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Execs divided on social media, but still spending: report

Concerns over brand perception weigh heavily.


June 12, 2012
by PLANT STAFF

KINGSTON, Ont.: A new poll of 400 Canadian business leaders by Queen’s School of Business reveals decidedly mixed feelings about social media.

While 40% per cent of bosses say social media is something they need to use, whether they want to or not, 35% of them say they use it heavily because it’s a good opportunity for the business.

The remaining 24% say it doesn’t add any value.

Despite these divisions, a strong majority of executives (72%) are planning to invest the same or more on social media versus last year.

Click here to download a PDF of the findings.

The survey also reveals that many executives worry about how the use of social media by their employees might affect the company’s reputation.  For example, the vast majority of executives (91%) agree that employees should be mindful that even when using social media on their own time they are still representing the company.

“What happens on Twitter doesn’t just stay on Twitter,” said Kate Rowbotham, Professor of Human Resource Management, Queen’s School of Business. “People may feel that their participation in social media is personal but the boss doesn’t necessarily agree that your opinions are just your own.  We have seen a number of examples of overexposure on social channels by individuals that has had a negative impact on the overall organization.”

The mic is always on

  • Close to nine out of ten business leaders (88%) say that participation in social media after hours can potentially have an “extremely positive or negative” impact on the company’s brand.
  • One third (34%) disagree with the notion that what their employees do on their own time is their own business.
  • Two in ten bosses (22%) feel social media use by employees outside 9-5 should be monitored.
  • Over two thirds of executives (68%) report that their organization has policies on the use of social media at work, while two in ten (18%) forbid social media usage at work.
  • It’s not what your company can do on social media – but what social media can do for your company Increasing brand awareness is perceived by executives as the top benefit of using social media, mentioned by four in ten (39%) of respondents.  Rounding out the top five responses on the number one benefit were: recruiting talent, gaining a deeper understanding of their customers, getting new business/ growth and networking.
  • “Too many organizations are using social media to amass shallow acquaintances, when the goal should be to develop fewer, more meaningful friendships,” said Neil Bearse, who leads seminars on social media for Queen’s School of Business.  “The fact that so few executives say their companies are using social media to get to know their customers suggests that those who do may be enjoying a significant competitive advantage.”
  • Other thoughts from the corner office
  • So much for employee engagement: Only a tiny minority of execs cited retaining top talent (4%) or communicating with employees (3%) as the top benefit of using social channels.
  • Execs are practicing what they preach: Eight in ten execs polled (82%) are personally using social media, with LinkedIn as the clear front runner among the channels.
  • Time to update the resume: When considering a new employee, one third of execs view social media experience at least as important as speaking a second language or having international work experience, and one quarter view social media experience as just as important as years of overall experience or industry experience.
  • What Boomers can learn from Gen Y: 51% of execs “strongly agree” and a further 28% “agree” that social media is making it harder for older employees to compete in the workforce
  • Investing in social media makes cents: Seven in ten execs (72%) report a greater or equal investment in social media efforts this year compared to 2011.

The Queen’s Executive Survey was conducted by Environics Research Group and involved telephone interviews with 400 Canadian executives from March 16 – April 13, 2012.