Last updated Thursday, July 31, 2014 03:12pm

On the cusp: Building social media into traditional business practice. — DNA picOn the cusp: Building social media into traditional business practice. — DNA picKUALA LUMPUR, Dec 12 — While enterprises in Malaysia generally acknowledge the power of social media as a genuine tool to enhance prospects and create brand awareness amongst consumers, they do not comprehensively understand how it impacts their business, nor do they have formal methodologies to track its return-on-investment (ROI), revealed a new study by PwC.
 
The global consulting firm’s study Getting social: Social media in business noted that 69 per cent of companies say they have at least agreed on goals for their social media activities, but many don’t have a clear strategy or formal performance measurement initiatives in place to track social media ROI. 
 
Of the 69 per cent who responded, 28 per cent have actually agreed on goals, 10 per cent have already communicated these goals to the stakeholders, while 31 per cent are monitoring and adapting their existing goals, the report noted.
 
Additionally, more than half (57 per cent) of companies don’t track the impact of their social media activity on their business, such as through sales leads and email subscriptions. As for building social media into KPIs (key performance indicators), only 27 per cent are already using KPIs to measure how successful their social media efforts are, the report added.
 
On budgets set aside for tracking social media, 59 per cent of survey respondents don’t have a budget yet (35 per cent have no budget at all while 24 per cent are in the process of developing one), it noted.
 
“Brands in Malaysia still believe in tried and tested forms of [traditional] advertising [although] the shelf life of a print ad is rather limited. Advertisements or campaigns on social media channels, on the other hand, are often much less costly and they can be reused and re-promoted, over and over again.
 
“But as social media is often relegated to a minor role in companies, they make do with a shoestring budget for their social media initiatives, without the help of comprehensive monitoring and measurement tools,” the report read.
 
The PwC study also highlighted that 70 per cent agree or strongly agree that C-suite participation in social media helps their leadership respond better in times of crisis.

And in a separate online straw poll PwC conducted among social media users, 77 per cent of respondents feel that a chief executive officer’s presence on social media directly impacts how they feel about the brand.
 
That said, most of the C-suite (47 per cent) use social media purely on a personal basis while only 29 per cent use it to engage with external customers.
 
“This can be attributed to the fact that many at this level of seniority aren’t digital natives, hence they are not naturally inclined to explore social media for business purposes,” the report said.
 
Another significant highlight was the fact that less than half (46 per cent) have guidelines on using social media for their employees, a poor reflection of Malaysian enterprises’ understanding of the business risks associated with the use of social media.
 
Other selected findings of the survey include:

  • Seven in 10 social media users feel that Malaysian businesses are not doing enough to embrace social media as a business tool; 

  • Seven in 10 social media users refer to a brand’s social media presence before making a decision;

  • Eight in 10 social media users agree that social media at the workplace drives innovation.

  • Three in 10 have not identified nor developed KPIs to measure the success of their social media activities; and

  • Six in 10 don’t have a budget for social media yet.

Conducted between June 5 and June 28 this year and culled from a total of 101 responses comprising public listed companies, multinationals, private companies, and government agencies, the respondents were spread across a range of industries, organisation structures and sizes to ensure fair market representation, PwC said.
 
The firm said the majority of those polled via a 30 multiple-choice questionnaire had an annual revenue of more than RM1 billion (US$311 million), with 64 per cent of respondents being in the public relations/corporate communication field; 17 per cent specialising in social media/digital marketing, and 11 per cent comprised C-suite/senior management.

Social media metrics?

Speaking at a panel discussion in conjunction with the release of the report on Monday, Jason Juma-Ross (pic, middle), digital intelligence lead for PwC Australia, noted that it takes an organisation a long time to embrace social media channels because many of these companies already have established processes and large investments built into their existing channels.
 
“[As a result] social media tends to get executed as an add-on first,” he said. “When it’s an add-on, you won’t suddenly turn off, say, your call centre channel and [just] turn on, say, a Twitter channel, but rather, you run it on top of your existing channel.
 
“If we want to get to the situation where the consumers are actively engaging on your social channel, it’s going to take time and companies need to be educated.”
 
