order not to miss out on them.

Facebook and Twitter

Consumers aren't the only ones on the popular social network sites, an increasing number of companies also use it. Eighty percent of American companies use Facebook, 45 percent have a Twitter account, 48 percent are present on LinkedIn, and 31 percent percent use YouTube. These numbers show that American companies have evolved further in their social media usage compared to companies in Europe.

Listening to conversations between consumers on social media

Six out of ten American companies (61%) listen to what consumers say about them on social network sites. "Social media makes conversations between consumers very transparent. Companies can quite easily discover what people are saying about their products and services. An increasingly growing group is strongly interested (and with good reason) in this real-time feedback from the market," says Prof Steven Van Belleghem, partner at InSites Consulting.

U.S. companies are very successful in answering questions via social media as 83 percent indicate they always deal with questions or complaints sent to them via social media. Still, only 54 percent of the companies in this survey also talk to and actively participate in online conversations with consumers.

High usage but low integration of social media

The survey showed that companies find it very important to be present on social network sites. However, this does not always mean their strategy in doing so is well thought out. A mere 11 percent of the companies are integrating their social media approach into their overall corporate strategy while 17 percent are currently mid-integration. More than 1 out of 4 (26%) of the American companies are not even doing anything on social media. The integration is at similar levels compared to the European status. "A huge number of companies feel external pressure to be present on social media. Unfortunately this very often results in static corporate pages where nothing really happens. It too often leads to mere presence, not engagement with people. In doing so, companies create enthusiasm among their customers which in the end turns into disappointment," says Van Belleghem.

Digital gap emerging in the corporate world

Chances are that there will soon be a digital gap in the corporate world. This survey shows that companies that are already investing a lot in new media will do so even more in the future. Likewise, companies that are not investing much yet are not intending to do so. "Even though there is a clear digital evolution and pull among clients, there are still companies that are not convinced that they too have to go with the evolution. The risk for these companies is that, in a rather short term, they will miss out on an important target group in their market. It is time for these companies to observe, facilitate, and join these conversations through consumer consulting boards or social media observation techniques," says Van Belleghem.

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