Businesses in the UK, Germany and Canada are lagging behind their peers in the emerging markets when it comes to adopting and using social media, according to the global 'Going Social' report from KPMG.

China, India and Brazil are, on average, 20 to 30 percentage points more likely to use social media than their counterparts in developed countries, the study found. But, despite this slower uptake in the developed world, social media is rapidly moving up the boardroom agenda in organisations throughout the world, with more than 70% of companies globally now being active on social networks and seeing social media as a viable and effective business tool. This article is copyright 2011

"The emerging markets seem to be quickly finding that social networks offer a relatively low-cost opportunity to leapfrog the competition in developed markets," said Tudor Aw, KPMG's head of technology for Europe. "In some cases, inefficient, unreliable or monitored email systems are forsaken in preference of the faster and unfiltered, interactive social network channels. In others, a lack of alternatives may be driving businesses to adopt social networks within the enterprise."

The rapid adoption of social media in the emerging market countries may also be attributed to a lower dependence on 'legacy systems' than in more established markets which tend to bind organisations to their long-established channel strategies, as well as the rapidly declining cost of internet access and devices in the developing world.

Among the reports other key findings:

  • 80% of UK managers in the survey said they use social media at least several times a week (98% in China, 95% in Brazil);

  • 48% of UK companies use external social media to communicate for business purposes such as connecting with suppliers, clients and customers (compared to 72% in the US and 83% in China);

  • Businesses in the retail sector use social media more than those in other sectors;

  • 55% of UK companies have policies regarding social media use in place (60% in the US, 63% in China);

  • UK companies fare better when it comes to problems regarding social media use such as bandwidth and storage; only 21% of UK companies have experienced problems in the past 12 months (China 57%, India 50% and Canada 44%);

  • Exposure to malware is also lower in the UK (25%) than in other countries (41% in the US, 60% in China);

  • 80% of respondents globally said that the use of social media tends to deliver significant returns to the business that outweigh the risks associated with social media use. The most quoted benefits include a wider knowledge pool, an increased public profile, increased job satisfaction and the opportunity to cultivate relationships.


The report also found that organisations that restrict access to social networks may be fighting a losing battle. One-third of employees at organisations with blocked access were not only using social media at the office, they were 'jail breaking' their work devices (i.e. using unauthorised software or services) to cater for their own social networking needs.

"Executives may be naive in thinking that banned access to social networks eliminates employee usage," concluded Aw. "Our survey showed that, by restricting or blocking access, many employees will simply move their activity to their own personal devices which are often less secure and completely unmonitored."


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