In last year's Chief Marketer social marketing survey, we said that if you weren't integrating social media into your marketing plans, you were not behind the curve — yet.
According to this year's findings, that window is rapidly closing. About 64% of the more than 1,300 respondents to our 2010 Social Marketing Survey said they now integrate social into their media mix in some fashion, whether through a Facebook page, Twitter account, a corporate blog, a social community on their site or via a third party, or simply by interfacing with influential bloggers. Another 21.5% said they aren't up and running in social media yet but expect to be so by the end of next year.
That means by 2012, more than 85% of marketers anticipate having a significant marketing presence of some kind in social media whether corporate blogs, social networks, microposting platforms like Twitter, or some format that has not yet surfaced in the social media world. That compares to 80% who said last year that they had or would have a social marketing plan in place in 2010.
Among those using social marketing, some proponents pointed to the relatively low-cost benefits of viral spread. “It's a great way to distribute content in real time that generates earned impressions supplemental to bought [ones],” a respondent said. “It connects us to key influencers in new and interesting ways.”
Others stressed the need to give their brand a high-tech sheen, to keep up with socially active competitors, or to initiate deeper dialogues with their customers. “We're attempting to create a two-way conversation,” said one respondent, “and to provide alternate communication channels for people who opt out of e-mail.”
Costs and Benefits
Those remarks dovetail with the benefits social marketers said they get from the channel. Many of these social rewards closely track the benefits highlighted in last year's survey, but at higher reporting rates. For example, 81% of this year's respondents said the chance to reach consumers as they want to be reached was the biggest benefit from social marketing, about the same proportion as in 2009. But 59% said they were in social because their target customers were spending more time online, making it the second most cited advantage, up five percentage points from last year.
And while low cost remained a notable driver for engaging in social marketing (52%), the ability to listen to prospects and customers and engage them in interactive dialogue came up big-time as a social-media asset — 52%, compared to only 37% of respondents who cited it in 2009.
Equally revealing is this year's list for anti-social behavior from marketers who aren't using the channel. Last year's number one response, “lack of budget” (44%), has fallen back to number five this year and dropped to 22% of respondents. Apparently, marketers have been convinced that social can be done cheaply, at least.
But the new confusion is over exactly what to do. Among respondents not using social media for marketing, the largest proportion (36%) told pollsters this year that they're paralyzed by the inability to decide which social medium will offer the biggest benefits for their brand and their markets. And 23% said they were uncertain what first steps to take when dipping a toe into social media.
In people resources, shortage of in-house expertise is about as big a barrier to social marketing this year (35%) as it was last time (37%). But this year a lot of social media avoiders ticking the “other” category as a reason for not getting in the game cited a shortage not of experts, but of basic personnel to give social media the round-the-clock attention they believe it requires.
A typical comment: “With social media you need to stay on it not just every day but many times per day. There's a much greater expectation of timeliness and frequency from social media than other forms of communication.”
Among those who do use social media for marketing, responses to the question about their strategic aims were surprisingly similar to last year's result. Both audiences named driving traffic from social to their brand Web site as the primary reason for engaging in the channel, although a lower proportion named that as a primary aim this year (56% compared to 69% of respondents in 2009). And once again, speaking directly to passionate fans ranked second as a reason to use social (54%).
But while sales conversions (41%) and lead-gen aims (31%) still figure in the top five reasons to do social marketing, it's interesting to see that simply racking up raw numbers of followers (34%) has shouldered its way into the ranks of goals for social marketing. Last year, one-fifth of respondents said they were running campaigns and maintaining presences in social channels to stay even with their competition. This year that share of social defensives is lower (14%).
That suggests that some of the respondents who last year worried about not going head to head with their rivals in terms of a Facebook or Twitter presence are now worried about looking much less popular that the competition.
Not Whether, But What?
When it comes to the tools and specific tactics social marketers espouse, the majority of respondents (72%) said their brands maintained a profile, presence or other kind of account within the most popular social networks. Only 7% said they found no reason to establish that kind of presence in any social channel.
The larger the company's revenue, the more likely a respondent was to say that his or her brand does something in social networks. In this year's survey, 78.2% of marketers who worked for companies earning more than $50 million said they managed social media profiles of some kind for marketing purposes. But so did 75.2% of those whose employers earned $5 million to $49.9 million, and more than two-thirds (68.4%) of those at companies earning less than $5 million a year.
And the most common tool for integrating social media into a brand's campaign is, as might be expected, simple placement of a button icon on its Web site or in e-mail. Fifty-five percent of respondents said they invite visitors or recipients to engage with them by that means. The next most popular social tool was uploading video to YouTube or other aggregator sites, an approach two in five (41%) respondents said they take.
Only a bit more than one-third of respondents (37%) said they make their e-mail shareable within social networks, and even fewer (34%) said they target special rebates or other value-add offers to consumers who fan or follow them on social networks.
One thread running through many of the responses and comments received in this year's survey is that while social marketing may be necessary and relatively easy on the budget, it's also far from being truly measurable — at least not in the same below-the-line terms as other channels.
In fact, 42% of those who answered the Chief Marketer poll said they consider themselves either “not very” or “not at all” effective when it comes to gauging the bang they're getting for their social marketing bucks. That's within shouting distance of half the response pool.
Meanwhile, another 48% said they or their agencies are “somewhat effective” at applying metrics that convey a real picture of their social campaigns' impact. Only 10% of the marketers polled said they feel themselves — or, if appropriate, their marketing agency partners — to be “very good” at determining social marketing success.
Even practitioners agree that marketing in social channels stands in serious need of some metrical help. “This is an issue,” one respondent said. “Impact is not clear.” Another commented that “We are developing non-traditional measures since the medium is not conducive to traditional marketing metrics.”
Most of those polled (59%) said that need for a proxy success metric translates, at minimum, into tracking the numbers signing up to friend, fan or “like” their brand in social media. But 44% take that head count to the next level and estimate the effect of their social marketing by the number of times their content in the channel gets shared, forwarded or re-tweeted, taking that as an indicator of user interest.
By far the most popular approach to handling Twitter seems to be to put one person or small group in charge (73%) and let them become 140-character megaphones for the company line, speaking on topics closely related to the brand.
By contrast, only 17% of marketers said they or their company encourages numerous individuals to tweet as themselves on brand-related subjects. And an even smaller proportion (10%) opt for the full-authenticity route and let multiple folks post to Twitter as employees on whatever subject they think will draw readers and re-tweeters to the content.
Via Chief Marketer