Is anybody out there? Tech companies #fail at social media, says study

Next Story

Google, Doing No Evil, Close To Deal With Verizon That Would Kill Net Neutrality Forever [Update]

Nearly every company has a social media presence these days, right? And, naturally, tech companies execute best. Although perhaps not.

A slightly self-serving study by PR and marketing agency Wildfire, which analysed the social media activity of the 2009 Deloitte Fast Tech 50, found that 90% of the UK tech companies featured had a presence on two or more social networks but the majority fail to actually use social media in a social way. Instead, far too many brands are treating the likes of Twitter and Facebook as a traditional marketing channel.

Staggeringly (or maybe not), while 74% of companies operated an official Twitter account, 43% of brands had never replied to a single tweet. Overall, the study found that 57% used Twitter solely for one-way marketing activity.

The use of Facebook didn’t fair any better either. Wildfire found that 20% of those on the Deloitte Fast Tech 50 list had a presence on the social networking site, a paltry 25% of brands reply to followers’ comments on their Facebook accounts, while 60% of companies with a Facebook page used it purely as a distribution channel.

Oh dear.

I could go on but the bottom line is that for all of the social media marketing hype, the reality is a little out of kilter. Music no doubt to the ears of opportunistic social media marketeers everywhere who I’m sure are keen to help.

For what it’s worth, my experience of poor social media execution by companies on Twitter goes something like this: I tweet a customer complaint. A few hours later I get an @ reply from the brand’s official account offering to help or to put me in touch with somebody who can. I reply, giving more details of the problem, and thank them for offering to intervene. And then silence.

Companies, tech or otherwise, would do well to remember that in the age of social media, customer service is PR.

Or something like that.

(On a serious note, Wildfire do dish out some good, if not rather obvious, advice in the full report, which, yes, I did actually read.)

  • Jenni

    It’s an interesting study, but some of the screenshots suggest it was conducted back in May – a lifetime in social media. I imagine things have changed a lot since then.

    • Alex Graham

      “I imagine things have changed a lot since then.”

      Have you ever worked for a big company? You’d be lucky to see ~5% changes every quarter

      • Jenni

        I mean in terms of what those companies are doing in terms of social media. I know at least a few of that list have created Facebook pages since this study was done, for example. There are quite a few SMEs on that list as well.

    • morn

      Twitter is even more bad. Remember, those 3 newscaster that were fired because of a single tweet?

    • dikko

      yes perhaps they did change a lot.

  • Chris Z

    That’s a great report there. Comprehensive and indepth. Good one.

    It’s also true that many companies don’t see the value in interaction and conversation with their audience. It’s takes alot of ‘micro-effort’, but the in the long-run it’s ultimately worthwhile.

    And talking about #fails, there’s been one serious Social Media blunder just recently…check out the article at The Next Web:

  • Rob

    I know that my very large tech company spam the hell out of me on twitter with #tagged-beyond-readability gibberish that they think is how people on twitter want to consume information. I don’t think they get it yet as an interactive channel (although fortunately many of the employees do) and I don’t think that’s changed since May and I don’t think we’re unique.

  • @LStacey

    How did they get 43% of 50?

    • Peter

      “Staggeringly (or maybe not), while 74% of companies operated an official Twitter account, 43% of brands had never replied to a single tweet.”.

      74% of 50 is 37. 43% of 37 is 16.

    • Martyn Walker

      @LStacey Hahahah! Great comment, made me read it again :)

  • jave

    why should a tech company be any better at social marketing than a non tech company?

    • Scott


  • Scott

    By business is guilty of this too, I must admit…

    I think the explaination is that Founders of budding social sites are knee deep in coding & designing the actual site. Its a full time job in itself, to businesses that are often started from scratch with little or no funding.

    Also… having a good idea for a social site + being a coder/designer does not = social media strategist by any means. It’s like asking an author to press, hype, ad campaign, and distribute their book while writing it. Authors write and publishers publish. This is why it’s so clear to me that the social web industry is still trying to define itself.

  • Scott

    Further on this thought… maybe PR firms might consider getting into the business of VC investing in start-ups they want to promote, rather than trying to bill them for expensive campaigns many can’t afford (and therefore seek VC to obtain) ,sort of like the publishing or industry…

  • Phil T

    That’s all well and good however it would be interesting to see just how much of their business was affected negatively by using Social Media ‘incorrectly’.

