As social media usage spikes, businesses are turning to social media or community managers to make the most out of emerging marketing channels

• 28% already have a social media or community manager in place and a further 41% expect to appoint one in the next 12 months
• 73% of businesses are running online communities, or looking to do so in the next twelve months
• The most challenging aspects of social media management are attracting users (32%), generating content (28%) and dealing with abuse (27%)

London, 26th July 2011: Research released today finds that 69% of UK businesses have appointed or plan to appoint a social media or community manager in next 12 months. The EPiServer study, which reveals the opinions of 250 UK marketing decision makers, finds that with almost three quarters (73%) of businesses now running online communities, or looking to do so in the next twelve months, there is a greater need for specialist knowledge and expertise.

{{The EPiServer study – The rise of the community manager – reveals the majority of businesses are still turning to in-house marketing employees to manage communities and social media}}. At the moment, 51% of social media or community management is carried out by a marketing manager, 21% by a PR executive and 21% of respondents admitted the role was given to someone in IT. However this looks set to change, as 28% of businesses already employ someone dedicated to social media in-house, and a further 41% said they were looking to appoint one in the next year.

“These results clearly show that social media is no longer the new kid on the block,” said Maria Wasing, VP of Marketing Europe & Sales Operations, EPiServer. “However, while an increasing number of businesses are embracing social media, there are clearly areas for improvement if they are to take full advantage of these channels. Managing social media can be challenging and time-consuming, so it’s vital to put in place a dedicated resource, along with the right tools and platforms to ensure multiple channels can be updated and managed with ease.” 

Social media challenges
Marketers were clear that social media needed to be handled with care. The research asked respondents to suggest the most important qualities a social or community manager would ideally need, with enthusiasm (35%), writing ability (31%), experience (31%) and patience (29%) topping the table. These will be critical when handling the biggest challenges, cited by marketers as attracting members (32%), generating content (28%) and dealing with criticism or abuse (27%). 

But the social media opportunity was clear too, with the majority of respondents seeing the new channel as a way to properly engage with current and potential customers (44%). This was closely followed by the opportunity to conduct customer research (43%) and increase customer retention (36%). It’s interesting to compare these findings with the benefits marketers said they were already receiving, with increased customer loyalty being cited by 43%. Interestingly, increased sales turnover was reported by 28%, despite only 18% seeing lead generation as a primary reason for embarking in social media. Only 5% said they weren’t seeing any benefits.

“As more businesses start to take social media seriously, more will look towards employing community managers to ensure activities hit the mark. As this job function grows in importance, businesses will need to adjust to accommodate this person into the fabric of the company. Social media touches many or all parts of the organisation, from marketing and IT through to customer service and HR. And that’s a good thing, as it forces companies to become more transparent and encourages them to listen to customers in new ways,” said Maria Wasing.

The EPiServer report can be downloaded from www.episerver.com/communitymanager. It gives a full overview of all the findings from the report as well as offering practical tips on what to look out for when recruiting a social media or community manager.

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