UK marketers fail to click with social media

UK marketers are lagging behind their more Web-savvy international rivals who know social media is not a fad because it adds value to their clients’ corporate brands and identities.

A global study of 70 marketers, including those at GlaxoSmithKline, Sony and Hewlett Packard, shows the UK is ‘still learning’ about social media, while ‘experimentation’ has begun overseas.

The biggest obstacles to social media, such as blogs, podcasts, wikis and networking sites, going live for businesses were inept skills and a “lack of senior management commitment”.

The study, by researchers TNS media intelligence/Cymfony, suggests these barriers are being overcome in the US, where 50% of all marketing execs testified social media was “vital”.

But according to the wider findings, seen by Marketing Week, just 18% of UK-based marketers said the same – that blogging and social networks were good time spent building brand value.

Perhaps the UK’s disregard for the medium stems from its limited understanding: 22% of participants admitted they were ‘still learning,’ compared to a global average of 18%.

But the study also hints there is a more general lack of faith from UK-based companies and their marketers in the power of social media to achieve a return on investment.

It shows that just 25% of those questioned believe viral campaigns have very little brand impact, in contrast to 75% of US marketers who protested the opposite.

Marketers in several major countries agreed that the medium has lasted too long to be a fad. Those using social media widely insisted it will grow significantly over the next five years, compared to just a third of marketers at so-called ‘wait and see’ companies who said the same.

Wait-and-See companies stressed that their social media effort is using its channels for different types of corporate campaigns, like viral marketing and video.

In contrast, so-called ‘Revolutionary’ companies said their social media lens focused on using it as a tool to listen to consumer and bloggers’ points-of-view and crucially, respond to their needs accordingly.

“The Revolutionaries have a more sophisticated approach to creating stronger relationships with consumers and as a result are gaining a competitive advantage,” said Jim Nail, chief marketing officer of TNS media intelligence/Cymfony.

“The survey results show that most marketers think that social media is another media channel that companies can use to push their messages through.”

Jen McClure, a director of the Society for New Communications Research, said the findings confirm that a “tremendous shift” in the PR and marketing professions has taken place.

“Communications professionals have a real opportunity to increase their strategic importance,” she recommended.

“At the same time, companies and other organisations need to take a hard look at their cultures and ready themselves for this new approach to communications.”


1st April 2008

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