March 23, 2012 – Although more enterprises are using hashtags and wall posts than ever before, most are lacking the enterprise tools and internal governance policies to fully harness social media data, according to a new survey from CompTIA.

The report from the non-profit IT trade association, entitled “Social Business: Trends and Opportunities,” surveyed 400 IT and business executives at various U.S. industries in January 2012. For the survey, CompTIA broke “social tools” down into two categories: social media, like the use of public networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn; and social enterprise tools, those internal solutions that may be tied into an enterprise communications strategy or CRM system.

Use of social media was the norm among those surveyed, with 82 percent engaged in Facebook, and the majority also accessing Twitter (68 percent) and LinkedIn (68 percent). For those not involved on the social networking front, the study likened the hesitation to similar early business resistance to creating an Internet presence in the early 1990s, with some businesses having little or no social media implementation during this period of mass adoption as they wait to see if social media and tools “are a passing fad.”

Even with a social media presence, CompTIA estimated no more than half of all enterprises were “significantly” engaged in their public social networking outlets. Social implementation dives even lower when it comes to adopting social enterprise tools, with only a handful of those enterprises surveyed extending their social data capabilities with tools such as Yammer, Chatter, Jive or IBM Connections. A strong social media presence backed by enterprise tools led to more communications with customers, stronger brand positioning and overall cost savings, according to the survey.

Seth Robinson, CompTIA Director of Technology Analysis and an author on the report, says there is a “stark difference” between enterprise use of Facebook and LinkedIn, and analyzing data from those networking outlets with social enterprise tools.

“For all the discussion on social technologies, most companies have adopted a presence on the public sites but have not yet translated this experience into an internal platform,” Robinson says. “This translation is difficult because company culture can drive communication preferences, but the benefits to social communication indicate that companies will want to replicate these results internally.”

Between spending predictions that are expected to balloon in this space over the next few years and increased social media involvement, Robinson expects social tools to increase in prominence, especially with the growing capabilities around social analytics and data mining.

Also expected to grow in the coming years are internal policies to address social media use. Just 30 percent of those surveyed stated their enterprise had a formal social media policy in place, though another 34 percent noted that one was in the works. A challenge to instituting such a policy for many organizations will be addressing governance and allowing and enabling employees to interact online and “produce a more authentic social presence,” says Robinson.

“There are still going to be boundaries for permissible behavior, but much of that may already be covered by a company code of conduct. The power of social communications lies in transparency – a good message means that much more if the audience knows it is sincere and not crafted by corporate communications,” he says.

To access a copy of the report, click here.

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