Still a journey for social media

The results of a survey in the UK published last week concludes that UK businesses are slow to take up social media.

According to a report in Marketing Week, the survey results show that only 18% of executives from participating UK companies see blogging and social networking as valuable, compared to 50% of US businesses questioned.

The survey was conducted by TNS Media Intelligence/Cymfony. There’s no public information on that firm’s website about the survey, but Marketing Week has these choice highlights:

  • Companies in the UK are lagging behind foreign counterparts in getting up to speed with social media, with 22% of participants claiming that they are still "learning", compared with a global average of 18%. Only 9% of UK businesses claimed to be at the "experimentation" stage.
  • 23% of respondents blame a lack of senior management commitment for the slow uptake, while 36% say it is due to a lack of skills. However, budget restrictions were not seen as hurdles in the UK, compared with a 10% global average.
  • Viral marketing in social networks is also disregarded by UK companies and, according to 25% of UK executives, viral campaigns have very little brand impact. In contrast, three quarters of US executives believe the opposite.

It’s a pretty bleak story the way Marketing Week tells it.

Although this survey does embrace the wider spread of social media, it offers a stark contrast to the picture presented last September in UK research from Loudhouse.

That firm’s survey suggested a rosier picture in how blogs drive business opportunities for UK companies

In particular, two of Loudhouse’s key results showed that 50% of companies undertake some form of blogging, either having a blog, or encouraging employees to comment on blogs; and that 31% of businesses state that their blog has generated ‘significant’ business opportunities

Maybe one difference between the two is how the results are reported.

In the case of Cymphony’s, Marketing Week’s view is less than positive:

22% of participants claiming that they are still "learning", compared with a global average of 18%. Only 9% of UK businesses claimed to be at the "experimentation" stage.

On the other hand, the picture is presented in a more encouraging light by Loudhouse:

63% of managers want to understand more about how blogs can benefit their businesses.

66% of businesses believe that blogs are becoming more influential as an information source.

54% of respondents believe that new skills sets and approaches are needed by their organizations in order to make use of blogs.

46% of respondents state that blogs can drive business opportunities in future.

It looks to me like a rather mixed picture, taking into account both research firms’ reports and the way in which the results are presented.

Still, I take the broad optimistic view, especially when I talk to companies or lead workshops on social media for business (such as one at the CIPR last week) as what I’m hearing overall is a strong desire to learn the hows and whys of social media.

My simple conclusion – we have quite a journey still in helping more companies understand where and how social media fits into their businesses.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Constantin Basturea

    What is missing from the article published in Marketing Week is any indication about the study’s methodology. Acording to Cymfony, the research was “based on 71 phone interviews with marketing professionals in four countries – United States, Canada, United Kingdom and France” (the study is available at

    Moreover, the sampling was purposive, so the results are interesting, of course, but there’s no way to say how representative they are for the way UK businesses adopt social media, overall.

    Also, I suspect the small number of UK executives interviewed by Cymfony were representing rather big companies, while the people interviewed for the Loudhouse’s study were representing 300 companies with over 250 employees. The difference in companies’ size might explain, at least in part, the different patterns of social media adoption.

  2. Toby

    Observations based on the webinar PPT .. while there are some interesting findings appears the data might be skewed a bit towards the business model of Cymfony. Example: Slide 12 – the majority of respondents thought gaining consumer insights was where social media offered the greatest benefit. That multiple choice question (I am assuming it was a multiple choice Q) did not provide a response regarding relationship building; also I found it odd that 0% did not consider that social media would increase purchase intent.

  3. neville

    Thanks for that link, Constantin. I’m not inclined to go through Cymfony’s hurdles on the website to download the PDF, though.

    Knowing a bit about their survey methodology is helpful. They talked to less people than Loudhouse did and apparently in different types of company, so a meaningful comparison between the two surveys isn’t really possible.

    Toby, one thought I did have when writing the post was wondering how objective or not Cymfony’s survey itself was. Looks as though not as objective as one would hope.

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