    The chances are that it wont because these channels are just not relevant to how these large, corporate entites do business.

    • Phil T

      Just checked the list of 50 companies, which I should have done before commenting, and found on one ‘large corporate entity’ on there – which makes my previous comment moot! I’ll see myself out.

  • A view from the non-auto world: 5 Reasons why Ford is kicking butt. - Page 4 - GM Inside News Forum

    […] before partnering with GMC. Anyway, the timing of this post here couldn't come at a better time –…ia-says-study/ You can fail at social media, it is quite easy in fact. If you fail to capiviate your audience […]

  • Scott C

    “Overall, the study found that 57% used Twitter solely for one-way marketing activity.”

    And that is why Twitter is nothing more than a glorified RSS feed. Been saying that for years.

  • Arvind

    Steve w.r.t to this article we want to get in touch with you. Can you email to me on the id I just deposited?


  • Don H.

    How many of you with FB accounts actually interact with commercial interests? Maybe I’m weird, but it’s a rarity for me. I think I ‘liked’ the Ford 2011 Explorer and something other product… but it was a one time visit.

    • Scott

      We have a handful of super-members that interact with our companies facebook page… but it’s mostly because we use it to highlight members photography and praise user activities. Over all it’s a good resource for us when we find time to update it.

  • Pilgrim’s Picks for August 5

    […] Is anybody out there? Tech companies #fail at social media, says study […]

  • Marcie Bell

    360i published a report last week which delivered similar findings Too many marketers on a steep learning curve feeling compelled to push stuff out so they are seen to be doing the ‘right thing’.

  • Pilgrim’s Picks for August 5 | Google Adsense

    […] Is anybody out there? Tech companies #fail at social media, says study […]

  • Pilgrim’s Picks for August 5 | Google Seo Guide

    […] Is anybody out there? Tech companies #fail at social media, says study […]

  • Michelle

    The problem is everything is so splintered. I have a hard enough time keeping up with posting content to my small news site and dealing with everything related to that than wasting time trying to build an audience on Twitter, Facebook, etc. When there’s nothing in it for me (really).

    I think this push by hipster media companies like Tech Crunch to get everyone to use stuff like Twitter and Facebook is silly. No one has ever been able to explain what good having 100,000 followers on Twitter actually is. I always think it’s kind of interesting that Twitter doesn’t necessarily drive traffic, popular people drive traffic to Twitter/Facebook….

    • Martyn Walker

      @Michelle PalRelay wil solve the splinter effect by keeping everything with you every page you visit, and no, its not another toolbar or plugin or yet another social media site.

      Apologies for the plug but reading this and the comments has left me no choice. Shoot me down in flames.

      • Michelle

        Neat, I’ll have to give it a look.

  • Tech companies have unsocial social campaigns « All-Leo

    […] Read on over at TechCrunch. […]

  • Jan

    Most companies suck when it comes to customer care. Changing it to “Social Media” doesn´t make a difference.

  • Jack Thorogood

    Uh, doesn’t this actually suggest social media is a waste of marketing time/resources?

    These are the *fastest growing tech companies* and many of them aren’t bothering with social media marketing. Shock and horror that they aren’t doing more social media marketing kind of misses the point / inconvenient truth…

  • Pilgrim’s Picks for August 5 | | |

    […] Is anybody out there? Tech companies #fail at social media, says study […]

  • What’s Happening Around the Web: Tech Companies and Social Media | Image Space Media Blog

    […] presence. But that is not always the case, according to an article from TechCrunch today called "Is Anybody Out There? Tech Companies #Fail at Social Media, Says Study." "Old Phone 2" by stock.xchng user […]

  • Henway

    Social media = waste of time and excuse to chat with ppl

    Focus on conversion ratios, SEO, customer acquisition, and REVENUE

    And NOT fluffy fail whales.

  • ItThing’s Pick #4 | It Thing!

    […] Tech Companies Fail At Social Media [Technology] […]

  • Spencer Chen

    Social media is not a sales channel, it’s marketing or customer service…and that’s why you see the appropriate-levels attention and spend on it. Believe me, if you can get more yield out of social media programs, you’d have more senior execs in charge of much better funded programs.

    Zappos was providing great customer service and world-class customer engagement way BEFORE social media initiatives were around. It’s a culture-thing, not a social media-thing.

blog comments powered by Disqus