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U.K. Technology Firms Don't Use Social Networks Well: Is That Important?

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August 17, 2010

U.K. Technology Firms Don't Use Social Networks Well: Is That Important?

By Gary Kim, Contributing Editor

U.K. marketing agency Wildfire  says the the top 50 companies in the 2009 Deloitte (News - Alert) Fast Tech; a list of the fastest growing technology companies in the UK., don't necessarily use social networking well, though 90 percent have a presence on two or more social networks. 

That might not be too surprising, at this point. It typically takes some time before consumers and businesses learn to use new technology in productive ways. Some of us tend to forget, and others never knew, that a huge wave of enterprise investment in information technology in the 1980s did not lead to any significant or obvious productivity gains. Those gains did materialize in the 1990s, but the point is that it can take time for organizations and individuals to learn how to use new tools in useful ways. 

That likely is the case for social networking as well, which might today be deemed more effective for business-to-consumer applications than for business-to-business apps. But experimentation is necessary, as it might take some time for users and organizations to adapt the tools effectively. That appears to be what most firms now are doing. 

Twitter was the most popular social tool, being adopted by 74 percent of brands in the study, followed closely by LinkedIn (72 percent), with Facebook (News - Alert) lagging far behind, with just 20 percent of tech companies having a Facebook page. Just under half of the companies in our study (48 percent) had a blog.

"Our study confirmed that, with some notable exceptions, brands are largely using social media to push out marketing messages and corporate content," Wildfire says. Some 60 percent of companies with a Facebook page used it purely as a distribution channel, 57 percent of companies with a Twitter account used it solely for one-way marketing activity and only 25 percent of blogs received comments on a regular basis.

That likely is not optimal, but we are still in the early stages of learning what works, and why. 

Wildfire notes that 66 percent of Facebook pages in the study received comments from users, with each comment presenting an opportunity to engage and to build brand advocates. However, 75 percent of technology companies with a Facebook account failed to recognize this opportunity and left comments unanswered.

In other words, technology companies also are ignoring audience feedback, a problem Wildfire says exists with other apps as well. Some 43 percent of brands with a Twitter account had never replied to a tweet, Wildfire says. 

Less than 25 percent of the blogs in our study received comments from visitors. Only 38 percent of firms featured links to Twitter on their homepages. Of business-to-consumer firms, only 25 percent featured Twitter homepage links.  

Companies were most likely to publish a blog link on their homepage (46 percent). 

Of the 11 companies that had a YouTube (News - Alert) account, not one of the companies featured a link to it on their homepage. And just one of the 36 companies with LinkedIn accounts featured a homepage link.

Less than half (46 percent) of the technology companies in our study had some sort of blog, but only one in fi ve was updated weekly; just under a third were updated every fortnight; but the vast majority were updated monthly. In terms of content, 90 percent of companies blogged about industry news, 43 percent talked about company products and 22 percent shared tips and advice with readers.

However, for a blog to be "social" it’s arguably necessary to encourage and engage in dialog with readers and other bloggers, and so the study looked for some evidence of this.

But only a tiny minority of tech companies entered into two-way conversations with their audience: just six of the blogs (26 percent) in our study received comments on a regular basis and only two of these had a response posted from the brand in question. Smaller firms who get lots of blog replies might have an obvious answer for why this pattern of behavior exists.

Any blog that gets a high volume of comments and replies must devote some staff resources to that particular task. The "curse" of high comment activity is that it immediately creates a need for more staff time spent monitoring and then responding to such comments. Most small firms do not have adequate staff resources in place to do so. 

Twitter was the mostly widely-used social network in the study, with 64 percent of technology brands having a Twitter presence.  But technology brands were generally not using Twitter to be social. The majority were either tweeting company news (46 percent) or industry insights (51 percent). 

Only three percent of the tweets were retweets, and replies represented just 12 percent of the total number of tweets. The study also shows that 43 percent of brands with a Twitter account had never replied to a tweet.

Tech companies are using Twitter to broadcast messages, but they are not engaging with their stakeholders and are therefore missing an opportunity to build community and infl uence.

Only 40 percent of the tech companies in the study actually had a Facebook presence and on average they posted five updates a week. However, just 24 percent had managed to build an active community, with the average Facebook fan page having a community of 164 fans.

None of that should be deemed a particular problem at the moment. Every organization is at an early stage of social media and social networking development. It might happen that the actual productivity, branding, commerce and marketing gains take some time to be realized, as has happened in the past. 

Gary Kim (News - Alert) is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Gary’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Juliana Kenny

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