Why Many Businesses Still Fear Social Media

Social media has come a long way over the past couple of years.  Some businesses have successfully embraced social media for marketing, growth, new opportunities and interactive engagement with customers and buyers.  But a number of studies published in recent months indicate that many businesses still have fears and concerns about widespread use of social media as shown by this sampling of findings from various studies:

  • Research from Russell Herder / Ethos Business Law:
    • 51% of senior management, marketing and human resources executives fear social media could negatively impact employee productivity
    • 49% of this group claim that social media could damage company reputation
    • 40% of companies surveyed block online access to social media for any purpose.
  • Results from a poll of system administrators by IT security and control firm Sophos:
    • 63% worry that workers share too much information on social networking websites
    • 66% are concerned that employee social networking could endanger company security
    • Approximately 50% block or restrict access to social networking sites
    • Productivity, data leakage and malware are primary reasons for blocking or controlling access.
  • A study commissioned by Robert Half Technology:
    • 54% of U.S. companies ban workers from using social networking sites
    • Only 10% of 1,400 CIOs interviewed said that their companies allow employees full access to social networks during work hours.
  • A global survey by Avenade and Coleman Parkes Research identified key barriers to adoption of social media technologies as:
    • 76% are concerned about security
    • Senior management apathy at 57% of companies
    • 58% fear using unproven technologies
    • 50% fear a negative impact on productivity.
  • A Nucleus Research survey revealed:
    • Employee productivity drops 1.5% at companies that allow full access to Facebook in the workplace
    • 87% of those who use Facebook at work had no clear business reason for doing it.

In spite of these fears and concerns, many business executives do understand the potential value of social media.  For example, in the same Russell Herder / Ethos Business Law research, senior management, marketing and human resources executives perceive the following potential value of social media for their businesses:
  • 81% believe social media can enhance relationships with customers
  • 81% see social media value for building a company’s brand
  • 69% think it’s a viable recruitment tool
  • 64% think it can be a customer service tool
  • 46% believe that social media can enhance employee morale.

This is an interesting dilemma for marketers.  Most of us know and understand the huge potential of social media and social networking for marketing.  Many of us have successfully used social media and social networking for marketing activities and plan to do more.  If everyone in a company has some role or contribution to marketing and sales as they should, then how do we deal with these fears, concerns and apathy that will impede progress for making social media and social networking an integral part of a business?

Something else to consider is the impact of these fears, concerns and apathy at customer or prospective buyer companies.  If over half of companies are blocking or restricting access to social media, it means the social media-based marketing programs won’t reach at least half of the intended target audience.  Good reason to continue using traditional marketing channels as the social media channel matures and hopefully overcomes the current fears, concerns and apathy.

Have you faced these issues in your marketing work and how have you handled it?  Your comments are always welcome.
Copyright © 2009 The Marketing Mélange and Ingistics LLC. http://marketing.infocat.com


Anonymous said...

It is interesting the use of the words "fear" and "worry". That speaks volumes. We need to embrace these new techologies and networking sites. They are hear to serve not to hinder when used intelligently.

Tom Pick said...

Excellent post Mike, helpful to see some research and numbers around what I've seen anecdotally (and blogged about a while back in a post on social media ostriches: http://webmarketcentral.blogspot.com/2009/04/social-media-ostriches.html).

I think there's still a great deal of misunderstanding at senior levels of what social media can and can't do, and the risks of participating vs. the risk of not participating.

seo services said...

Interesting article. Nice research. I also thinks that there's a fear in social media if you don't know how to execute in the right way. We all know that spammer are also joining social media sites to spam the members. And if you don't know how to promote your site in the right way some members might actually think that you're a spammer.

Susan Fantle said...

One problem at a few of the companies I work with is bandwidth. As you report, they perceive the risk involved. They want to "control" their social media communications just as they control their marketing and advertising programs. But they have no one internally who has the time to dedicate to doing it right. So they would rather not do it than not have control over it. Some are considering outsourcing their "official" social media interactions, but I think they might still block employee use because they cannot "control" that.