IT leaders stay quiet on social media, survey finds

Nearly 90 per cent of large and medium-sized Canadian enterprises view social media networks as having a potential impact on their corporate brand, according to newly released data from SAS/Leger Marketing. But that hasn’t inspired IT managers and CIOs to take a very active role in the trend.

The survey — which reveals the latest data from a March 2010 poll of 1,022 private and public sector business leaders — pointed to the CEO as the biggest social media champion, with 28 per cent of survey respondents citing the top business leader as the person most responsible for driving social media tactics.

The head of IT ranked near the bottom of the list, with seven per cent citing that role as the top social media driver, just ahead of the CIO at five per cent.
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Along with this finding, the survey suggests that despite strong support of social media initiatives, only 16 per cent of respondents said it is the most important aspect of engaging the public about their brand. Another 31 per cent of survey respondents cited social media projects as a major marketing initiative that trails traditional marketing tactics, while 42 per cent said social media strategies play a limited role in their business.

As for how often organizations keep tabs on social networking sites, over 60 per cent of responding executives said their companies sometimes or always monitor social media channels, while 32 per cent said they rarely or never monitor.

Lori Bieda, a consultant with SAS, said that because the social market is still evolving business leaders are often outsourcing their social media monitoring to hosted solutions. She added that the volume of data is too large and sophisticated for many in-house IT shops, as it involved Web crawling, text mining, analytics, natural language processing and more.

As social media evolves, Bieda expects more IT involvement from companies that want to start “layering their data” and understanding the richness of it. This could mean IT will get more involved providing feeds from customer records, call centre logs, internal blog content, and market research.

“Social media data is one of the richest data sources the industry has ever seen,” she said. Bieda added that IT will be tasked with making room for these new data sources, organizing it, and linking it up with their existing customer databases.

For Tim Hickernell, lead analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group Ltd., IT’s lack of involvement is not surprising. He even downplayed the influence from the CEO and higher business executives, adding that most social media initiatives come from bottom-up in the marketing, sales or other service departments.

“IT shouldn’t be the driver, but they should be more involved,” Hickernell said.

In the public sector, Hickernell said, IT is more likely to be involved in social media strategies than at their private sector counterparts because “government IT is far more in line with the mission of supporting the citizens.”

Recent Info-Tech data suggests that IT’s biggest areas of opportunity in social media strategies will be with social media technology support, managing social media security, and social media content archival, Hickernell said.

“There’s a big opportunity in security and privacy,” he said. “Helping the business unit understand what the risks are in exploiting and using different social channels.”

Ranked low on the list, he added, was social media reporting, integration with other IT systems, and monitoring social networks. 

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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