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Marketers See 'Customer Insight' Value in SocNets

Nearly 60% of marketing and management professionals think social networking can significantly influence their company's brand awareness.

However, less than one-quarter say they are "actively engaged," with it, according to a survey from the Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) Social Media Council (SMC) in partnership with HeadMix (via MarketingCharts).

The survey, which includes responses from DMA members representing nearly 40% of the Fortune 100, found that most survey respondents report that they are either "starting to learn" or in the "middle of the pack," in terms of understanding social networking and 35% say their companies have trials of social networking programs under way.

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Currently, fewer than 15% say social networking platforms are a core part of their business, and one-fourth are currently evaluating their strategy.

Internal and External Collaboration

In addition to social media's perceived benefit in improving customer perceptions, three-fourths of survey respondents also believe their it's important for their organization to complement its external social media strategy with networking software that enables internal workforce collaboration and communication. This, they hope, will boost innovation, improve customer insights, enhance culture, and raise employee productivity.

More than 70% of companies surveyed currently use external social networks, among other tools, for such internal collaboration purposes, and more than three-fourths believe such networks have significant potential value to their respective organizations.

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Other emerging collaboration tools that marketers say have potential: Blogs, mobile applications, Twitter and RSS feeds.

Capturing Customer Insights

In addition to building brands and fostering internal communication, more than 45% of respondents believe social networking can be critical to capturing customer insights, though it is not currently the dominant method for gathering feedback.

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Current methods of capturing consumer insights include online customer satisfaction surveys, getting feedback directly from employees, and capturing feedback through online customer forums.

Barriers to Adoption

The biggest obstacles to employing social networking, survey respondeents said, are finding clear, quantifiable business value, security and privacy concerns, and the medium's potential for time-wasting among employees.

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"These survey results will help quantify the benefits of internal and external social media and social business software," said Neil O’Keefe, DMA VP of catalog & multichannel merchant segments. "Both marketers and businesses will benefit from these results by capitalizing on the power of direct and digital centric marketing in the multichannel landscape."

About the survey: The survey was designed to provide insight into how social software currently is being used. It was conducted through an email invitation sent to more than 3,400 individuals at DMA member companies between April 28 and May 8, 2009.

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