Thursday, April 29, 2010

How Marketers Are Using Social Media To Grow Their Businesses - 2010 Report

Whatever questions you may have about social media marketing, you’ll probably find the answers in the 2010 Social Media Marketing Industry Report from white paper guru Michael Stelzner.

This excellent study provides a wide array of answers, statistics and insights. If there was any doubt that social media has become a mainstream marketing channel, 91% of respondents of respondents said they are using social media for marketing. Given the nature of the respondents, that figure is very likely higher than the overall business population, but there’s no doubt that social media is now being used in a sizable majority of organizations. Here are a few more of the key findings and my own observations.

The Biggest Question

A year ago, the top questions most marketers had about social media related to tactics, with ROI second. This year, questions about ROI top the list. The report notes that “the question of whether social media works has dropped off the charts completely.” One in three marketers said that measuring results and identifying best practices are their top questions about social media marketing.

Expertise Without Experience?

While 65% of marketers have been involved with social media marketing for a few months, only 14% of businesses are outsourcing any aspect of their social media marketing. This is eerily reminiscent of research findings reported by MarketingSherpa a year ago on the large percentage of marketers who felt they could be social media experts without having social media experience. Diving into social media without guidance from an outside expert risks ineffectiveness at the least, and possibly much worse. You could learn to drive a car without an instructor too, but it’s certainly not recommended. This new report does point out that the use of social media outsourcing does vary by company size, but still only 25 of medium to large enterprises are taking advantage of outside expertise.

Social Media Takes Time

How much time? More than half (56%) of respondents said they spend six hours or more per week on social media marketing, with 30% spending 11 hours or more and 12% spending more than half of their time with social media. Furthermore, the time commitment required grows with experience; those getting started in social media spent on average just an hour per week on it. But for marketers who have been using social media for a few months or longer, the median time jumped to 10 hours per week. That makes perfect sense–as marketers develop more social media connections, it takes longer to manage those relationships. And as social media marketing marketing begins to pay dividends, marketers are motivated to spend more time on it. The one question missing here was what gets included in social media time. Content development is one of the most time-consuming aspects of social media marketing, but other than blogging, it isn’t clear if writing is included in these figures.

Exposure vs. ROI

Interestingly, while guidance on measuring ROI topped the list of questions, “increased exposure for my business” was cited as the top benefit of social media marketing, with 85% of respondents achieving this. The next three most common benefits noted–increased traffic and email subscribers, new business partnerships and help with SEO–are also more measures of exposure than tangible financial return. Metrics related to ROI, such as leads generated and direct sales, were mentioned by only about half of the survey respondents as key benefits of social media marketing.

The report notes that last year, only about a third of marketers said that social media helped reduce their marketing expenses, while nearly half made that claim this year. This seems somewhat surprising; while social definitely reduces media/advertising expenses, it increases labor costs. It would seem logical that for many companies, marketing costs would be shifted, but not necessarily reduced, by the use of social media. Again, it isn’t clear what all gets lumped into this category. If content generation is included, overall costs aren’t likely to change much.

Social Media Means (Business-to) Business…

Nearly 74% of marketers who have been using social media for at least two years report that it has helped them close new sales. B2B marketers were slightly more likely to report increased sales than than their B2C counterparts. And small businesses with anywhere from 2-100 employees were most likely to see this benefit.

Social media is also valuable for establishing new business partnerships. More than half of marketers using social media said it had helped them forge new partnerships. Again, this benefit was more prevalent among b2b companies (61%) than b2b firms (49%).

…But Facebook Means Consumer Marketing

The top social media tools used across all respondents are:

Twitter – 88%

Facebook – 87%

LinkedIn – 78%

Blogging – 70%

Among experienced social media users, those who have been at it for at least two years, an astounding 96% use Twitter. Digging further in the details, b2b marketers are considerably more likely to find value with LinkedIn, and slightly more likely to utilize blogs, than their b2c peers. However, b2c marketers are much more likely to use Facebook; in fact, it is the top social media tool in the b2c space, used by 90% of b2c marketing pros.

What the Future Holds for Social Media Marketing

When asked to look forward, two-thirds of marketers said they plan to increase their use of blogs, Facebook, video, Twitter and LinkedIn. Blogs are the top area in which marketers plan to increase efforts, and small businesses are more enthusiastic about blogging than their larger counterparts.

Only 4% of marketers overall said they have no plans to use Facebook, though again it is favored more highly by consumer than business marketers. 80% of b2c companies, and 85% of large companies, plan to increase efforts here.

93% of all marketers are already using Twitter, and 71% plan to increase this effort.

Consumer marketers are slightly more likely to utilize online video and YouTube than their b2b counterparts (76% vs. 71%), but video is the top area of increased investment for the most experienced social marketers across the two segments.

B2b marketers are significantly more likely (72% vs. 59%) to increase their use of LinkedIn than those on the b2c side.

Finally, mobile marketing is growing in importance, but is a much higher priority for large bc2 companies than for smaller firms or b2b marketing teams.

There’s much more in the 2010 Social Media Marketing Industry Report as well. It’s a fascinating read for anyone interested in the current state and future of social media marketing.

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