Social media adoption yet to cross the chasm – IDC

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By Francis Moran

Although many companies have embraced social media tools, especially for internal collaboration and customer interaction, their adoption by business has yet to cross the chasm into mainstream acceptance, according to a study by research firm IDC that was presented at this morning Social Media Breakfast in Ottawa. Similarly, IDC senior analyst Krista Napier said, “as much we hear about (social media tools) … it’s important to remember not everybody is on them yet.”

IDC’s numbers came from a recent survey of 200 business and IT leaders, most of whom could identify Facebook and Twitter as social media tools but many of whom could not see any business value in deploying them. When IDC asked the question, “What words come to mind when you think of social media?”, the most frequent answer was “Facebook” followed by “Twitter.” “Consumer” was the third most frequently stated answer, clearly indicating that businesses do not see social media as an effective business tool. This lack of enthusiasm was further reinforced by the next three most frequently cited answers, “distracting,” “waste of time” and “no business value.”

Still, the IDC study did find some companies were using such tools, although at insufficient rates to be considered mainstream. Using Geoffrey Moore’s “Crossing the chasm” model of technology adoption, IDC pegged all social media tools as still being in the early adopter phase or having just moved across the chasm towards mainstream market adoption. Leading the way were wikis, with 25% of respondents reporting their use, followed by blogs at 21.5%. Podcasts were being used by 17% of respondents while microblogging, which includes Twitter, was at a dismal 10.9%.

Pointedly, use of social networking analytics was at just 13.1%, which may explain management’s poor appetite for a tool that has yet to generally submit to rigorous measurement.

Respondents said security concerns were the biggest hurdle to greater adoption, followed by a lack of senior buy-in and decreased productivity. Those companies that were using the tools were using them most for departmental collaboration (37.5%), improved customer interactions (34.5%) and improved employee morale (30%).

A further set of numbers suggested that the situation is unlikely to improve any time soon. Noting that use of social media by corporations is often lawless and ungoverned, often resembling “the wild west,” Krista said companies should develop social media policies. However, her research found that only 24% of respondents had done so while another 25% said they “planned to” in the next 12 months. Fully 40% said they had no such plans while the balance either didn’t know if they would or didn’t know what a social media policy would be.

The sobering reality that many consumers themselves have yet to embrace many of these emerging tools may also explain corporate reticence. In a similar study of consumer habits, IDC found that 64% of respondents said they used Facebook. The next most widely used social media tool, YouTube, was well down the adoption curve at only 14%, while Twitter was even lower.

Social media enthusiast Kelly Rusk tweeted me during Krista’s presentation to suggest that these numbers mean “there’s still opportunity for leadership in the space,” and I don’t disagree. The risk, however, is that marketers extolling the virtues of social media will find themselves too far out in front of both their corporate leadership and their markets.

/// COMMENTS

4 Comments »
  • Kelly Rusk

    October 14, 2009 12:01 pm

    Excellent recap Francis! You definitely make a good point about markets being active in social media, but on the other side of it–I often see (and is apparent from some of the stats Krista presented) business leaders/senior execs who dismiss social media as just a tool for kids/or having “no business value” which is definitely not the case in many situation. It’s been around and proved itself enough to warrant research, but there’s definitely a fine line between the hype and skepticism and it’s worth finding.

  • WTL

    October 14, 2009 12:48 pm

    Sounds like I missed some great info, so thanks for the post for those of us who couldn’t make it today.

  • Joe Boughner

    October 14, 2009 4:21 pm

    Agree with WTL, thanks for the post for those of us that weren’t there.

    It’s great to finally see some data to support (or refute) what may of us are hearing anecdotally.

    However, I still think one measurement is lacking – perhaps because it’s so hard to measure. How open are ‘consumers’ to hearing from businesses in the social media realms?

    There seems to be an inherent assumption among social media advocates that all marketers / businesses have to do is figure out where their target audiences hang out, then approach them there.

    There are examples of certain companies finding a receptive audience, of course, but I’m not sure these examples are necessarily representative of a broader trend. As Kelly points out, there’s room for a leader to step up and toe those waters – and perhaps that’s the only way to really know for sure. But I think there needs to be a greater understanding of the risk inherent in doing so.

    This ain’t a field of dreams. Simply building your presence in a social space doens’t mean your customers are going to come a’running, even if they’re nearby.

    Was the metaphor too much? Probably.

  • Francis

    October 14, 2009 6:03 pm

    Thank you all for your comments.

    Kelly — there is undoubted business value to be found in social media. I think the sharpest lesson Krista was teaching, however, is that those who pay the bills need more convincing. And even when they’re convinced, you may not find your customers are even in the social media playground. So we have a long way to go from these early days.

    Which brings us to Joe’s excellent question, which received only a partial answer when I raised it on your behalf this morning, Joe. Krista did say consumers are open to being approached via social media, but on their terms and at times of their choosing. I think this is actually one of the great powers of social media — we build the channels and use them to engage with our communities, whose members are self-subscribing. That means they elect to engage with us on these channels. But it also means they can elect not to. I think this changes the nature of the engagement in subtle yet potent ways.

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