Also on the panel were Ahmad Izham Omar (pic, centre right), chief executive officer (CEO) of Media Prima Television Networks & Primeworks Studios; Mohammad Shazalli Ramly (pic, far right), CEO of Celcom Axiata Berhad; and Khailee Ng (pic, centre left), chairman of Rev Asia.
 
Asked by panel moderator Umapagan Ampikaipakan (pic, far left) of BFM Radio as to whether there are even established metrics to track social media, Juma-Ross said that it’s definitely not about “likes” on Facebook.
 
“We know it’s not ‘Likes’. But for a company, thinking of volume of either shares or ‘Likes’, it may not be an important metric to what they’re trying to do with the business and may even be irrelevant.”
 
Juma-Ross said many social media campaigns to date have unfortunately been measured based on the number of “Likes”, but the question remains for the industry is how you prioritise that in terms of business value, noting that there is no sure fire way to evaluate “Likes” yet.
 
“For now, a company will have to look at the process method [for evaluating a campaign]. For instance, if you’re going to sign up prospective subscribers, there is a certain process to follow and certain stages in that conversation path — from evaluating sentiment to intent, to [call to] action.

“What you need to do is to break down the information, the huge volume of chatter and figure what stages in that process a company is at. You’ve got to ask ‘Is that stage they’re in positive or negative with respect to their competitors?’ It’s a process of optimisation by listening intelligently rather than evaluating by volume.”
 
Should we strike back?
 
To a question from the floor on how does one manage social media given that Malaysians are quick to pose complaints and grievances rather than compliments, Media Prima’s Ahmad Izham noted that people were entitled to their own opinions and there is no need to be too reactive to those comments by deleting them and striking back.
 
He believes the behaviour one should have on social media should mirror what happens in real life, where a person rarely reacts violently when speaking to another.
 
“When someone gets aggressive around the table [in real life], in most cases, we would try to defuse the situation rather than fight back,” he pointed out.  
 
“I think the most important thing to be reminded of in all this craziness about social media is that we’re all just sitting around and having a chat, and that the same manner and etiquette we apply in person should be applied on social media.”
 
On the issue of whether one should separate his personal persona from the company one works for, Juma-Ross advised those on social media not to have their personal persona be too far different from that of one’s real-life persona as social media are filled with people with axes to grind.

“You can’t afford to be duplicitous in your character,” he pointed out. “All of us are transparent on social media so you can’t have your social persona and your personal one too far removed from each other.
 
“A lot of strong public relations disasters have been caused by personalities having very strong differentials between how they project themselves in reality compared with how they do so in social media. It’s important to close the ‘authenticity gap’ between the two.”
 
That said, Celcom’s Shazalli noted that while in most cases, employers should have a light-handed approach as to how employees use social media, there are cases where it’s imperative that employers take a “hard line” approach.
 
“We have engaged consultants to build in employment terms and conditions [into our contracts] because a company like Celcom is bound by Data Privacy laws [Personal Data Protection Act 2010]. We have strict guidelines against employees tweeting about our customers.”
 
Commenting on these guidelines, which are often not followed, Rev Asia’s Ng believes one way to make it easy for employees to adhere to these guidelines is to design an employee handbook that employees would want to read.
 
“Some of the most viral employee handbooks are like the one from Valve Corporation, the guys who make the Steam platform for gaming or Netflix, [the streaming video company],” he said. “If we can do that and capture their attention, they would want to adhere to the guidelines in all seriousness.”
 
Despite these challenges facing Malaysian corporations and their captains, all in the panel agreed that social media is here to stay and that stakeholders have no choice but to embrace it, a sentiment summarised well by a senior PwC executive at the forum.
 
“Many Malaysian organisations don’t have a robust strategy to guide their social media activities and quantify their benefits,” said Sundara Raj, PwC’s Malaysian Consulting practice lead. “This is a lost opportunity, considering the dynamic nature of social media which enables businesses to respond to what their consumers and employees are talking about as they unfold.”
 
To download the full report, go hereDNA