Do Your Social Media Activities Need More Structure?

Ann All
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Social Media: Measure, Monitor and Mean It



Earlier today I wrote about the need for companies with a laissez-faire approach to social technologies to develop more structured plans, ones that involve IT enabling business in its use of such technologies while making sure risks are addressed. The real trick is attaining just the right amount of structure, enough to be a help without turning into a hindrance.


My conviction of the need for more structure in social media activities was reinforced by results of a CareerBuilder.com survey released earlier this month. The survey trots out some interesting findings about companies' use of socilal media. Among them:

  • Twenty-nine percent of organizations with 500 or fewer employees use social media to promote their companies. The number is higher for companies with 501 to 1,000 employees (38 percent) and companies with more than 1,000 workers (44 percent).
  • Comparing industries, leisure and hospitality topped those using social media (57 percent), followed by IT, (48 percent), retail (43 percent) and sales (41 percent).
  • Forty-three percent of respondents say their marketing department handles social media outreach, followed by public relations (26 percent) and human resources (19 percent). (This mirrored results of a recent Digital Brand Expressions survey in which 71 percent of respondents said marketing was responsible for creating and maintaining a social media communications plan, followed by public relations (29 percent).


Maybe it's no big deal, but another stat from CareerBuilder.com bothered me a bit. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they didn't know how many employees were communicating on behalf of their organization through social media. A quarter of them said they had one to three people doing so, 7 percent said four or five folks are involved, and 11 percent said more than six people fill a communications role.


I'm not really troubled by the fact that so many companies can't answer this. It's hard to say due to the wording of the question (as "on behalf of'" does imply folks acting in an official capacity), but I think it may be an honest acknowledgement that employees sometimes communicate about a company on their own time. (That's one of the factors that makes it tough to create a good social media policy.)


Companies like Microsoft find positive benefits far outweigh the bad in being mentioned in lots of unofficial discussions online. When I interviewed Toby Richards, general manager of Community & Online Support at Microsoft, and asked him how many online communities Microsoft had, he didn't know. And, he told me, "it's not a metric I care to track.".


Still, I find the uncertainty over numbers at least a little problematic, given Burson-Marsteller's findings earlier this year that not providing a unifying social media strategy for employees can result in mixed messages and tones and abandoned social media accounts that could be detrimental to a brand.

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