The 2011/05/02 at 13:16
In the context of the theme “Social networks: selling, federating, communicating” organised by L’Atelier BNP Paribas at the start of February, a few lessons emerged from the L’Atelier-IFOP national survey carried out amongst French executives. In scarcely a few years – Facebook arrived in France in 2008 –, social medias have managed to convince over one-third of company executives in French private companies of their usefulness. Indeed, already 38% believe that companies should communicate via social medias such as Facebook or Twitter. On the other hand, 62% are against communication of this type.
This widespread reticence increases with age, but drops as the level of studies increases: 72% of those aged 50 or more and 7% of executives with a high-school leaving certificate level or lower are against it, whereas 48% of those under 35 and 45% of graduates from grandes écoles consider that companies should communicate via social medias. As for executives favourable to business communication of this type, the reasons most often raised are the creation of a community around one’s brand and products (47%), as well as the updating of one’s image (36%). Reasons that lag behind are the opportunity to find new clients (7%), the possibility of gaining client loyalty (4%), and finally the hope of making sales more effective (3%). Asked about the most commercially viable formats of social medias, French executives firstly cite communities for sharing views and recommending products (56%), then group-buying platforms (37%) and solutions for sending localised offers (34%).
A soar of social networks despite a lack of control
Despite their recent emergence only four years ago in France, almost one-third of executives questioned (32 %) say that they prefer social medias to more classic tools such as blogs and forums. Executives reluctant about this type of communication justify their doubts by firstly citing a fear of not keeping control over their communication (56 %), far ahead of other reasons. They then consider traditional media to be adequate (17 %) and that social medias trivialise a brand and products (13 %). In the eyes of eight out of ten executives surveyed, the communication of a business via social medias should be entrusted to only a few persons (80 %). Executives confirm their fear of seeing communication escaping their control if it is entrusted to a wider network of employees.
“We might be surprised by this somewhat archaic conception of corporate communication,” points out Philippe Torres, Director of Surveys and Consulting for L’Atelier BNP Paribas. “Many studies and observations, notably carried out amongst the famous Generation Y, indicate that tomorrow’s executives, as well as businesses, have much to gain from developing their ‘personal branding’ on Internet and social networks. We think that this will gradually challenge this overly rigid and centralised conception of business communication.”
Social medias, communication tools above all
Despite the reticence previously expressed, corporate social medias or public networks used by businesses are generally seen as beneficial by the executives surveyed. In this way, almost eight out of ten executives believe that the use of social medias is useful for communicating about one’s brand (79%) and three-quarters believe that they are a new way to recruit (75%). Furthermore, 70% see them as an opportunity to lead clients to retail outlets via the Internet. More marginally, but still generally, the possibilities of obtaining, thanks to social medias, answers to professional issues more rapidly, to bring together company employees, and finally to sell products, are seen as useful by respectively 56%, 55% and 53% of the executives interviewed.
In practice, the use of social medias by businesses seems to still be in a development phase. Over one business out of four (27%) uses social medias to communicate. This practice is nevertheless the most widespread one, as testified by the proportions of use of social media for other possibilities: recruitment (17%), leading clients to retail outlets via the Internet (16%), product sales (12%), drawing together company employees (11%) and obtaining answers to professional issues (10%) are not practices frequently related to social medias in the corporate world.
New attractive usages
For in-company communication with employees, social medias do not yet seem to be a real rival for classic modes of exchange. Nevertheless, for almost one out of three executives questioned (29%), instant messaging is the most likely form to be replaced. Mail, replaceable for 24% of executives surveyed, Intranet (21%) and email (18%) remain the key elements of internal communication. Finally, meetings, irreplaceable by social medias for 91% of interviewees, are in their eyes the most unchangeable form of communication.
Even if only a weak proportion of executives has already used social medias to carry out operations aimed to attract new clients (15%) or to secure client loyalty (13%), 23% envisage taking the plunge soon. However, there remains 62% who do not envisage attempting to draw clients in this way, and 64% have no ambitions to snare client loyalty this way either. •
The full study can be consulted on: www.atelier.net/fr/themas/reseaux-sociaux-vendre-federer-communiquer