Execs divided on value of social media

Increasing brand awareness seen as top benefit: Study

Canadian executives have decidedly mixed feelings about social media, according to a poll of 400 business leaders by Queen’s School of Business in Kingston, Ont.

While 39 per cent of bosses said social media is something they need to use — whether they want to or not — 35 per cent said they use it heavily because it’s a good opportunity for the business, with the remaining 24 per cent saying it doesn’t add any value.

Despite these divisions, 72 per cent are planning to invest the same or more on social media versus last year.

Many executives also worry about how the use of social media by employees might affect the company’s reputation. For example, 91 per cent agreed employees should be mindful that even when using social media on their own time they are still representing the company.

“What happens on Twitter doesn’t just stay on Twitter,” said Kate Rowbotham, professor of human resource management at Queen’s School of Business. “People may feel that their participation in social media is personal but the boss doesn’t necessarily agree that your opinions are just your own. We have seen a number of examples of overexposure on social channels by individuals that has had a negative impact on the overall organization.”

Close to nine out of 10 business leaders (88 per cent) said participation in social media after hours can potentially have an “extremely positive or negative” impact on a company’s brand.

One-third (34 per cent) disagreed with the notion that what employees do on their own time is their own business, found the survey. Almost one-quarter (22 per cent) felt social media use by employees outside regular work hours should be monitored.

More than two-thirds (68 per cent) of executives reported their organization has policies on the use of social media at work, while 18 per cent forbid social media usage at work.

Uses for social media

Increasing brand awareness is perceived by executives as the top benefit of using social media, according to 39 per cent of respondents. Rounding out the top five responses on the number one benefit are: recruiting talent, gaining a deeper understanding of customers, getting new business/growth and networking.

“Too many organizations are using social media to amass shallow acquaintances, when the goal should be to develop fewer, more meaningful friendships,” said Neil Bearse, who leads seminars on social media at Queen’s School of Business. “The fact that so few executives say their companies are using social media to get to know their customers suggests that those who do may be enjoying a significant competitive advantage.”

Highlights from the survey:

Only four per cent of execs cited retaining top talent while three per cent cited communicating with employees as the top benefits of using social channels.

When considering a new employee, one-third of execs view social media experience at least as important as speaking a second language or having international work experience, and one- quarter view social media experience as just as important as years of overall experience or industry experience.

One-half (51 per cent) of execs “strongly agree” and a further 28 per cent “agree” social media is making it harder for older employees to compete in the workforce.

Seven in 10 execs (72 per cent) reported a greater or equal investment in social media efforts this year compared to 2011.

Eight in 10 execs polled (82 per cent) are personally using social media, with LinkedIn as the clear front runner among the channels.

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