Nearly all of us have had to explain — and pitch — social networking to our company leadership. Hence your overwhelmingly positive response to two recent blog posts that lay out five steps to building a companywide social-media plan and a plan for selling social media upstairs.

These how-to guides are handy, but they don’t address a critical element to making our collective case: knowing what we are up against.

To that end, last month, we surveyed the audience of one of our most popular daily news briefs, SmartBrief on Leadership, to get a sense for the overall business climate for social media. Our goals were to understand how company leaders view social platforms at this moment in time, what their concerns are about adapting them into their business practices and what relevant information they are hungry to know. More than 2,700 of 100,000 SmartBrief on Leadership subscribers from a diverse set of industries responded, and the results surprised us.

A view from the top:

  • How familiar are business leaders with social media?
    • Back to school: 75% of respondents say they were either knowledgeable or actively trying to learn about social media.
  • Are their companies currently using social media/social tools?
    • Getting there: 51% of respondents say their companies are actively using and exploring social media in a number of business areas. Another 30% are in pilot test/consideration mode. Only 27% say they are not using social media now and won’t be in the future.
  • Is social media just a marketing fad?
    • Social media is here to stay: While many leaders say they see social media as somewhat “over-hyped,” 63% of respondents say they disagree with the notion that it is a marketing fad.
  • Is it a waste of time?
    • Good use of company resources: 55% of business leaders say social media is not a waste of time.
  • What are the implications of ignoring social media?
    • Missing the conversation, both good and bad: 83% of respondents agree that social media gives them a window into what their customers are saying about them, and 80% say that social media has the power to magnify negative news about a company. This is obviously a key point of concern.
    • Falling behind the competition: 40% of respondents say they fear they are falling behind their competitors in using social media. Also, 25% admitted that they did not know what their competitors were doing in the space.

Clearly, leaders believe that social media has the potential for a significant impact on their business. In the coming weeks, we’ll be digging down further with executives on an industry-by-industry basis into how companies are using these technologies across their operations. Stay tuned for updates as we learn more.

In the meantime, is this the kind of feedback you are getting from your leadership? What role do executives plays in the implementation of your corporate social-media strategies? Does taking your social-media goals to the next level require more than simply CEO buy-in?

Image credit, Alistair Cotton, via Shutterstock

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22 Responses to “SmartBrief stats: How business leaders view social media”

  1. Mic Adam says:

    Interesting results. I am afraid in Belgium and maybe Europe in general social media is still seen as waste of time, a security danger to the organisation, etc.

    From personal study in Belgium earlier this year I can state that the large company CEO “shines” with his/her absence in social media! Since they do not participate they close down access for their employees.

    What a shame but I hope these messages will encourage them to do act positively.

    • Joe Buhler says:

      This seems to be the case in Europe in general. I have some experience with this in Switzerland and Germany and the reaction to it is mixed but as you say tends towards the negative aspects you mention. Although the time lag between the U.S. and Europe on the web in general has significantly shortened compared to the past, when it comes to the social web it still does exist.

  2. Joyce says:

    With such a large sample, it would be nice to see more results by sector, such as US vs. other regions, industries, etc.

  3. EmilyMolitor says:

    Mic, Joe, and Joyce — Thank you for your thoughtful comments, we appreciate your feedback. I am happy to see your interest in this subject, as we will soon be rolling out additional research reports on this subject which will delve deeper into this subject matter and provide you with the U.S. v Europe data you are looking for. Stay tuned!

  4. Baochi says:

    I do social media for Boingo Wireless and I love my job for 2 reasons: it's a damn fun job and the executive team is 100% behind our social media efforts. But enough about me and more importantly, have our social media efforts positively impacted us? Absolutely. Our daily interactions with the Boingo community allow us to: help customers troubleshoot, answer questions, and announce (and field requests for) new hotspot locations. Recently, we had an en masse email snafu in whichTwitter and Facebook were invaluable as communication channels.

  5. Baochi says:

    I do social media for Boingo Wireless and I love my job for 2 reasons:
    it's a damn fun job and the executive team is 100% behind our social
    media efforts. But enough about me and more importantly, have our social
    media efforts positively impacted us? Absolutely. Our daily interactions
    with the Boingo community allow us to: help customers troubleshoot,
    answer questions, and announce (and field requests for) new hotspot
    locations. Recently, we had an en masse email snafu in which Twitter and
    Facebook were invaluable as communication channels.

    Besides all this, we genuinely enjoy interacting with our community. It
    humanizes what would otherwise be just a Wi-Fi service…

  6. [...] recent survey, conducted by Smartbrief Leadership, [...]

  7. Staci Bender says:

    Looking at the line about “80% say that social media has the power to magnify negative news about a company.” This is true, but no matter if you want to explore social media or not – your competition, your potential customers, friends, whatever are talking about you. So, you have a choice….you can participate or you can fear social media and watch from the sidelines. And, if there are negative comments about your company being said, think about 5-10 years ago – you may have never even known about it. This day and age, you can fix a problem, address it, get rid of it and move on.

    • EmilyMolitor says:

      Great point Staci. I think this is an issue that will push many leaders over the line in favor of implementing social media strategies at their own companies.

  8. [...] to Reference: SmartBrief stats: How business leaders view social media Share This Post. Post a [...]

  9. [...] The good news is that this technology is not that difficult to grasp.  Social media sites are designed for everyone.  From the savvy techie-geek looking to add yet another cyber-tool that will allow him to avoid actual human contact down to the retired baby boomer looking to get quick updates and photos of the grandkids.  Social media has something for everyone and every business. [...]

  10. Chris Fowler says:

    A very interesting read regarding the impact of social media, I think in all walks of business it is important for the bosses enhance their own personal impact as much as possible

  11. [...] where do most executives stand in terms of their idea the value of social media? In a recent survey, conducted by the daily news publication SmartBrief on Leadership, aiming to understand how [...]

  12. Ditto Effect says:

    75% of business leaders are knowledgeable with or trying to learn about social media. Personally I have been spending so much time with learning about marketing and social media that 75% seems pretty low considering social media has become so huge and tonnes of the top companies are taking advantage of this.
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  13. Dennis says:

    Emily,
    It is hard not to believe that social media is the newest power tool to be used by large corporate in marketing products and ideas. However, it requires somewhat of a change in Marketing perspective… Just like the break through when drill bit manufactures realized that the public was not looking for a drill-bit but rather a hole, so today, people want to buy products based on recommendations from users especially their friends, and Social Media is the link that makes this happen.
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  14. Drucker says:

    Thank you for another essential article. Where else could anyone get that kind of information in such a complete way of writing? I have a presentation incoming week, and I am on the lookout for such information.
    My recent post Druckerpatrone Canon und Tintenpatrone Lösungen

  15. Laz says:

    Good article, it seems that at least everyone is aware that it's important. Commitment will follow.

  16. It is hard not to believe that social media is the newest power tool to be used by large corporate in marketing products and ideas. However, it requires somewhat of a change in Marketing perspective… Just like the break through when drill bit manufactures realized that the public was not looking for a drill-bit but rather a hole, so today, people want to buy products based on recommendations from users especially their friends, and Social Media is the link that makes this happen.

    My recent post PS3 Singstar Cordless Microphones

  17. Franklin says:

    Now a days, social networking to our company leadership plays an important role. There are lots of networking sites which are useful for company progress: <a rel="follow" href="http://www.naturallyplayfulsandbox.org&quot; rel="nofollow"> Naturally Playful Sandbox
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  18. With such a large sample, it would be nice to see more results by sector, such as US vs. other regions, industries, etc.