NEWSFLASH! Study Says Social Media is A Waste of Time! (At Least For Hospitals)
While some camps can't tout the benefits of social media enough, others question the extent to which they should actively guide, promote and shape online conversations about their organizations. A new research study by MIT Sloan School of Management Prof. Catherine Tucker and Prof. Amalia Miller of the University of Virginia suggests that when organizations actively manage their social media presence, the main result is an increase in user-generated content from employees, not increased engagement from customers or clients. So companies that invest marketing dollars in social media hoping to engage customers may be missing their mark.
Oh that's rich. So all this time, all we've been doing is getting brands to talk more about themselves by themselves without their customers giving a crap?
Of the findings, Tucker says, "Firms have a choice between trying to actively direct the flow of social media conversations, which costs money, or letting those conversations flow organically. In our national study, hospitals that managed their Facebook profiles actively began receiving a lot more likes, visits and comments. That sounds good on the surface, but we also found evidence that this activity came from employees of the firm, not from customers."
OK. Phew. So it's only hospitals that talk to themselves in a bubble when using social media.
"Maybe employees are already more closely tied to the organization than clients are, so employees don't need content focused exclusively on their needs," says Tucker.
In the rare instances the study found when a hospital did devote its postings toward client-specific communications, clients (seriously? they're called patients) did become more engaged.
Tucker says that content posted should be specifically focused on clients' needs and interests. "There is nothing wrong with having a social media presence that mainly encourages internal dialogue with employees. It may motivate employees or improve communication flows. However, if that is the case, human resources - rather than marketing - should be specifically incorporated into the management and funding of social media activity."
No there's piece of advice social business proponents can get behind.
She notes that this is "especially true" when dealing with products that are not naturally social. "Those conversations tend to be very fragile and consequently easy to suppress, so organizations need to consider carefully whether it's worthwhile to actively manage social media and, if so, which function should fund and manage it."
TIf you want to read the whole study, you can do so here.