Baker & McKenzie has released its first global client survey on Social Media. Based on the responses from international clients across a range of 14 sectors the report highlights how corporate social media use stands at a critical point in its development. While the understanding of how and where social media can benefit an organization is now firmly established, its use still remains fairly one dimensional. There remains a significant minority of companies – 14% – who do not use social media at all. Companies in the Telecoms sector perceive themselves as the most advanced in their engagement with social media, while  interestingly a high proportion of Media & Advertising companies still see their social media use as being in its infancy. Companies mostly still use social media as a one-way method of communicating with customers but there is a growing proportion of organizations who now see two way engagement to be important to their social media use. Corporates are also getting better at managing the perceived risks around social media with more appropriate guidelines and controls in place. Anne-Marie Allgrove, Baker & McKenzie’s global Information, Technology & Communications chair explains, “Relatively few organizations  see themselves as having achieved any real level of sophistication in terms of their social media strategy. Social media still remains for many companies a one way promotional tool rather than an opportunity to actively engage with your customers.”

Breakdown by industry

The survey revealed significant differences in the way various sectors appraised their own social media maturity. While nearly half of telecommunications companies surveyed thought their social media approach was ‘sophisticated’ with a further 40% concluding it was ‘developing’, 40% of media & advertising companies thought their approach was still in its infancy with not a single respondent suggesting they had a sophisticated approach. Other sectors who were similarly dismissive about their own industry’s approach to social media included Pharma & Healthcare and Manufacturing, while Finance & Insurance and Technology were more positive.

Why companies use social media

The survey confirms how different industries use social media for different strategic purposes. Overall, profile raising was seen as the most important reason for engaging in social media. Technology and Finance & Insurance respondents  were far more likely to use social media to improve customer engagement and relationship management.

How companies are organized around social media

Reflecting the belief that ‘one size or one strategy does not fit all’, companies took differing approaches as to how their social media activity is organized. Only 37% of those surveyed have a centralized social media function with regional or decentralized options being nearly equally popular.

The risks and how they are managed

The survey highlighted several key risks for companies about using social media. The most concerning was the risk of sensitive or confidential information being disclosed (highlighted by 39%) followed closely by bad PR (38%). Inappropriate use by staff was only the 5th most worrying concern. Anne-Marie concludes, “Companies are getting better at seeing where the most important risks are on social media. A few years ago the focus was very much on inappropriate use by staff, now there is a greater understanding about the value of social media and the need to manage and control use of social media by staff including by ensuring appropriate policies are in place and monitoring and auditing compliance.” Click here to download a copy of the full report.