Marketing Sherpa last week released its 2010 Social Media Marketing Benchmark report. Though the full report runs $400, much interesting data can be gleaned from the free executive summary. The report’s authors begin by noting that:
“An important transition in the use of social media for marketing purposes is taking place. A rapidly increasing segment of marketers are gaining the experience required to advance from novice to competent practitioner capable of achieving social marketing objectives and proving ROI…In the past year, marketers have been captivated by the ample hype about Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other social media platforms…(but) they jumped into this new medium thinking tactically about the latest social media platforms they could add to the mix rather than thinking strategically about the objectives they needed to achieve. In the year ahead, we see social marketing maturing to the point where a majority of organizations will be in transition from the trial phase to the strategic phase of the learning curve.”
Among the key findings from the report:
Despite the lingering economic malaise, companies across virtually all industries plan to increase budgets for social media marketing in 2010. Such plans are most nearly universal in retail and ecommerce, where 79% of survey respondents plan to increase budgets, with only 1% planning budget reductions for social media. In computer hardware and software, 55% of firms plan budget increases while 5% say they will cut budgets. In business and consumer services, the figures are 54% increase, 1% decrease.
When asked which objectives they planned to target and measure, 88% of “strategic” social media marketers (those who have reached the highest level of social media marketing maturity) answered “increase website traffic” while 75% said “lead generation.” Interestingly, PR-type measures—such as improving brand or product awareness and reputation—scored in the middle of the pack of 10 possible objectives, with just over half of marketers indicating they would target and measure these objectives. Note that these are some of the most effective uses of social media, and arguably much more important from a strategic standpoint than simply increasing web traffic—but they are also much more difficult to measure with any precision. Somewhat surprisingly, increasing customer support quality and decreasing support costs were identified as the least important objectives, with only about a third of companies in the MarketingSherpa benchmarking study planning to target and measure these goals.
This key chart compares the difficulty and effectiveness of various social media tactics, as well as their level of usage. Note that the four most popular tactics are microblogging such as Twitter ( highly effective with low effort); blogging (highly effective but high effort); social networking (moderately effective, low effort); and multimedia content sharing such as images, video and presentations (low effectiveness, moderate effort). Fewer marketers are focusing efforts on blogger relations, which is viewed as being the most effective tactic but also the one requiring the most effort. That result seems somewhat counterintuitive, as companies that actively use tactics like blogging and Twitter will find blogger relations less taxing than will firms who rely primarily on “pitching” bloggers to obtain coverage.
From the buyer standpoint, the two most popular uses of social media (with roughly 60% each) in the commercial realm are to “learn about new products / features / services” and to “learn about specials and sales.” What is critical for marketers to understand is that buyers are talking about two distinctly different sets of products and services here. Buyers are most interested in price for items like a popular model of flat screen TV, common office supplies or today’s lunch; but they are seeking thought leadership when considering hardware, software or services to solve a vexing business problem. They don’t care about the technical details behind today’s lunch special or a thought leadership white paper on “Solving Your Mid-Day Hunger Issues,” and are likely to be skeptical of a coupon for a 5% discount on outsourcing a critical IT project or purchasing a key piece of enterprise software.
Finally, when using social media for research purposes, buyers are most interested in hearing from independent third parties, with blogs, boards and forums being the most popular tools. Secondarily, they want to read about results from peers and colleagues, with blogs and Twitter being the most popular media. However, close behind, vendors are the third-most sought source of information; blogs and Twitter are again the preferred platform, with wikis being the least popular. The lessons? It’s critical to get key influencers and customers talking about your products and services, and if you’re not currently writing a blog or optimizing your use of Twitter, you need to.
Again, you can purchase the full report or download the free executive summary of this social media benchmarking report from MarketingSherpa here.