By adaptive - July 14th, 2014

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Every year, we reach out to the social media community in house at large corporations and take the temperature of social adoption and use around the world

Two years ago we concluded in our report that corporations had adopted the so-called ‘hub and spoke’ approach to organise how social media was integrated into their organisations. Two years later, and we can report that this approach has proliferated.

For most corporate users of social media, the heart of this activity is their established marketing department. This area of their organisations sits at the hub of their social media activity and acts as the central driver for all social media interactions. The spoke of this organisational model are then made up of multiple departments including PR, customer services and, IT that all now have a connection with social media that invariably is managed through the marketing hub.

One of the key questions we wanted to answer in this year’s briefing is how social media now influences staff across the corporate landscape. Last year’s report found that 92.5% of respondents engaged with social media as a specific requirement of their jobs. This year’s report saw this rise by 0.5%.

In addition, this year’s survey concludes that nearly three-quarters (73.6%) of respondents have at least one member of staff employed to work exclusively on social media projects. A third have just one member of staff in this role, nearly a quarter (23.6%) having two-to-three staff members working in this capacity, with 15% stating they have more than six people actively leveraging social media within their organisations.

Another interesting aspect to reveal itself this year is how the personnel within the ‘spokes’ of the social media organisational model have changed: Last year’s report concluded that 58% of individuals within a company used social media in a professional capacity. Some 40.5% of this year’s responds state that they use social media in this capacity, a fall of nearly 18%.

In our briefing from last year we suggested that many corporations were using an organic approach to their social media adoption. The responses we received this year reinforce this view. Some 56% of responses stated that social media was now part of many departments across their organisations.

More telling, however is that 43% of respondents now have a separate social media team. This shift is welcome and illustrates how corporations are now taking the impact that social media has on their organisations much more seriously than they did just a year ago.

Who owns social media?

As with last year’s report, when asked where social media is controlled, over half (57%) of respondents state its controlled by their marketing department. This is an increase of 6% over last year, revealing that corporations continue to evolve into social businesses. This figure jumps by a further 2.4% when B2B only corporations are considered.

We also felt that this increase illustrated a better understanding of how social media could be leveraged, as 17% now have a discrete social media department. What’s more, when asked whether the rise of social media had had an impact on structures and departmental organisation, 71.5% stated it had (an increase of over 10% on 2013), further illustrating the transformative impact social media is having in the corporate and brand space.

If we also consider how the B2B sector differs from those corporations operating in B2C we see that when asked how many members of staff used social media in a professional capacity, last year saw 58% of overall respondents stating they had four or more members of staff using social media in this capacity. For the B2B sector the figure was 57% of corporations and 51% in the B2C sector. This year’s figures reveal that 11.4% overall respondents have four to six staff members using social media in a professional capacity, with 40.5% having more than six. Turning to the B2B sector the corresponding figures are 11.4% and 37.9% respectively. Turning to employees that engage with social media as a specific role within their jobs, we see 19.1% of corporations revealing they have six or more employees in these roles.

Social ownership

The increasing shift away from social media simply being a function of marketing is profound and we think it will continue at an accelerated pace. As corporations become ‘social businesses’ all stakeholders will have a social media facet to their duties. Marketing continues to be the hub around which social media orbits, but that hub is becoming less well defined, as simply a function of marketing, and becoming a function of all departments.

We have seen over the last two years a clear organic development of social media across the corporate landscape. We do though feel that leadership has also been a major force behind these changes.

Last year we reported that 18% of social media experts reported directly to the CEO – up 14% on the previous year, which we found gratifying, as a clear indication that social media was having more attention paid to it at board level.

This year’s report has seen yet another improvement, with nearly 23% of CEOs being ultimately responsible for their social media teams. Nearly double (40.3%) that figure still ultimately report to the head of marketing, but the 5% shift towards CEOs is critical in how social media’s importance has grown in just 12 months.

What is more telling in the B2B space is that there has also been a marked shift in ultimate responsibility for social media engagement. Our results from last year showed that 15% of respondents reported directly to the board or CEO. This year the figure has jumped to 23.2% - an impressive 8.2% increase. We believe this is significant and illustrates how leadership in the social space for B2B corporations is no longer just the responsibility of marketing.

Our key finding in last year’s report in this section was that the hub and spoke approach to social media organisation had proliferated. This year’s results further that conclusion, but we are now seeing a softening of the rigid nature of that model to include many more spokes. In addition, the near 10% increase in the direct involvement of CEOs with their company’s social media activity is the standout result from this year’s survey.

This year we also saw that there is a completely even split of 50% of B2B and B2C corporate users that state they now have a discrete social media team within their companies. This is gratifying to see and illustrates that the B2B sector in particular is now taking social media much more seriously than it once did, and is prepared to make the investment in dedicated teams to leverage the benefits that social media offers.

Social media is also becoming a function of many more departments with more staff members using social media as a core component of their duties. Ultimately, these results show great progress towards more social business development, as marketing, PR and communications siloes dissolve to be replaced with a more holistic approach to business management with social media at its epicentre.

Download the full The State of Corporate Social Media Briefing 2014.


* To ensure our report would include a wide range of social media activity analysis across the corporate space, we actively identified respondents from all major economic regions of the world. The vast majority of our respondents are located in the USA and Canada with a breakdown of: 43.9% on the East coast, 39.8% on the West coast, and 39.6% centrally located.

The other regions of the world are also well represented in this year’s report with 25.9% located in mainland Europe, 20.3% in the UK, 18.6% in Asia and 14.3% in the Middle East/Africa. As with last year’s report, we now ask our respondents which areas of the world fall under their responsibilities and not simply ask for their current geographical location.

This results in our figures total over 100% as many of our respondents are responsible for multiple regions within their organisations. This ensures that this report offers a more accurate reflection of how corporate social media is managed as a global concern.

To ensure that the insights in our report this year are from the horse’s mouth, as it were, we have actively pursued corporations for their insights. The data presented here includes 57% of respondents from corporates and brands with 42% from agencies and other third party service providers.

As with previous years we have ensured that we present data on both the B2B and B2C sectors. There is continuing and concise evidence that the B2C sectors is embracing social media at a much faster rate than corporations within the B2B space.


However, we gained more than double the number of respondents from B2B companies as we did from B2C, with nearly half (48.6%) of respondents stating they worked for both. 

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