According to a survey by the Worldcom Public Relations Group, the world’s leading partnership of independently owned public relations firms, more than half (54 %) of the companies surveyed plan to increase spending on social media in 2011. This bodes well for Twitter, the most popular channel, used by 85 % of global respondents, followed by Facebook (74 %), LinkedIn (72 %), YouTube (69 %) and corporate blogs (60 %).
The survey of more than 100 business-to-business (B2B) company leaders confirmed the significant increase in the use of social media. Nearly all companies (83 per cent) are using social media to communicate with target audiences, and 66 per cent have been doing so for more than a year. Most executives (89 per cent) believe social media will increase in value for their company over the next year, of which 58 per cent expect the increase to be significant.
“Digital communities are an integral part of any B2B marketing strategy,” said Cortney Rhoads Stapleton, chair of the Worldcom B2B Practice Group and EVP at BlissPR in New York. “The survey shows that nearly all companies recognise the importance of social media, but many are still unsure how to use the medium to humanise their brand. We expect to see a higher comfort level with social media by this time next year as companies devote additional resources and personnel to this area.”
These findings are from the Worldcom Social Media B2B Study which examined the use of social media at B2B companies primarily in North America and Western Europe. The survey was conducted by independent market research firm Persuadable Research in April 2011.
Other Major Findings of the Worldcom Social Media B2B Study:
North America and Western Europe Differ in Social-media Approach
The biggest difference between social-media use in North America and Western Europe is the approach to “thought leadership.” In North America, thought-leadership promotion is the primary use of digital tools (30 per cent); but it was not mentioned by any of the respondents in Western Europe. Instead, European companies focused primarily on social media to communicate with potential clients (31 per cent) and current clients (25 per cent).
“In Western Europe, companies are using social media as a source to actively find new contacts and business leads,” said Antonia Contato, programme director of the Worldcom B2B Practice Group and account director at HBI Helga Bailey GmbH in Germany. “Our counterparts in the U.S. take a different approach, promoting company thought leadership via social media in order to draw in leads.”
This is also reflected in the difference in platforms used. In North America, 91 per cent of respondents are using Twitter, compared to only 62 per cent in Western Europe. Facebook is the most used platform for Western European companies (31 per cent, ) followed by Twitter (25 per cent) and corporate blogs (25 per cent). In North America, Twitter is used most (31 per cent), followed by Facebook (25 per cent) and LinkedIn (19 per cent).
Companies Expect Social Media to Drive New Business
More than 80 per cent of companies surveyed globally are using social media to communicate with potential clients, and when asked about the “most important” use of social media, 26 per cent cited communication of their company’s thought leadership, followed by “communication with clients” (23 per cent) and “communication with potential clients” (20 per cent). Companies are also using social media to build a community as an extension of their website (60 per cent), to communicate with journalists (58 per cent) and to communicate with potential employees or alumni (50 per cent), but very few cited any as a “most important” use.
Mid-sized Companies Lag Behind
When broken down by revenue segment, small (under US$50 million) and large (over US$1 billion, ) companies emerged as the social-media leaders. Nearly 80 per cent of small companies and 88 per cent of large companies have been using social media for more than a year, compared to only 57 per cent of mid-sized companies. In fact, 34 per cent of mid-sized companies surveyed have been using social media for less than six months. Mid-sized companies are still grappling with the role that social media will play in their communication and business-development strategies, and only 46 per cent plan to increase social-media spending this year compared to 68 per cent of small companies. Many companies still lack a dedicated team of experts in this area and are unsure as to which platforms make the most sense for their business.
About the Worldcom B2B Practice Group
The Worldcom Public Relations B2B Practice Group is a multinational partnership of public relations firms with broad and deep experience in business-to-business (B2B) communications that helps clients achieve a competitive advantage. Comprised of both specialist and generalist firms led by seasoned senior practitioners – most of whom are agency principals – the group combines strategic thinking with a “get-it-done” philosophy. Members share proprietary research, tools and robust thought leadership, whilst providing tactical expertise and client support. Clients benefit from a cohesive network of geographic and market expertise, along with assured confidentiality and agreed-upon standards of practice. Amongst the industries served by the B2B Practice Group are professional services, financial services, manufacturing, chemical and industrial, technology and healthcare.
About the Worldcom Public Relations Group
Worldcom Public Relations Group is the world's leading partnership of independently owned public relations counseling firms. Worldcom has 112 offices in 93 cities in 46 countries on five continents, more than 2,000 employees and revenue in 2009 of more than US $220 million. Established in 1988, Worldcom was formed so that the strongest, most capable independent public relations firms could serve national, international and multinational clients, whilst retaining the flexibility and client-service focus inherent in independent agencies. Through Worldcom, clients have on-demand access to in-depth communications expertise from professionals who understand the language, culture and customs of the geographic arenas in which they operate.