Ninety percent of marketers say that social media are an important channel for their businesses. And even though the top question on their minds is how to measure the results of their social campaigns, nevertheless 88% say using the social channel raised awareness of their business, and 72% said it increased traffic to their Web site.
Those are some of the findings in this year’s 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, conducted among 3,300 marketers this past January by Michael Stelzner, consultant and founder of the SocialMediaExaminer.com Web site. This is the third year that Stelzner’s group has fielded the survey.
Among the findings in this year’s study are some changes in the questions marketers most want answered about social marketing. 2010’s second most frequent question (“What are the best practices for social media?”) dropped to number 7 this year. Instead, the second most important question marketers told Stelzner they wanted answered involved how to integrate social media into campaigns on other platforms.
“Marketers seem to have moved from, ‘How do I do this?’ to ‘What are the best ways to get social to work with all my other activities?’” Stelzner says.
Marketers also indicated less concern about making the time commitment required for social marketing. That dropped from question 3 in the 2010 survey to number 10 this year.
But the leading question in 2010 remained the same in 2011: “How do I measure the effect of social media marketing on my business?”
“That ROI question persists because after all this time, no one’s answered it yet,” Stelzner says. “A lot of people still don’t know how to monitor and measure social marketing. And frankly, the tools out there today have limitations because the platforms [such as Facebook] are not completely open. That’s why one of the leading social monitoring platforms, Radian6, was just acquired: because it’s a hot issue.”
The growing importance of the social integration question suggests that lack of firm metrics about social impact isn’t keeping marketers from using the social media channel.
“There’s almost an intuitive sense that there’s true value in social media marketing,” Stelzner says. “It may be hard to track it back to the sale, but everybody knows that it has a big impact, and they’re now trying to figure out how to let it cross-pollinate other channels.”
In terms of the benefits of running social media campaigns, respondents pointed to increased exposure for their businesses (88%) and increases in traffic or subscription numbers (72%) as the biggest assets. But they also said that conducting social marketing had improved their search rankings (62%), generated qualified leads (51%) and even improved sales (43%).
Some of those results depended in part on the size of the business being marketing, the depth of social marketing experience, and the weekly hours spent managing social media. For example, 72% of marketers who reported doing social marketing for three years or more said it had increased their sales. More than 50% of those who spent 11 hours or more a week administering campaigns in social media said the same thing. So did 48% of self-employed respondents and marketers of small businesses with two or more employees.
Small businesses also over-indexed in reporting qualified leads from social media (21% strongly agreeing, compared to 14% of other size businesses). On the other hand, 52% of marketers who spent 6 hours a week or less on social marketing sad they achieved lead-generation benefits from those campaigns. And 78% of those same light users reported that their relatively low-impact approach still netted increases in Web site traffic or content subscriptions.
In terms of how respondents expect to shape their social marketing efforts this year, the largest increase Stelzner found was in the number who expect to bump up their use of YouTube and other video social channels. Seventy-seven percent reported that they plan to increase YouTube and/or video marketing this year, while only 10% expect to cut back on those efforts.
Big companies with 1,000 or more employees are more likely than average to say they’ll put new effort into social video, with 82% reporting new interest in this tool group.
By contrast, while Facebook is the top social channel in use among marketers today (92%), only 75% predicted that they will increase their Facebook efforts this year. However, Facebook still topped the list of social media tools marketers reported wanting to learn more about (70%, compared to 69% for blogs, 59% for Twitter, and 55% for both LinkedIn and YouTube.)
Other usage and aspirational stats on social media marketing from the report:
- 75% will increase their use of blogs this year, down slightly from the 81% who said so in the 2010 survey.
- 73% of marketers will increase their use of Twitter, with large businesses more likely to do so (77%).
- 61% say they will increase use of LinkedIn, with B-to-B companies more likely to do so (71%) than B-to-C companies (51%).
Last October Chief Marketer’s most recent survey on social marketing found that in 2010 about 64% of respondents were currently integrating social channels into their campaigns in some fashion. Together with the response group who said they would add social marketing to their media in 2011, that indicated that by the end of this year some 85% of marketers would have some level of brand involvement with social marketing.