Most British Firms To Hire ‘Social Media Managers’

Research has found British businesses are getting to grips with online matters

British firms are increasingly hiring ‘social media managers’ or ‘community managers’ in an effort to effectively engage with the online world.

This is according to research conducted by EpiServer, which in a survey of 250 UK marketing decision makers found that almost three-quarters (73 percent) of UK business run online communities or are looking to do so in the next 12 months.

Indeed, the EpiServer report found that 69 percent of UK businesses will appoint social media or community managers this year, with a further 41 percent saying they expect to hire someone in the next 12 months. 28 percent of businesses already have a social media or community manager in place.

Commercial Uptake

The results point to the rising impact of social media and how it is increasingly being viewed not only for personal use, but now has valid commercial reasons for its use by organisations and businesses.

Its seems that the appointment of social media or community managers indicates the willingness now of businesses to exploit these new marketing channels.

This is backed up by the EpiServer research, which also found that 73 percent of businesses are running online communities, or looking to do so in the next twelve months. According to the research, the most challenging aspects of social media management are attracting users (32 percent), generating content (28 percent) and dealing with abuse (27 percent).

And it seems that skills wise, companies are still mostly looking inhouse to fulfil these roles. Most companies are still turning to their marketing staff to manage communities and social media.

At the moment, 51 percent of social media or community management is carried out by a marketing manager, 21 percent by a PR executive and 21 percent of respondents admitted the role was given to someone in IT.

Social Networking Perils

“These results clearly show that social media is no longer the new kid on the block,” said Maria Wasing, vp of marketing at EPiServer. “However, while an increasing number of businesses are embracing social media, there are clearly areas for improvement if they are to take full advantage of these channels.

“Managing social media can be challenging and time-consuming, so it’s vital to put in place a dedicated resource, along with the right tools and platforms to ensure multiple channels can be updated and managed with ease,” said Wasing.

The research report highlighted the fact that businesses see social media as a new channel to properly engage with current and potential customers (44 percent). This was closely followed by the opportunity to conduct customer research (43 percent) and increase customer retention (36 percent).

And it seems that social media is already paying off as benefits apparently include increased customer loyalty (43 percent). 28 percent of businesses also reported increased sales turnover, despite only 18 percent seeing lead generation as a primary reason for embarking in social media. Only 5 percent said they weren’t seeing any benefits.

“As more businesses start to take social media seriously, more will look towards employing community managers to ensure activities hit the mark. As this job function grows in importance, businesses will need to adjust to accommodate this person into the fabric of the company,” said  Wasing.

Facebook Bans

So whilst this research indicates the acceptance of social media for commerical reasons, other research points to the fact that many firms remain extremely wary of allowing their staff to use Facebook or Twitter whilst in the office.

In May for example a survey found that nearly half (48 percent) of British businesses have banned their employees from using social networking sites at work. The survey, carried out by HCL Technologies with Lewis PR, found that aside from an outright ban, 63 percent of firms have actively discouraged employees from using social networks at work.

That survey found most businesses were not concerned about any productivity impacts, but instead feared that their business reputation was at stake” if derogatory comments about the firm were posted on a social network.

Those findings echo a survey carried out by Webroot last year which found that about half of UK and US small to medium-sized businesses banned their workers from accessing social networks at work.