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The Social Transformation Report

How modern organizations are growing brand value, operational efficiency, and business impact with social media

Keeping social stuck in marketing misses its greater value

Social's place in marketing is well established—but executives often underestimate social's economic, cultural, and transformative value. Understanding the true potential of social has become imperative as organizations look for new possibilities in the wake of COVID-19. That’s why we set out to discover how social is helping businesses build relationships, create tangible business value beyond marketing, and catalyze digital culture shifts.

We surveyed 2,162 marketers and executives about the use and effectiveness of social media within their organizations, answering three critical questions.

  • What do organizations achieve when they broaden their use of social media beyond marketing and communications departments?

  • How does social media impact customer, employee, partner, shareholder, and community relationships?

  • As organizations expand their use of social media to influence these relationships, how does it prepare them to meet broader transformation goals?

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The short of it

We found that these actions help organizations better realize the value of social.

Tap into social media’s ability to develop and deepen relationships. As the world has grappled with a pandemic and protests, we’ve seen just how social media can maintain and even strengthen relationships. The need for increased speed and real-time data has elevated social’s role in staying connected not only with customers but employees, partners, and the community.

Extend social media beyond marketing and communications. While social media’s role in customer engagement is well known, mature organizations are using social media to achieve broad cross-organizational benefits. In particular, employee advocacy creates greater value in brand health and internal engagement and also improves efficiency in areas ranging from strategy to sales.

Use social to advance the cultural change needed for digital transformation. Social media programs deployed to a broad set of employees and business functions raise employee skill sets, create value and new efficiencies, and get leaders educated, talking, and aligned around a comprehensive digital strategy.

The bigger picture

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Sophisticated organizations look beyond their customers

We found that sophisticated organizations—those with robust social media strategies—were more likely to be using social to build relationships beyond their customers. Over 75% of businesses in our survey reported using social as a channel to talk to customers and their communities. But far fewer were reaching other stakeholders like employees and partners. Sophisticated organizations were nearly twice as likely to be building relationships with these segments—and to report that it was having a direct impact on their ability to close sales and keep their employees aligned.

By expanding their social strategies beyond their customers, sophisticated organizations saw a significant improvement to their brand health, with 80% of these businesses reporting improved brand health metrics such as relevancy and positive sentiment. Part of this is because socially mature organizations use social listening tools to better understand their customers and respond to their needs. But the other major contributing factor is that these businesses have robust employee advocacy programs that allow them to create deeper ties within their organizations.

It’s like when Taylor Swift calls out one fan, it shows that we’re listening. It shows that you know you’re being recognized, that your efforts are being rewarded.

Brad Van Houte Head of Global Social Experience & Visual Design Amway
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Social drives media efficiency and smarter sales

It’s well known that large audiences, advanced targeting capabilities, and cost effectiveness make social an effective channel for reaching customers. However, organizations with mature social media programs were more likely to be using social analytics to better understand what their customers were thinking, and what they needed. This was especially evident at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which mature users were three times more likely to report improved brand sentiment. As the world grappled with lockdowns, economic uncertainty, and civil unrest, these brands were able to react quickly to shifts in consumer sentiment and make better strategic decisions when it came to responding.

Organizations that know what their customers need in real time are also better able to equip their sales teams in the long term. Our data shows that socially mature organizations consistently report better lead quality and reduced customer acquisition costs. Overall, while 53% of all respondents reported that they can attribute value to business outcomes driven by social media (such as leads, sign-ups, donations, downloads, and purchases), mature users were twice as likely to report they have tracked sales partially attributed to social media.

  • Respondents that said social media empowered them to reach prospective customers more efficiently than other media.

  • Respondents who agree that the use of social media has improved brand health measures.

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Social shifts culture. Culture transforms business.

Sophisticated organizations treat social as an integral part of their broader transformation agenda. They understand that transformation requires more than new technology. It requires shifting the culture within their organizations—a shift that starts at the top. Socially mature organizations were five times more likely to have an executive sponsor when compared to less mature organizations. Interviewees were clear that the broad adoption of social within their organizations had made it easier to build trust between executives and the rest of the organization.

Over half (66%) of survey respondents also agreed that their social media programs have helped their organizations prepare for broader digital transformation. With steering committees, working groups, and employee engagement already in place, organizations with mature social media practices are better set up to support the internal changes and challenges needed for broader digital transformation initiatives.

How our customers are approaching social transformation

  • Sodexo, a global food services and facilities management company with 428,237 employees in 80 countries, puts stakeholder outreach at the core of their social strategy. They ran a highly targeted social campaign to reach executives at a single organization with social posts about their commitment to corporate social responsibility. Sodexo’s team promoted it with paid social posts, while employees with connections to executives shared campaign content to their personal social media networks. It reached the right people and played a role in winning the high-value contract.

  • At Avidia Bank, a mutual community bank in Hudson, Massachusetts, their team uses social to understand customers better and drive sales. When a prospect engages with an article that an employee has shared on LinkedIn, Avidia Bank’s employees contact them to share information about business banking services—reducing the need for on-site visits, or time-consuming lead nurturing.

  • For Georgia State University, social is the glue that connects their entire communications strategy. From using Hootsuite Amplify to get their president and deans engaging directly on social, to coordinating quickly during high volume events, to managing messaging spikes during crises, social is a critical part of the campus experience for students, faculty, and leadership alike.