Insurance is labeled an early adopter of social media in a new report from the International Data Corporation (IDC), titled “2012 U.S. Social Media Trends by Vertical.” The banking industry was cited as being a late adopter.

Surveying the adoption of social media across six major vertical markets, including financial institutions, government, health care, manufacturing, retail and utilities, IDC found that social media is enabling organizations to “increase productivity and improve knowledge sharing.” This is the case particularly in retail, where social media touch points such as Facebook, Twitter and Groupon are enabling customer behavior analytics and personalized interactions.

While the buzz around its potential contribution to analytics may be growing, marketing is still the biggest driving force behind social media usage and purchases, as respondents cited “managing and tracking all posted content” as the most challenging aspect of using social media.

In addition to managing and tracking all posted content, measuring the impact of core business objectives and justifying the expense of social software were two top challenges cited, particularly in the financial services vertical.

The report noted that companies, for the most part, are still concerned with one-way communications—pushing a marketing message or receiving feedback. Yet there are still some figuring out how to take advantage of social media’s potential for conversation and collaboration.

"Industries that are consumer-focused such as communications, media, and recreational services are spending a larger percentage of their IT budget on social media as it is easy for them to make the shift to adopting the way consumers communicate," said Eileen Smith, program manager, Global Technology and Industry Research Organization at IDC. "However, there are early adopters in other vertical markets, such as insurance and professional services. Emerging uses in the construction industry, for instance, demonstrate how B2B organizations can leverage social media as a powerful collaboration tool to share project and material data, submit bids, and review designs."

When it comes to purchasing, social media is noted as one of the few IT decisions not being made by the IT staff. Marketing teams lead the majority of purchasing decisions in every vertical, with sales and customer service also providing significant nods in the decision-making process.

More than 4,000 respondents representing 24 industries, including insurance, were involved in the survey. Those queried ranged from IT managers to executive-level management.

Justin Stephani is an associate editor for Insurance Networking News, a SourceMedia publication.

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