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August 17 , 2010

Ninety per cent of Canadian organizations using social media

Public sector executives more likely to say it's the top means of public engagement than private

The vast majority of Canadian executives at large and mid-sized organizations say that social media has the potential to impact their corporate brand and as a result are placing more importance on its use. One in six says that social media is the most important means for their organization to engage the public about their brand; while 31 per cent say it plays a major role and 43 per cent say it plays a limited role. Just ten per cent of organizations don't bother engaging in social media. These are some of the findings of a SAS/Leger Marketing survey of more than 1,000 Canadian executives conducted earlier this year.

Provincially, Alberta and Ontario, and Quebec executives are more on board than those in Atlantic Canada; with about one in five executives (20, 19, and 15 per cent respectively) saying social media is their most important means of communicating with the public. Just six per cent of Atlantic Canada's executives feel this way.

In the public versus private debate, public sector executives are more likely then private sector executives (21 per cent to 14) to say social media is their most important means of public engagement.

"Our research is showing that governments in Canada are increasingly embracing social media," said Dr. Alison Brooks, Director of Public Sector Research for IDC Canada. "Deployment costs are low, participatory gains high, and the ease and immediacy of impact make the technologies hard to ignore. Add this to the fact that much of the fear-mongering about the risks to privacy, security and information management posed by social media have been dispelled and you have a recipe for forward thinking government organizations intent on leveraging social media channels."

At the industry level, which represents respondents from both the public and private sector, finance and banking leads the way with 28 per cent saying social media is the most important means of communicating with the public about their brand. One in five advertising, media, and communication companies (21 per cent) say the same, while only six per cent of the health services / pharmaceutical industry say it is their most important avenue for public engagement. Nationally, 16 per cent of respondents say this.

"Our research has found that the public sector has some of the most aggressive social media strategies of any market segment," said Tim Hickernell, Lead Research Analyst with London-based Info-Tech Research Group. "Social networks are the new citizen meeting places, where government can quickly survey the needs of the citizenry. Social channels are also proving to be extremely effective for government outreach and education, because social sharing spreads the desired messages much further than traditional media channels."

Social Media a waste of time for some
Nationally, ten per cent of executives interviewed say social media is a waste of time. From an industry perspective, 15 per cent of construction, manufacturing, real estate and legal executives say it is a waste of time. Less than half as many, seven per cent, of retail execs agree. The private sector was also more skeptical than the public sector with 12 percent (versus seven per cent) saying it is a waste of time.

"Consumers are now, more than ever, keeping a close eye on our brands as they continue to engage with social media channels at unprecedented rates," said Lori Bieda, SAS Consultant and former Marketing Executive.  "With corporate trust at the lowest it's been in several years, consumers are relying on social media and their social networks to shape their buying decisions, making social media a powerful medium that businesses can't ignore.”

Ontario, for all of its leading edge social media commitment, is also the most sceptical province when it comes to social media in general, with 14 per cent saying it is a passing fancy that will be gone in a few years, this compared to just three per cent in Atlantic Canada, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and five per cent in Quebec.  On the industry side, the  advertising and communications communities are more likely than the construction/ engineering/ manufacturing or food/ retail industries to say it will all be gone in a few years (21 per cent versus 6 per cent each, respectively)   Nationally, 9 per cent say social media is a passing fancy.

"The true sentiment of brands is 'out there'- in a more public form than ever before - and delivered at speeds that can make or break brands," added Ms. Bieda. "Mining social media data well will empower marketers, PR professionals, researchers and customer experience experts to drive business forward."   

Some additional stats

  • 60 per cent of execs say their organization often or sometimes monitors social media channels for mentions about their business.
  • 20 per cent rarely monitor social media and 12 per cent never do it.
  • 12 per cent of public sector execs say people who use social media are a vocal minority whose opinions don't matter much.
  • 6 per cent of private sector executives feel the same. Nationally 8 per cent say this.
  • 51 per cent of construction, engineering and manufacturing executives say social media has no impact on their business.
  • 14 per cent of health services / pharmaceutical executives feel this way.
  • 50 per cent of executives say they don't have the resources to monitor social media.

About the Survey
The online survey was conducted for SAS Canada by Leger Marketing, between March 3 rd and March 26 th, 2010, with a representative sample of 1,022 senior-level business decision makers. This method simulates a probability sample which would yield a maximum margin of error of +/-3.1%, 19 times out of 20.

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