By Daniel Hunter

Research released by the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) and global marketing and technology agency, LBi, investigates the extent to which UK businesses have reshaped their structure and processes for social media.

The research was conducted by YouGov and consisted of an online survey of over 600 senior managers at UK consumer businesses across retail, finance, travel, manufacturing, telecoms and pharmaceutical sectors.

In the past 12 months 55% of the sample said their company had made changes in order to become more social. However there is still some confusion as to where social media should sit within organisations and who should be responsible for managing the overall strategy.

Worryingly, 45% claimed they had not adapted their business strategies to become more social. The research revealed that in larger sized companies just 15% of CEOs are responsible for managing their social strategies compared to 29% in SMEs. Even more surprisingly a significant amount (13%) of respondents said this responsibility didn’t sit with anyone.

The research showed that 45% of marketing and sales departments are using the medium to raise awareness of their brand but only 28% are using it to actually interact with their consumers, suggesting that the core benefits of the two way communication channel aren’t being fully utilised. Remarkably 34% of businesses thought that no one in their organisation was using social media to communicate with consumers or for internal purposes. This was higher amongst SMEs (42%) compared to large companies (17%).

Measuring success and proving the tangible benefits of social media are the top barriers behind businesses becoming more social, according to the research. Despite an acknowledgement of these barriers, almost one in three (27%) do not know how the success of social media is measured within their organisation. A further third (30%) are using existing KPIs and a quarter benchmark previous campaigns with more recent ones (26%) with 17% claiming to record ROI.

Lack of confidence is still evident when it comes to utilising social media within UK businesses. A third (35%) did feel confident in communicating with consumers via social media however a similar amount (36%) did not, thus implying that education and training is still a core barrier to social media growth. Despite a large percentage of senior level employees taking responsibility for social business strategies, the research showed that 39% feel less confident using social media compared to those in customer service or PR roles (32%)

IAB’s research manager, Hannah Bewley said: "We wanted this piece of research to really identify and get under the skin of what UK businesses are struggling with when it comes to adopting social media into their strategies. It’s clear to see that resource, budgets and confidence are key challenges. However, the biggest challenge faced by organisations relates to difficultly in measuring success. The survey revealed some companies are attempting to measure performance, with a quarter undertaking benchmarking against previous campaigns and 17% reporting that they capture ROI."

LBi’s head of social business design, John Monks said: “Our research findings show that there is still a huge opportunity for brands to become social businesses, with nearly half admitting that they have not done anything in the last 12 months to become more social. While some brands make the use of social channels look effortless, it’s usually because they have invested in creating the necessary structures, processes and internal relationships. We believe that investing in becoming inherently social is crucial to the future success of any business.”

LBi’s client Kuoni is a good example of a business embracing social at an organisational level.

Kuoni E-Business Director, Matt Rooke said; “At Kuoni, we’ve recognised the opportunities presented by being more social as a business, and have started to adjust our structures and processes accordingly. Social business is supported at the top of our organisation, spearheaded by our Managing Director Derek Jones. We’ve taken an agile approach to making Kuoni more social, creating flexible teams across different departments within the business, who are able to change their approach quickly based on lessons learnt. Of course, we’re only just starting out on the journey to becoming social at an organisational level, but by putting the right structures in place, we hope to future-proof our business for the digital age.”

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