2011 was a huge year for social media, and time spent on social networks has continued to increase as consumer spent more time connected via computers, tablets and mobile devices, according to Luca Benini, managing director for Buddy Media, who predicts what's coming next in the social marketing revolution.
Google joined the social marketing battlefield with Google+ while existing social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Tumblr continued to add new features and gain market share. Social media adoption by brands continued to gain rapid momentum as well, and research suggests that this trend shows no signs of slowing. In fact, according to a report by the Royal Bank of Scotland, 90% medium-to-large businesses in the UK plan to spend the same or more money on social media initiatives during 2012.
So what did marketers learn in 2011 about social media usage, and what does it mean for social media marketing in the future? Well, recent research by Booz and Co. and Buddy Media (click here) provided some clues on how marketers plan to use social media, such as:
- Social media is becoming a bigger part of corporate structure
One-third of companies have a senior executive responsible for social media across the company, and that number increases among those that consider themselves "best in class" or "strong". CEOs are also starting to take notice, with nearly 40% of companies reporting that social media is on their agenda. With this in mind, it is becoming increasingly important for digital professionals to demonstrate their value through ROI and justify their investment.
The primary uses of brands using social media now include advertising, promotions, public relations and customer service. Additionally, market research, sales and product development are emerging as popular uses for brands. Companies will need to establish a structure in the workplace, which allows each of these departments to integrate seamlessly with its social strategy and teams, as this will prevent potential internal wars over ownership.
Companies have also identified a multitude of benefits that can be achieved with social media. Key benefits include brand building, interactivity and buzz building. To put this into context, lead generation is among the lowest-rated benefits, but was still mentioned by 46% of companies as a social media benefit.
- Social media is becoming a large part of the marketing mix
Today, less than 1 out of every 10 companies spends more than 20% of their digital marketing budget on social media. That number is expected to rise to 28% in the next three years. When asked about future investments in social media, 39% of companies said they intend to invest substantially more resources than they currently do, while 57% said they would invest somewhat more resources.
No respondents reported that they would spend less on social media in the future. Unsurprisingly, hiring full-time employees is set to be the biggest investment area for companies in social media, followed by investing in services provided by partners. As a result, we may have to brace ourselves for skills shortage during the exponential growth the industry is currently experiencing.
- Brands are using multiple social networks
The company's research found that Facebook and Twitter are the biggest priority social media platforms used by brands. YouTube rounded out the top three, but Google+ and LinkedIn are also growing. The average number of social media platforms brands used was 4.5, so there is plenty of room for other social networks to emerge as brand favourites.
- The social commerce code is beginning to crack
According to figures from Econsultancy, nearly 21% of European retailers see social networking as its own channel, and 40% of retailers are active on Facebook, while 32% frequent Twitter. And consumers are starting to see the value in social commerce when purchasing, too. About 39% of those living in the UK, France and Spain talk on Facebook about purchases they are planning to make. Additionally, 28% of people in these countries who have had conversations about products online will then consider purchasing the item.
Statistics surrounding social commerce reflect successful campaigns run by brands. Aggregate data from Buddy Media ConversionBuddy clients shows that the average Facebook 'share' generates 1.36 in incremental sales. Furthermore, the average conversion rate for a Facebook share was an impressive 10.2%. Ticketmaster.com provides a good example of the power of social commerce: the ticketing website has found that it is generating the equivalent of 3.42 of direct ticket sales from each share that a user makes on Facebook in the US, which suggests that UK marketers should watch this space closely.
But how can social media improve how marketers measure KPIs (key performance indicators)? The idea is to integrate the social channel with everything else we do online, as much as possible. Instead of looking at social media and social campaigns separately from websites, blogs, email marketing and other traditional means of advertising, it is critical to make all campaigns social by design.
Companies are continuing to tweak and focus their social objectives as they increase their understanding of social media's opportunities and threats. But from now on, it is important to first set your business objectives, and only then to use social media to help reach those goals.