Transparency is key in social media, study says

NEW YORK: Chief communications officers or social media leads at 62 top global companies across major industries stressed the need for transparency and authenticity in social media engagements.

NEW YORK: Chief communications officers or social media leads at 62 top global companies across major industries stressed the need for transparency and authenticity in social media engagements.

The finding comes from a joint study conducted by FedEx and Ketchum called Leading Brands and the Modern Social Media Landscape. The study found companies are looking for social media to help generate word of mouth advocacy; develop brand loyalty and closer customer relationships; address customer care issues; educate customers and media about company-related issues; and support product/service launch/sales.  Regardless of the simplicity or sophistication of the social media outreach, participants stressed the need for transparency and authenticity in those engagements.

All participants reported some degree of social media presence, but fell into three distinct categories in terms of their engagement: 10% of them leaders, in which they engrain social media in every aspect of communication; 75% of them participators, in which they engrain social media in some aspects of communication; and 10% of them observers, in which they engrain social media in few aspects of communication.

In introducing the study at a lecture November 11 for the Institute for Public Relations, William Margaritis, SVP, global communications at FedEx, said the “disintermediation caused  by digital and social media” has caused a public erosion of trust. He went on to say it is key for companies to understand the role social media plays in helping companies rebuild what he calls “reputational intelligence”—the trust and confidence people place in their company and profession.

In his keynote, Margaritis said FedEx has started to use social media to share stories about the difference its employees make to customers. “Celebrating corporate culture through employee example both humanizes the company and adds credibility. Disseminating these stories through external channels lets employees know of the company's pride in them,” he said.

And he said if FedEx does it right, “we will see more employees acting as ambassadors in tweeting, posting, or otherwise sharing the stories in social media settings where family and friends can see them, initiating at least a mild viral effect.”

The study also looked at measurement, and found most participants distinguish between monitoring of online mentions and activity versus measuring the ROI of social media spend. While they generally agreed that there is no consistent, reliable approach to measurement, they also agreed that solely looking at metrics like followers or friends is not sufficient. 

Participants reported allocating money toward social media mostly on a project-by-project basis. They most frequently estimated spending between 5% and 15% of their overall external communications budgets this year on social media programming, and most predicted budget increases for next year.

Interviews for the study took place between August and October, 2010.

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