Canadian biz execs so-so on social: Leger

The public sector values social media more highly than private as a means of public engagement, according to a Leger marketing poll, but 21% of ad execs say it's a trend with an expiry date.

When the Ontario government this weekend announced it will allow mixed martial arts in the province, the news quickly spread with the help of social media: MPP Sofia Aggelonitis, who was answering reporters’ questions on behalf of Premier Dalton McGuinty, tweeted the news release on her account early Saturday morning.

Within hours, her announcement was re-tweeted by hundreds of others including president of Ultimate Fighting Championship, Dana White.

The ability of social media to spread news at rapid-fire speeds is just one of the reasons corporate executives and government officials are using the medium to help develop their image. According to a SAS/Leger Marketing poll of 1,000 Canadian executives released this morning, one in six said social media is the most important means for their organization to engage the public about their brand. Thirty-one percent said social media plays a major role, 43% said the role of networks like Facebook and Twitter was ‘limited’ in their branding strategy, and just 10% said they didn’t bother with social media at all.

Public sector executives are more likely than private sector executives (21% vs. 14%) to say social media is their most important means of public engagement. Tourism organizations, for example, now regularly make social media an integral part of their campaigns: the Canadian Tourism Commission recently posted tweets on storescapes in New York City to engage passersby in an interactive mural encouraging travel up North.

‘Our research is showing that governments in Canada are increasingly embracing social media,’ says Dr. Alison Brooks, director of Public Sector Research for research company IDC Canada, in a release from Leger. ‘Deployment costs are low, participatory gains high and the ease and immediacy of impact make the technologies hard to ignore.’

In the private realm, the finance and banking category was most likely to engage in social media with 28% of execs saying it was the most important means of communicating with the public about their brand. One in five advertising, media and communication companies (21%) say the same, while only 6% of the health services and pharmaceutical industry say it is their most important avenue for public engagement.

Execs based in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec are more involved in this realm than those in Atlantic Canada: one in five executives (20, 19 and 15%, respectively) said social media is their most important means of communicating with the public, while just 6% of executives in Atlantic Canada feel this way.

Waste of time?

The advertising and communications community also shows some skepticism about the long-lasting impact of the Twitter-verse: 21% said it will be gone in a few years.

Nationally, 10% of respondents interviewed said social media is a waste of time: 15% of construction, manufacturing, real estate and legal executives felt this way, and 7% of retail execs agree. The private sector was also more skeptical than the public sector with 12% (versus 7%) saying it is a waste of time.

Interestingly, private sector execs are more sensitive to how their brand is portrayed online: only 6% said people who use social media are a vocal minority whose opinions don’t matter much, while 12% of public sector execs felt this way.

Sixty percent of execs say their organization often or sometimes monitors social media channels for mentions about their business; 20% rarely monitor social media and 12% never do it.