Spending on social media by marketing companies is expected to increase this year, a sign that these efforts can be deployed quickly and inexpensively in a recession. These messages have the potential to move rapidly through word-of-mouth and can deliver measurable results. But the data also suggests that marketing through social media remains in the experimental phase.
More than half of interactive marketers surveyed (53%) in a new Forrester Research report expected social media budgets to increase as a direct result of the weakened economy.
These budgets, however, comprise a very small portion of overall marketing spends. Three-quarters of marketers reported that their social media spend is $100,000 or less over 12 months. Spending on social media remains on the back burner as overall budgets tighten due to the recession.
So small in fact, that social media has yet to gain enough footing to deserve a marketing line item. Some 45% of respondents said that social media budgets were determined “as needed.” Twenty-six percent based the budget on last year’s spend and 23% reported scraping together the funds. Seven percent said they didn’t have a budget.
“Our data shows that marketers intend to invest more in social media, but have yet to justify substantial budgets,” Forrester analyst Jeremiah Owyang said in a release. “If you continue to fund social applications only as experiments, you’re unlikely to be able to do enough to make an impact, or to have a secure source of funding for the future.”
Marketers, however, have a lot of faith in the technology.
Almost all of the marketers use some form of social media, including blogging, mobile marketing, search marketing, online video, widgets, game marketing, podcasting and other forms.
“One way to put these efforts on a firmer footing is to concentrate on objectives and measure progress—rather than just experimenting to see what happens,” Owyang said.
Forrester suggested the following objectives:
1. Demonstrate how social media marketing is effective during budget trimming. Focus on how customers have moved farther down the marketing funnel, don’t concentrate on measurements like page views.
2. Manage social media for the long term. Make sure you have dedicated resources in place, including both social media strategist and community managers. Take social media seriously, it’s one of the few marketing budget items increasing during a recession.
3. Accurately prove effectiveness through social application metrics. Marketers must prove the worth of social media applications as they pry budget from corporate marketing or advertising. Measure using the right process and tools. Start with a listening platform, and then integrate social marketing metrics like share of voice and engagement that demonstrates how these efforts convert to preference, leads or buying.
The survey queried 145 global interactive marketing professionals.