Survey Says UK Businesses Must Embrace Social Media

UK businesses are even lagging behind those in developing markets in their use of social media to connect with customers and will have to buck up if it is to keep up, according to a KPMG survey released last week

The survey, Going Social: How Businesses are making the most of social media,  found that more than 70 percent of organisations globally use social networks and that social media is seen as a viable and effective business tool.

It’s a new world

While 80 percent of businesses believe using social media delivers significant business returns, and outweighs its risks, only 48 percent of UK companies use the medium to communicate for business purposes, compared to 72 percent in the US and 83 percent in China.

“Participating in social media has become a business imperative and, regardless of industry group or ownership structure, social media is rapidly moving up the boardroom agenda,” according to the survey.

If UK businesses are to remain competitive, they must build better relationships with increasingly savvy consumers and change the way they interact with customers, complaints and commercial opportunities says Mark Guinibert, customer & channel partner at KPMG. He believes that 2012 will be a game-changing year for social media in business and UK-based firms will face three challenges if they are to make the most of this growing medium.

The rules of engagement

The lines between consumer and corporate use of social media will become blurred and 2012 will see a rise in the use of game mechanics to attract consumers’ attention, stimulating debate and increased brand engagement, notes Guinibert, “We will begin to see industries applying intrinsic motivators in the form of games to encourage much greater brand engagement. Businesses will start to take notice of fast growing mobile social networks like Instagram that are blurring the boundary between content production and consumption.”

Even the most reluctant businesses will have to cave in to the pressure, realising that non-participation in social media is no longer an option,  and as they gradually facilitate more communication channels, wide-scale debate will replace command and control.

“Ignoring a problem does not mean it will go away.  Given the impact that public enquiries have had on a variety of industries in recent months, UK PLCs will accept that the rules have changed and conversations can no longer be controlled. Firms will come to acknowledge that, only by being authentic, can they expect to appeal to customers tired of corporate spin,” he adds.

Nothing to hide

Furthermore, transparency, which goes hand in hand with social media,  continues to grow, particularly in the wake of the financial crisis and the scandals which ensued. Guinibert predicts that companies will see the business case for opening themselves up to scrutiny via social media, “When it’s clear that they have nothing to hide they are much less likely to be on the receiving end of public criticism and are perceived as trustworthy.”

“It is naive to think that social media has no place in the business world.  With multiple channels available to consumers in the shape of smart phones, tablets and laptops, the businesses that will do well will be those that can adapt and adopt.  Anything less risks closing off routes to market at a time no business can afford to turn opportunities down,” warns Guinibert.

Iris Cheerin

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