Social media is proving a big hit for global corporations

Research organization, Melcrum, announced the preliminary findings of the first
ever survey into social media adoption by large corporations worldwide. More than 2,100
executives responded about how blogs, podcasts, wikis and other collaborative
technologies are being used to communicate with employees and customers. (It was also covered in The Telegraph). Surprised the NHS hasn’t got into touch with Melcrum to use their expertise, for example with podcasts as a tool for internal communication.

Blogs are widespread but online video is the number one application
Much of the hype around social media so far has centered around the adoption of
blogging as a business tool for communicating with customers and staff. The majority of
respondents (55%) were already using blogs or planning to start in the next 12 months,
but even more popular was online video (63%) through video sharing services like You

Also increasingly popular were podcasts (43%), RSS/webfeeds (51%) and social
networks like LinkedIn (41%).

Robin Crumby, Melcrum’s Managing Director and co-founder commented that: “Big
business has taken note of the popularity of sites like MySpace, YouTube and Bebo and
is beginning to figure out how to integrate the same functionality and networking tools
with their corporate intranets.”

The gulf between the hype and reality
The survey also highlighted major discrepancies between the hype and the reality of
social media adoption with 73% of respondents having no intention of implementing 3D
web tools like Second Life for their businesses.

Why is big business so excited about social media?
When internal communicators were asked about the top two perceived benefits of social
media for their organizations, 71% selected “improved employee engagement”, 59%
said “improved internal collaboration” and 47% chose “creating a two-way dialogue with
senior executives”.

Robin Crumby adds that: “The next generation of employees entering the workforce will
expect to be able to have their say and network with their peers online. Corporations are
preparing for this now. By encouraging staff and customers to get involved and build
communities around their brands, companies know that they can get better results in
terms of staff productivity and engagement, but also customer retention and acquisition.”

Risk to reputation needs to be properly managed
While there is widespread enthusiasm for social media in the corporate world, 45% of
respondents agreed that employees discussing their organization online posed a
significant risk to its reputation. And yet, 70% admitted that they had no guidelines or
policies relating to blogging or other social-media tools.

Even more worrying, was that only 26% were sure how to monitor what was being said
about their organizations, industry or products online.

Robin Crumby commented that “Smart organizations like the BBC, Sun Microsystems
and IBM are encouraging their staff to blog and participate in online forums whilst
educating them about the dos and don’ts, thereby minimizing the risk of libel suits.”

The future for social media?
While only a third of communicators described social media as a priority right now, 41%
reported that they were committed to two-way communication with
employees/customers online, and 52% anticipated their social-media budgets increasing
over the next 12 months.

When asked about the barriers for further adoption, 23% of respondents highlighted
gaining executive support as a key challenge, along with 13% reporting IT constraints
and restrictions.

Robin Crumby concluded that “It seems likely that social media is here to stay and the
key challenge for corporations is likely to be how they integrate these new technologies
into their existing media mix.”