The Altimeter Group released a report today that has some interesting insights into how enterprise corporations are using social media marketing. Surprisingly, the “advanced” companies using social media, the report says, are still deficient in tying customer data to their product roadmap and into support systems. While these are certainly the far reaches of integrating social data into a company’s ecosystem, the fact that even the big boys don’t have it all together is an indication that social is still a bit of a riddle for us all.

The report should also give medium and small businesses some degree of relief that very few have social data and integration figured out. Regardless of how behind you think your company is, few are out in front of this even after years of experimenting and even working with some of the more advanced thinking consultants and agencies.

The biggest insight the report uncovers is that 76 percent of social media crises, which are apparently on the rise, could have been averted or diminished if the companies interviewed had invested internally to follow the Altimeter Group’s recommendation of investing in four social business requirements: establishing governance, defining real-time processes, fostering a culture of learning and organizing into a scalable formation. Sure, the Altimeter Group wants companies to ask, “How do we do that?” so they can swoop in and land another consulting client. But as opportunistic as Altimeter’s recommendations are, they’re also sound and generally recognized across the industry as smart social business.

Jeremiah Owyang, principal author of the report and Altimeter Group partner, writes that these four social business requirements help businesses climb a Hierarchy of Needs that all companies must adopt to become “advanced.” (See page 19 of the report for a visualization of the hierarchy.) The report tested the hypothesis that companies who were in that classification prepare internally and reap long-term benefits. The research included a combination of qualitative and quantitative data, including interviewing corporate practitioners, social business software vendors and social business services and solutions providers (Note: I was interviewed for the report.).

Some interesting tid-bits I found are below. I would encourage you to download the report and read it for yourself. Take the advice on how to become advanced to heart. It can help your business become more social.

The report:

The insights I saw:

  • The research crossed industries and disciplines, so it’s not just a technology company report. Brands interviewed included clothiers, manufacturing, consumer product goods, automotive, entertainment, food industry and science, among others.
  • 100% (18 of 18) of the companies identified as “advanced” allow rank-and-file employees to use social media professionally.
  • 17% of the companies surveyed still do not have a social media policy for internal needs.
  • 56% of all companies, including four of the “advance” still do not have a defined workflow and response process defined, exposing them to a higher degree of social media crises problems.
  • Only 35% of all companies interviewed have ongoing education and training programs for employees. Of the “advanced” companies, 13 of the 18 do.
  • 16 of the 18 “advanced” companies have a center of excellence internally that shares best practices, education and training and centralizes social media activity in the company.
  • Marketing and PR are the primary deployment groups in the organization for social media efforts … by far.
  • Even advanced companies still lack key measurement processes. The ROI is still a big problem for companies to tackle.
  • The fractured landcape of social media tools, softwares and vendors, just makes it more difficult for companies to figure out. There’s no Swiss Army Knife here yet.

And Owyang, who is serving as the opening keynote speaker for our Awareness Exploring Social Media Business Summit in Boston on Oct. 17, will share more of his insights and ideas from preparing this report at the event. We’re anticipating a sell-out, so do reserve your spot early.

In the meantime, read through the report. You’ll be able to feel better about where you company might be in the landscape knowing that others are struggling, too. (Assuming yours probably is as well.) You’ll also get some strong recommendations from the leading industry analysis firm on how to become a more social business.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog and signature Explore events. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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