Social media - statistics on the use by enterprises

Data extracted in February 2016. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: March 2018.

Businesses raise their internet profile by using social media

This article presents recent statistics on the use of social media by enterprises in the European Union (EU) as part of their strategy for integrating information and communication technologies (ICT) in their business. Social media refer to internet based applications such as, for instance, social networks, blogs, multimedia content-sharing sites and wikis. In principle, enterprises use social media for image building or for marketing products but more generally in order to reach an audience in ways that the audience wants to be reached.


Table 1: Enterprises' presence on the internet, 2015, (% of enterprises) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_ciweb), (isoc_cismt)
Figure 1: Enterprises using social media, by type of social media, EU-28, 2013 and 2015 (% of enterprises) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_cismt)
Figure 2: Enterprises using social networks, 2013 and 2015 (% of enterprises) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_cismt), see country codes
Figure 3: Enterprises using social media, by purpose of use, EU-28, 2013 and 2015 (% of enterprises) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_cismt) and (isoc_cismp)
Figure 4: Enterprises using social media, by purpose of use and economic activity, EU-28, 2015 (% of enterprises using social media) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_cismt) and (isoc_cismp)
Figure 5: Enterprises using social media, by purpose of use and size class, EU-28, 2015 (% of enterprises using social media) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_cismt) and (isoc_cismp)

Main statistical findings

Use of social media: highlights

  • Some 39 % of EU enterprises used social media (e.g. social networks, blogs, content-sharing sites and wikis) in 2015, with more than three out of four of these businesses (79 %) using such applications to build their image and to market products.
  • Social networks remained enterprises’ favourite form of social media; compared to 2013 their use strongly increased.
  • More than half of EU enterprises that used social media, especially enterprises in the accommodation sector, reported using them to obtain customers’ opinions or reviews or to answer their questions.
  • Among the enterprises that used social media, the size of the enterprise was not so important in determining whether the firm used social media to attract customers: 78 % of small enterprises used them for image building or for marketing products, compared with 83 % of large enterprises.

Social media, a business paradigm shift

For more than a decade, there has been a shift from the static webpages of the earlier websites towards web applications which draw on user data and relevant applications stored in the ‘cloud’. In that time, a multitude of internet-based services, collaborative web applications and interactive websites have appeared. Users have been encouraged to subscribe to these services, to author, post and share user-generated content and to add links to other websites. In addition, individuals and enterprises have been supported in exchanging information, experiences and opinions in the form of ‘many-to-many dialogues’ over internet communication platforms. These virtual interaction platforms have, in fact, been part of a paradigm shift, as enterprises have been able to reach an audience in ways that the audience wants to be reached.

Enterprises have not only progressively embraced this new generation of highly dynamic web applications, but have also adopted new behaviours. They have integrated social media into the way they run their business, organised forms of internal communication apart from the management chain and, most importantly, communicated and interacted with customers using the new applications. From that point of view it has been possible for customers to influence business decisions and assist companies in designing and marketing their products.

Use of social media by enterprises

Enterprises attach importance to internet presence. Consequently, their websites increasingly offer functionalities such as online ordering, product catalogues and information, order tracking, product customisation and links to social media. In 2015, some 75 % of EU enterprises employing at least 10 people reported having a website. This is 2 percentage points more than in 2013 as adoption rates are slowing.

Furthermore, enterprises with a website seek to enhance their internet presence by exploiting the possibilities that social media offer. The four most widely known categories of social media are: (a) social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing, and others; (b) corporate blogs or microblogs such as Twitter, Present.ly, and others; (c) multimedia content-sharing websites such as YouTube, Flickr, SlideShare, and others; and (d) wiki-based knowledge-sharing tools. In 2015, 39 % of EU enterprises used at least one of these types of social media; compared to 2013, this is an increase of 9 percentage points. Percentages do vary widely from country to country, ranging from 22 % in Poland to 72 % in Malta. Some 36 % of all enterprises in the EU that reported having a website also reported using one or more social media.

