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003Although 77% of management consider social media to be very significant or significant in raising profile, the latest research shows a greater recognition of the importance of interactions and relationships, and the ways social and digital technologies can support them.

Marketing experts see considerable value in using social media channels for interacting with clients and prospects. One observed that marketers feel they have greater engagement through being able to see, first hand, the impact on relationships. As a result the research found that management and marketing experts are closer in their views on social media and its use. Channels are now used in equal measure with existing clients and prospects, although the technologies are still not used effectively for internal collaboration. An improvement in understanding over the use of these technologies for relationship building, however, appears to be closing this gap.

Content featured heavily in importance in the 2014 report. There has been a significant increase in those who understand the value of sharing content as well as recognising the relevance of blogs and knowhow in wider digital technology use. However, with other studies, such as the 2014 Legal Technology Future Horizons report, suggesting that real-time reporting through dashboards is rated by clients as an important factor in perceived service value, firms’ limited understanding of opportunities for content and reporting raises the question of how prepared the sector is for expected changes in client demands, based on new technologies.

Reporting and planning played another significant role in the findings, with few of the concerns raised in 2013 having been addressed. Whilst there is more investment in planning and considerably more information is collected and shared, there continue to be big issues over who gets to see data. There also continues to be a lack of understanding about the amount of time being spent on use of these technologies and, as a result, their full contribution is not measured by the majority of firms.

The report raises a number of questions for future research, in particular concerning the confusion over what generates results, how much to invest and areas for priority. There also appears to be a lack of understanding of the ways in which interaction with clients through social media can contribute and add value to client care and key account management, in partnership with other technological developments. Social media is still viewed, by most firms, as a standalone activity, rather than an integral part of relationship building and business development.

Following feedback from the 2013 report, the study concluded with a number of suggestions for action as a result of findings:

  • Ambassador: Appoint a dedicated ambassador for social and digital technologies who is tasked to make recommendations to management.
  • Capability: Assess expertise in these technologies at all levels to identify ways to help people move quickly from novice to expert.
  • Client care: Review how client care and key account management processes could be improved through the use of these technologies.
  • Client input: Ask clients for their views on the value offered by social media – don’t assume that you know what they find valuable.
  • Contribution: Assess how these technologies contribute best to converting prospects into clients.
  • Focus: Review your firm’s use of each social media channel and digital tool; it is better to do nothing than to do things badly.
  • Goals: Measure the contribution that social media activity makes to achieving business goals.
  • Productivity: Share internal content and information through social media channels; for example, video-based annual reviews or podcasts.
  • Reporting: Circulate a regular report with useful metrics on social and digital activity to those who need to know.

The research was carried out by MPF, PM Forum and Elephant Creative in June 2014. The full report can be downloaded at www.pmforum.co.uk

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