I’m a research nerd and big fan of the Research Brief from MediaPost.
I also believe that social networking, if you can get past all the buzz and hype, is shaking up the advertising, marketing and PR communities.
At our ad agency at least, I’ve seen a huge increase in client interest in social networking in everything from Facebook applications to Twitter and beyond. No real surprise or breaking news there and I’m pretty excited about several of the projects in the works.
I think what we’re seeing with our clients is fairly consistent across the board:
According to a social media study by Michael Stelzner for the Social Media Success Summit 2009, 88% of marketers in a recent survey say they are now using some form of social media to market their business, though 72% of those using it say they have only been at it a few months or less. (via)
- Benefits of Social Media Marketing
- Generated exposure: 81%
- Increased traffic, subscribers, list: 61%
- New business partners: 56%
- Increased position in search rankings: 52%
- Generated qualified leads: 48%
- Reduced overall marketing expenses: 45%
- Helped close sales: 35%
(Benefit: % of Respondents, multiple response OK)
Source: Social Media Marketing Industry Report, March 2009
The biggest question that remains unanswered, and really the most difficult question to answer, is the ROI question. Sure, almost anything you do will generate exposure, increase traffic, etc. But, you have to factor in your resource investment, which, in social networking, is mostly time.
There are several big brands that have been very active on Twitter (and increasing daily), but the ROI question is still kind of a “wait & see” in my mind.
Don’t get me wrong, I think that all brands, if they don’t already have one, should have a strategy for participating in the social space, and participating at whatever level makes sense.
But, I’m also of the mindset that brands should be setting aside a percentage of their budget for emerging media & technology (a small percentage, but something none the less) on an ongoing basis (being proactive vs. reactive).
For those organizations that have, what I’ll call an innovation budget, are probably already active in the social space because they saw this coming a few years ago when this whole craze kicked off.
Would an innovation budget be a waste, even if there wasn’t a solid ROI? I would say a realistic innovation budget is a homerun, no matter how you look at it, because the information and lessons learned will drive (or at least influence) the rest of the budget.
Just like you can’t make a campaign go viral, you won’t know what works for your brand until you set aside some resources to give it a whirl. And let me warn you. It will be painful at times, because the majority of projects won’t make it past the prototype stage.
But, as the saying goes, you can’t win if you don’t play.
So, play on, I say, and get your hands dirty in the scattered gardens of social media and plant a few seeds that some day, may turn out to be a big part of your advertising and marketing strategy.
For more details, check out the full Whitepaper of the study, “How Marketers are Using Social Media to Grow their Businesses”