Social networks were more popular than other types of social media. Some 36 % of enterprises in the EU used social networks empowering customers to connect by creating personal information profiles, to share experiences, to express opinions, to exchange information and, most importantly, to create communities of people with common interests around the enterprises’ product brands. Since 2013, the use of social networks has increased more than that of the other types of social media; Cyprus and Malta (+ 19 percentage points each) reported the highest increases, followed by Denmark and Ireland (17 and 16 percentage points respectively).

In 2015, more than every second EU enterprise employing 250 or more people (58 %) had an account and used some kind of social network. By contrast, just over one out of three enterprises (34 %) employing 10 to 49 people used social networks.

It is noticeable that 21 % of enterprises in the EU used only one of the four types of social media. In fact, the use of only one type of social media is significantly correlated with the use of social networks. The use of blogs or microblogs and content-sharing websites was less popular among EU enterprises, at 13 % each. Corporate blogs are websites that are updated frequently, up to several times a day, with posts that contain text, images, audio or videos. Blogs can be used either inside an enterprise or for communicating with outside parties such as customers, business partners or other organisations. Microblogging is posting very short text messages, usually of a few hundred characters or less, and sharing hyperlinks to other websites, which usually contain longer text, videos or images.

Multimedia content communities give enterprises the opportunity to share media content with potential or current customers, thus enhancing their marketing capacity. They may release photos and videos or share presentations and documents over the internet that may be linked to blogs and other social networking services or websites. The percentages of EU businesses using blogs or microblogs was highest in the United Kingdom (33 %), multimedia content-sharing websites was highest in the Netherlands at 27 %.

Some 5 % of EU enterprises used wiki-based knowledge-sharing tools in 2015. A wiki is a website that in principle allows multiple users to create and collaboratively edit interlinked webpages using an internet browser. Wiki-based communication platforms may be open to a global audience or may be restricted to a selected network or community of partners.

Purposes of using social media for businesses

It is important to distinguish the purposes for which enterprises were exploiting social media in 2015: it might be to reach the ‘outside world’ — customers, business partners or other organisations — or it might be for communication inside the enterprise or for specific purposes such as to recruit employees.

The percentages that follow refer to enterprises that used social media in 2015. Some 79 % of enterprises in the EU used them for image building or for marketing products. Significantly, 52 % of enterprises reported using social media to obtain customer opinions or reviews, or to answer their questions, implying an effort to improve customer service.

In addition, 26 % of enterprises using social media expected customers to be involved in product development or innovation; these enterprises accounted for 10 % of all EU enterprises. They might approach communities of customers for new innovative ideas and actively involve them in developing new products based on principles of sharing, joining in and acting globally.

Among enterprises that used social media for the three customer-centric purposes above, those in the accommodation sector used social media more than those in other economic sectors. In particular, 79 % of enterprises in the accommodation sector used social media to obtain customers’ opinions and answer their questions.

Among EU enterprises that used social media, some 24 % aimed at collaborating with business partners such as suppliers or other organisations, a decrease of 6 percentage points compared to 2013. EU enterprises also aimed at exchanging information, knowledge, or opinions (27 %) internally or for more specific purposes such as recruiting employees (38 %). For the former purpose, social media may be used to enhance collaboration within the enterprise, optimise resources and develop networks of experts (virtual teams), develop a corporate business culture and identity, share common aims and developments, and build a collective knowledge base. Moreover, the use of social media within an enterprise may support research activities or foster innovation through the development of new forms of collaboration.

The difference in the proportion of small and large enterprises using social media for purposes relating to the ‘outside world’ in 2015 was small. Some 78 % of small enterprises used social media to build their image or market products, compared with 83 % of large enterprises. There were also only small differences in the proportion using social media to obtain customers’ opinions or answer questions (51 % of small firms, 59 % of large ones), to involve customers in product development (26 % and 31 %) and to collaborate with business partners (24 % and 30 %). In contrast, 62 % of large enterprises used social media to recruit employees while only 33 % of small enterprises used them for this purpose. And 40 % of large enterprises used social media internally, while only 24 % of small enterprises did so.

