Most marketers are planning to invest more in social media during 2010, but are struggling to find the time and resources to manage their activity, according to a research report published by E-Consultancy and BigMouth Media.
The report, entitled 'Social Media and Online PR', was based on a survey of more than 1,100 companies and agencies, and examined the ways in which companies are using online PR tactics and social media (including sites such as Twitter and Facebook) for marketing and customer service.
According to the report, 86% of the companies surveyed plan to spend more money on social media in 2010 than they did in 2009, and a further 13% are planning to at least keep the same level of budget.
The biggest barrier to better social media engagement for companies surveyed is a lack of resources, with more than half of companies (54%) citing this as a significant problem. Some 90% of businesses said that social media is taking up more time internally than it did in 2008.
"The growth of social media and online PR has been meteoric but, until now, there have been very few hard facts available about precisely how businesses are using this growing channel, and what they're getting in return for their investment," said Phil Gripton, managing director for BigMouth Media UK. "These figures show that, while an increasing number of companies are embracing social media, many are struggling to effectively manage their engagement."
The research found that many companies are experimenting with social media without yet reaping any measurable benefits. Only 25% of companies said that they have gained "real, tangible value" from social media, while 60% said that they have gained "some benefit, but nothing concrete".
However, those who have made an effort in this area have typically reaped some reward. More than half (52%) of companies that are heavily involved said that they have gained "real value", compared to only 13% of companies who have merely experimented with social media.
According to Michelle Goodall, E-Consultancy's social media and online PR consultant, "Before they think about their strategy and the best tactics, companies should go back to basics and think in detail about how online PR and social media can help them with their business objectives. Although most marketers know how to listen, what to measure, and where to engage consumers, many seem to be struggling to define the value of engagement and reputation in social spaces."
For example, the majority of organisations (62%) are using the Twitter micro-blogging web site for publicising new content. Approximately half are using the channel for marketing (54%) or brand monitoring (47%). Only 27% are using Twitter as a customer service tool for reacting to problems and customer questions. A similar percentage (25%) said they use Twitter as a customer feedback tool.
The full report has been made available for download from E-Consultancy's web site - click here (free registration required).