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What separates social-media veterans from rookies?

3 min read


Earlier this year, SmartBrief and Summus Limited asked the readers of various SmartBrief newsletters to complete a survey about their businesses’ use of social media. We heard back from about 6,500 readers and  compiled their answers into a report: “The State of Social Media for Business.”

We heard from readers in a variety of industries and across a range of company sizes — and the comparisons among those groups are really interesting. But my favorite section looked at the differences in social-media use between companies that have been using social media for a few months and the companies that have been at this for several years.

Compared with companies that have been using social media for less than six months, companies that have been using social media for more than three years are more likely to:

  • Say they have a fully developed or well-developed social-media strategy (65.7% of veterans compared with 13% of rookies)
  • Measure the return on investment of their social-media efforts (36.1% of veterans compared with 9.6% of rookies)
  • Say they would not be able to operate without a strong presence in social media (27.9% of veterans compared with 3.6% of rookies)

What are those three-year-plus veterans doing differently? Looking over the data, there are five behaviors that set the two groups apart:

  • Veterans invest more in social media, with 21.8% saying they devote at least 2 full-time staffers to social media — compared with 5% of respondents in the four-to-six-month range.
  • Veterans are more likely to have support from their leadership. The report showed 32% of three-year-plus veterans say social media is being championed by their leadership — compared with 17.7% of respondents in the four- to six-month bracket.
  • Veterans are more likely to diversify their tools. Across the board, veterans social-media users are more likely to use social networks outside of the big four (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube). They’re also more likely to say these other tools are important to their social-media efforts.
  • Veterans use social media for more than just marketing. When asked which departments use social media in their organization, 62.1% of respondents in the four-to-six-month category said marketing — compared with 55.9% of the three-year-plus group. But a higher percentage of veterans say they’re using social media in every other department listed — including public relations, IT, human resources, sales and product development.
  • Veterans are more likely to listen. The rookies are about as likely to say they use social media to put out news releases (38.7% of veterans compared with 39.3% of rookies) and maintain active fan pages (39.5% of rookies compared with 36% of veterans). But when it comes to listening, engaging, soliciting feedback and other activities that involve having a more open, fluid relationship with customers, the veterans lead the way in every category.

Of course, it bears mentioning that this is all historical data. Think about what social media looked like two or three years ago. It was a different world then — and we’re never going back. But while these figures shouldn’t be taken as exact markers of how social-media campaigns unfold, I expect that their core lessons will endure. Veteran social-media practitioners listen, they experiment, and they back up what works with manpower and leadership support.

Want to know more? You can check out a free topline version of the report or purchase the full version.

How has your company’s social-media strategy changed over time?