Unsurprisingly, findings of an SAS/Leger Marketing survey revealed that the vast majority of Canadian executives at large and mid-sized organizations say that social media has the potential to impact their corporate brand—and, as a result, are placing more emphasis on its use.
One in six said that social media is the "most important" means for their organization to engage the public about their brand. Nearly one in three said it plays a "major role," and 43 percent said it plays a "limited role." But only 10 percent of organizations don't bother engaging in social media. The survey reached more than 1,000 Canadian executives and was conducted earlier this year.
Other findings are equally unsurprising: Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec executives are more on board with social media than those in Atlantic Canada. While up to 20 percent of executives in some provinces ranked social media as the most important means of public engagement, just six percent of Atlantic Canada's executives felt this way.
Furthermore, public sector executives are more likely then private sector executives to say social media is their most important means of public engagement. Again, nothing too brain-scrambling.
"Our research is showing that governments in Canada are increasingly embracing social media," said Dr. Alison Brooks, director of Public Sector Research for IDC Canada. "Deployment costs are low, participatory gains high, and the ease and immediacy of impact make the technologies hard to ignore. Add this to the fact that much of the fear-mongering about the risks to privacy, security and information management posed by social media have been dispelled and you have a recipe for forward thinking government organizations intent on leveraging social media channels."
Finance and banking is the most likely to say saying social media is the most important means of communicating with the public about their brand—that one caught me off guard. 21 percent of advertising, media, and communication companies say the same. Only six per cent of the health services and pharmaceutical industry say it is their most important method for public engagement.
"Our research has found that the public sector has some of the most aggressive social media strategies of any market segment," said Tim Hickernell, the lead research analyst with London-based Info-Tech Research Group. "Social networks are the new citizen meeting places, where government can quickly survey the needs of the citizenry. Social channels are also proving to be extremely effective for government outreach and education, because social sharing spreads the desired messages much further than traditional media channels."
Nationally, one in ten executives interviewed said social media is a waste of time.
"Consumers are now, more than ever, keeping a close eye on our brands as they continue to engage with social media channels at unprecedented rates," said Lori Bieda, an SAS Consultant and former Marketing Executive. "With corporate trust at the lowest it's been in several years, consumers are relying on social media and their social networks to shape their buying decisions, making social media a powerful medium that businesses can't ignore.”
Nationally, one in ten executives interviewed said social media is a waste of time. Ontario, unexpectedly, is the most sceptical province when it comes to social media in general. 14 percent said it is a passing fad that will be gone in a few years. (Really, Ontario? Come on.)
"The true sentiment of brands is 'out there'—in a more public form than ever before—and delivered at speeds that can make or break brands," added Lori. "Mining social media data well will empower marketers, PR professionals, researchers and customer experience experts to drive business forward."
Finally, 12 percent of public sector execs say people who use social media are a vocal minority whose opinions don't matter much. Not sure which alternate reality they're living in.
The survey was conducted for SAS Canada by Leger Marketing in March. Its probability sample yields an accuracy of 19 times out of 20.