Data sources and availability

Data presented in this article are based on the results of the 2015 European Union survey on ‘ICT usage and e-commerce in enterprises’. Statistics were obtained from enterprise surveys conducted by National Statistical Authorities in 2015. The statistical observation unit is the enterprise, as defined in Regulation 696/1993 of 15 March 1993. The survey covered enterprises with at least 10 persons employed.

Economic activities correspond to the classification NACE Revision 2. The sectors covered are manufacturing, electricity, gas and steam, water supply, construction, wholesale and retail trades, repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles, transportation and storage, accommodation and food service activities, information and communication, real estate, professional, scientific and technical activities, administrative and support activities and repair of computers and communication equipment. Enterprises are broken down by size; small (10-49), medium (50-249) and large enterprises (250 or more persons employed).

In 2015, 148 000 out of 1.5 million enterprises in the EU-28 were surveyed. Of the 1.5 million enterprises, approximately 83 % were enterprises with 10-49 persons employed (small), 14 % with 50-249 (medium) and 3 % with 250 or more (large).

Data presented in this article may differ from data in the database, due to updates made after data were extracted for use in this publication.

References to third-party brands, products and trademarks are for the sake of clarification and are not intended to promote the use of such products.

Context

The "Digital Single Market" (DSM) for Europe is a prominent priority of the Commission. In particular, DSM strategy is built on three pillars: (1) better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe; (2) creating the right conditions and a level playing field for digital networks and innovative services to flourish; (3) maximising the growth potential of the digital economy. Online platforms - parts of which are the social media - play an increasingly central role in social and economic life and are an important part of a thriving internet-enabled economy.

The wider EU policy interest is in spotting business opportunities for launching services based on key enabling technologies such as social media. Social media are part of the digital technologies that enterprises exploit to increase their presence on the internet, improve marketing opportunities, communicate and interact with partners, customers and other organisations, and facilitate collaboration and knowledge-sharing within the enterprise.

In this context, social media (along with other technologies such as cloud computing, mobile access to the internet, and ‘big data’) enable business to grow and innovate. Growth remains a condition for business survival while innovation remains necessary for competitiveness. The European Commission’s main innovation policy is the Broad-based innovation strategy for the EU.

In this article, enterprises using social media are defined as those that use the internet and have a user profile, account or user licence, depending on the requirements and type of social media concerned. References to third-party brands, products and trademarks are only for the sake of clarification and provision of examples, and are not intended to promote the use of such products.

See also

Further Eurostat information

Main tables

Database

ICT usage in enterprises (isoc_e)
Websites and use of social media (isoc_cism)
Websites and functionalities (isoc_ciweb)
Social media use by type (isoc_cismt)
Social media use by purpose (isoc_cismp)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Other information

  • Regulation (EC) No 808/2004 of 21 April 2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society
  • Regulation (EC) No 960/2008 of 30 September 2008 implementing Regulation (EC) No 808/2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society
  • Regulation (EC) No 1023/2009 of 29 October 2009 implementing Regulation (EC) No 808/2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society
  • Regulation (EU) No 821/2010 of 17 September 2010 implementing Regulation (EC) No 808/2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society
  • Regulation (EU) No 937/2011 of 21 September 2011 implementing Regulation (EC) No 808/2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society
  • Regulation (EU) No 1083/2012 of 19 November 2012 implementing Regulation (EC) No 808/2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society
  • Regulation (EU) No 859/2013 of 5 September 2013 implementing Regulation (EC) No 808/2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society
  • Regulation (EU) No 1196/2014 of 30 October 2014 implementing Regulation (EC) No 808/2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society
  • Regulation (EC) No 696/1993 of 15 March 1993 on the statistical units for the observation and analysis of the production system in the Community

External links