How Marketers are Using Social Media for Business: New Report

April 27, 2010

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 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.

2010 Social Media Marketing ReportThe 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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26 Responses

  1. Bianca 

    Thank you! This article was very helpful! As we learn how to increase our ROI as a goal in 2008 it’s nice to see that our initial goals were on the right path!

  2. The first priority in every social media has to be building relationships. This is what many fail to become as they use social networks to promote business!
    Also, building relationships takes time. It takes more time online than it does in person.

  3. utah 

    solid article still relevant….

  4. Social Media does take a fair amount of time each week to keep everything up to date but I think that most people actually enjoy doing it. Most people like writing blog posts, especially if it is about somehthing they love. People like tweeting and updating facebook statuses and interacting.

  5. Tom 

    Agreed James, but when selling social media to the CFO, ROI counts for more than enjoyment.

  6. Nice article. Really interesting point – “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.”

  7. I still think that some social marketing sites are like the “emperors new clothes”, more about style than substance. I still cant get my head around the popularity of twitter.

    Paul Woods
    Systems analyst

  8. Tom 

    You’re not alone Paul. Most Twitter users go through a progression from “this is stupid” to “hey, I kind of get this” to…eventual addiction.

  9. Dave 

    I manage the social networking accounts for Smash Hit Displays and completely understand how overwhelming it can be to control. I would recommend Hootsuite because you can sync your LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter pages together. Also, you can view the stats for your tweets and posts. Its an excellent tool and I believe there’s a 30 day free trial. I would also recommend keeping a calender and delegating what social media accounts you will focus on for every day of the week. I write blogs and articles for 7 or 8 different websites, as well as have memberships to about 30 different networking websites. I would definitely lose my sanity if I didn’t have a calender to keep track of all of the tasks I had to take care of.

  10. Tom 

    Excellent recommendations Dave. Sounds like you’re a very busy guy – thanks for taking the time to stop by and comment! :-)

  11. maggie 

    Hi there! Probably for people who grew up without the social media but practice in the marketing field, they find social media intriguing and innovative. It is amazing how social media has united the world online.

  12. Dave 

    @webbiqu1 – No problem!

  13. Very interesting statistics. Have the numbers changed since this was published 2 years ago?

    Thanks for providing the link to the report. A valuable tool to get an edge over the competitor.

    @Dave – thanks for the tip on Hootsuite too!

    Bob Diamond Real Estate Program

  14. Tom 

    The numbers change continually! Check the “Marketing Research” category here for the latest reports.

  15. Social media tools have become really popular and powerful for marketing. This mode of marketing is definitely going to grow and expand in coming years. It purely depends on how wisely we are using this.

  16. Great article. As noted, the product/client that you are marketing should dictate the medium you use. Facebook being more popular among B2C makes sense because it allows the customers easy access to the business.

    @Dave – Great point about keeping a calendar. Keeping some type of metric on what you are working on is important, so you can measure it against your most recent numbers and see what works. It’s also the best way to make sure you aren’t forgetting any areas of interest.

  17. Tom 

    Thanks Theresa, great tips!

  18. I’ve been reluctant to do so but I’m one of thoe 71% marketers taking Twitter and other social outlets more seriously. It’s painfully slow when you’re so used to outsourcing link building. But the reality is that relationships are slow but doubly rewarding in the end. Very relevant post.

  19. Wesam 

    I know that this article is old, but I really thank you because this article was very helpful for me…
    @Dave I’ll try to keep some of calender time. I feel it will be fantastic for my work..

  20. Juliette Johnson 

    I agree with you guys that there’s a bright prospect in using social media in people’s internet marketing efforts. My friend sees results by only using these tools in her product promotion.

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