Study: Europe is lagging behind in Social Media... Here's why in my honest opinion.

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OK so according to a recent study by InSites Consulting, European companies are lagging behind the United States in the use of Social Media.

Let's compare some of their numbers:

  • USA: Facebook 61% - Twitter 39% - LinkedIn 29% - YouTube 24%
  • Belgium: Facebook 59% - Twitter 39% - LinkedIn 35% - YouTube 20% (hey, not bad !)
  • United Kingdom: Facebook 61% - Twitter 44% - LinkedIn 30% - YouTube 23%

So where's the problem you would think...

Now, Steven Van Belleghem, partner at the research agency InSites Consulting, is the kind of guy who asks the right questions and that's when the trouble for European companies starts...

The key question is: How well do you integrate social media in your overall strategy.

According to Insites' research:

A mere 12% of the companies are integrating their social media approach into their overall corporate strategy. 15% are mid integration. 44% are currently experimenting or taking their first steps on the social web. 29% of the companies are not even doing anything on social media.

And that's where most organisations go wrong, the integration part.

In my honest opinion (and from experience) there are a couple of fundamental reasons for this:

No clear strategy.

Most organisations do understand the power social media brings with regards to direct contact with their constituents. Be it media, consumers, business partners etc...

But what they often fail to look at is the bigger picture, the integration model. What will all these nice "conversations" bring to the company or organisation ? Will it drive sales ? Will it improve customer support ? Even increase innovation output ?

It is like most internal social media projects which often start with "let's allows everyone to blog, tweet and use wikis inside the company"... After the roll out and the tools training a lot of employees think "so how do I use this for my day to day job ?".

Defining objectives and possible integrations for any kind of social media channel is paramount. And it doesn't always have to be "the big social project". If customer service is crap and your audiences communicate (among other things) via Twitter - maybe it is worth to start there, and integrate a social engagement platform with your customer service department next to what you already use.

No online monitoring

But how can you know if, in this case, Twitter is a possible solution for your business problem ?

Monitoring !

I am still baffled by how many PR colleagues are NOT doing online monitoring. In average, when I speak at a conference, less then half of the people in the room can tell me there and then what's being said about their organisation online.

And this is not only for reputation management purposes. Online monitoring allows you to determine if there is "room" for social media communications and if you can add value with your own engagement. At the end of the day, social media communications takes a lot of resources (time, money, people) and you will have to defend that budget to your management.

Even organisations who - after some online "market research" - make the decision not to engage should continue to actively listen about what's being said about their organisation - we call this "pre-emptive crisis management".

No access

And then there are those companies who will not allow employees access to the public web and to social media channels on the work floor... Now if you have been reading this blog you know I can get pretty exited about this (and not in a good way) but I'll keep it short. If you are using social media externally and closing the web for your employees you're "window dressing" and not being transparent. It is a simple as that.

Trust your employees (hey, you're hiring them for a reason right?) and give them a framework in which they can use social media. Good, open social media guidelines will answer 99% of your worries in this field.

On a final "promotional" note... Do read Steven's excellent book: The Conversation Company - the man gets it.

Here's a preview of what he explains in the book in detail.

Until the next time... Be safe and take care of each other.