What 78% of Big Businesses Can’t Figure Out on Social Media, and Other Surprising Statistics from the 2014 Spredfast/Forrester Report

Don’t you always wonder how the other guys do it?

You know, the BIG guys. Massive, billion-dollar companies are on social media just like you are – so what’s their game plan? What are their priorities? What do they struggle with?

Time to find out!

Earlier this year, social marketing company Spredfast commissioned a report from Forrester Consulting. Basically, they asked Forrester to find out how some of the biggest companies in the WORLD are using social media in their marketing.

Long story short, Forrester surveyed 160 marketing leaders at billion-dollar companies in the US and Western Europe, and the results are finally in. They learned a TON about how these businesses use social – what they’re doing, what they’re NOT doing, what challenges them, and a whole lot more.

You can download the full report for yourself right here, but I’ve been poring over it for days, and I’ve broken down some of the highlights!

Here are the top 5 things we can learn from the report – AND what they mean for YOU.

Social media report

Source: Spredfast

1. Social media marketing isn’t just standard – it’s PRIORITY.

It’s funny – just a few years ago, you might have had a hard time convincing some companies that social media marketing is worth their time and money. Nowadays, though, it isn’t just part of everyone’s strategy – it’s something they’re willing to seriously INVEST in.

If you wanna see evidence that major companies are taking their social media marketing seriously, just look at who they have managing their strategies. 78% place the responsibility of managing social marketing under a CMO, C-level executive, or an Executive/Vice President.

This means that when you look at how some of the world’s most successful companies manage their social, they aren’t just handing it over to an intern – they’re putting it in the hands of someone reasonably high up, who knows what the heck they’re doing. Not only that, but 69% of businesses said they planned on INCREASING their social staffing in 2014.

Social media report

Source: Spredfast

What this means for you: The days of social media marketing being optional are looooong over. If you haven’t made it a part of your marketing strategy, it’s time to start – and if you have, that doesn’t mean you can stop looking for opportunities to improve.

2. Social media doesn’t belong to just ONE department.

“Social media marketing” is kind of a misnomer, right? Because while marketing is the number one reason businesses use it, it isn’t really JUST for marketing – it’s for a lot of different things. And that means you have to be SUPER versatile.

At LEAST 50% of businesses use employees in ANY given department to help on social.

That means they’re not just using people from the marketing department – they’re using people from PR, legal, sales, IT, and so on. And why are they using those people? Because they NEED them.

Remember – marketing may be social media’s primary use, but it isn’t its ONLY use. Social media is just the medium, and your audience is going to use it for a wide variety of reasons, like asking you questions, seeking technical support, getting help with billing, registering complaints (hey, it happens), and a lot more.

What this means for you: Don’t let the name fool you! Social media marketing isn’t just about marketing – it’s about connecting, and giving your audience whatever they’re looking for. If you can handle all that on your own, then great! More power to you! Otherwise, you might take a page from the Big Company Playbook and enlist some help. Your social media presence doesn’t have to be powered by just one person, you know!

3. Don’t get too comfortable with the networks you already know.

More and more social networks are appearing and growing all the time – and while a lot of them just sort of lose their oomph and disappear before you ever need to worry about joining, some of them don’t.

42% of businesses reported they were planning to adopt at LEAST one new social network in 2014.

Sure, staples like Facebook and Twitter are all well and good, but they aren’t the only game in town! As audiences start using new social networks in bigger and bigger numbers, the businesses that want to market to them are following suit.

What this means for you: Don’t think you can just sit still and get comfy with the networks you’re already on. They may be the biggest, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore the newcomers. Familiarize yourself with new social networks, and always be thinking about how you can use them to connect with your audience!

4. Sales don’t come first. (Or even second.)

When it comes to marketing, pretty much everything you do has the same final goal: make more money. (It’s okay to admit that. You’re a business!)

However, when it comes to SOCIAL marketing, you don’t necessarily make your business more money by pushing sales.

The number one primary objective businesses have on social media is building brand awareness. Building brand preference is the second most popular primary objective. Driving sales is THIRD.

Social media report

Source: Spredfast

That’s right – hugely successful businesses see their top priorities on social not as making money DIRECTLY, but as building up their know, like, and trust factor. (You can learn a lot more about KLT in Creating Fame.)

What this means for you: Think of social media as more than just a stage in the sales funnel. Sure, you can use it as a sort of link delivery system that does nothing but offer doorways to landing pages and online storefronts, but that’s not what WORKS.

Here’s another statistic: more than 69% of respondents encourage and/or recognize the people talking about them on social. That means they’re using social to INTERACT – responding to comments, liking status updates, engaging with tweets, and so on. They’re building relationships with the people in their audiences, and strengthening emotional connections. THAT is why social media is so valuable – not because you can use it to try to send traffic to a sales page.

5. Nobody can REALLY tell how much their social media is worth. (Seriously.)

Ever wonder what the ROI on your social is? All that time you spend writing tweets, posting updates on Facebook, creating cool little graphics to go with your posts – how much VALUE does that really add to your bottom line?

It’s not just you. Turns out, everyone else is wondering the same thing – even ginormous companies.

That’s not for a lack of trying, though! 74.1% of companies use data and insights to figure out which of their social media strategies are working. The two most common statistics to look at? Volume (number of fans and followers) and Engagement (comments, shares, responses). Nearly 6 out of 10 businesses check both.

But even though they’re checking those statistics to measure what’s working and what isn’t, they still can’t really attach a dollar figure to how much their successes are really WORTH. A whopping 78% of businesses report that it’s difficult to determine the ROI of social. And these are guys with the resources to really crunch the numbers and try to figure that sort of thing out – so don’t feel bad if you can’t quite come to a solid conclusion, either!

What this means for you: Don’t be frustrated if you can’t put a fine point on what your social media is worth in dollars and cents. Nobody really knows how to do that. What you DO need to keep doing, however, is monitoring what works and what doesn’t. What does your audience respond to? What does it ignore?

Here’s another stat that might help with that: nearly 3/4 of companies report that the way they measure social media’s worth is always evolving. This means that the stats you paid attention to the most a year ago might not carry the same weight nowadays! One of the most important things you can do is stay flexible, so you can change your focus as needed instead of tracking data that doesn’t help you in the long run.

The Final Verdict

So, what can we REALLY learn from alllll those statistics in the Spredfast/Forrester report? Basically, it comes down to this:

Big companies may have different resources, but they’re not doing anything on social YOU can’t do.

They use social for the same things. They run into the same challenges you run into. And while they may have more resources at their disposal, they’re not doing anything you can’t do for your OWN business. Kind of empowering, right?

Remember, if you want to see the rest of the report, you can download it here. Got any questions or comments about what you see? Hit up the comments below!

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About Laura Roeder

Laura Roeder is a social media marketing expert who gives businesses of all sizes the tools they need to make their mark on the web. She is the creator of the social media scheduling software Edgar, as well as social media marketing web courses like Creating Fame and Social Brilliant.


  1. Hannie van der Spe says:

    Thank you for this article, Laura. It’s not only a good and fun summary but you know how to explain it to every Tom, Dick and Harry. And that includes me ;-)
    Best wishes from The Netherlands,

  2. Excellent post. I absolutely appreciate this site. Keep it up!